Tribal Chairman Plan Curbs Flaring, Promotes Agriculture

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New Town, ND - Drive around the New Town area, and you can see flames in all directions.
They're fires that are burning off natural gas at oil wells.
But the chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikira Tribes has an idea for shutting off those wasteful flames.
Jim Olson reports.

Mark Fox has a vision for changing the landscape of the Fort Berthold Reservation from this...

(Mark Fox, MHA Nation Tribal Chairman) "It's going to be phenomenal."

He's talking about a plan to turn natural gas that is currently burned off - or flared - at well siets across the reservation, and into heat and light power an agricultural powerhouse.

(Mark Fox, MHA Nation Tribal Chairman) "We're going to be looking at capturing this gas that's wasted on Fort Berthold, we're going to compress it, and we're going to utilize it towards agriculture, creating huge greenhouses so we can grow our own food."

The tribal chairman's dream is based on what's happening in Holland - a country that has become the top exporter of almost a dozen different fruits and vegetables, thanks to its innovative network of greenhouses. He's planning a visit there soon.

(Mark Fox, MHA Nation Tribal Chairman) "We've already made contacts, we're going to be taking a trip to form a formal partnership with those entities in Holland that do that today."

Fox says his goal is to turn idle tribal land into productive areas that provide food for the MHA Nation and beyond.

(Mark Fox, MHA Nation Tribal Chairman) "We're going to try to copy and mimic that and at the same time they've got plenty of water, we've got plenty of water, so we'll be growing not only for our own subsistence, we'll be looking at growing for export - you'll go to WalMart and see mushrooms that were grown within 60 miles of Walmart."

The newly-elected chairman says he intends to have the project underway before his four-year term ends in 2022. Jim Olson, KX News.

Chairman Fox says the flaring and greenhouse project hits two of the key economic needs on the reservation - developing the oil and gas industry, and expanding agriculture.