By Tracy Brunner, NCBA President and Dave Eliason, Public Lands Council President

As the nation watches protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline escalate and turn violent, Americans are beginning to ask questions. As cases of theft, trespassing, vandalism and dead and mutilated livestock in the area continue to mount, why is the federal government standing by and allowing this chaos to unfold; and why are they so unconcerned with the impact the protesters are having on local ranchers and their livestock?

The latter question is easy to answer. After successfully navigating the exhaustive federal environmental review process known as NEPA, or the National Environmental Policy Act, the Dakota Access Pipeline was approved and moving forward, only to run into the buzzsaw of offensive environmental litigation. That litigation effort proved unsuccessful, and the approval was upheld in federal court a few months ago. Almost immediately following that decision, the Obama Administration reversed its own decision – and defied the federal bench – by unilaterally halting the project.  Unfortunately for local landowners and ranchers, North Dakota has been turned into a war zone of violent out-of-state protests and activists. Protesters that are wreaking havoc on private property and threatening local farmers and ranchers while the Administration stands idly by.

Now the Administration is setting a new low, crossing constitutional boundaries between the executive and judiciary and upsetting long held standards of fair play. After following the appropriate administrative and regulatory process and overcoming legal challenges, President Obama stepped over his constitutional authority to unilaterally overturn a court ruling that was in favor of the pipeline. As an industry that engages heavily in environmental regulations, it is distressing to the see the administration so willfully disregard the process. You can’t simply flip over the game board and walk away when you don’t like outcome.

For the last seven years, stifling regulations on land and natural resource use have become the norm across the country. In agriculture alone, we have faced down the “waters of the United States” rule, seeking to expand the federal estate over every acre of land that sees even the smallest amount of rainfall or runoff. We have watched as the Administration abused the Antiquities Act to lock off millions of acres of productive multiple-use federal lands from broad public access, and we have seen rural economies decimated by joblessness and a diminished tax base as mining and other traditional livelihoods have been become casualties of a broken Endangered Species Act.

And now, even more concerning, the Administration is doing nothing to step in and protect the innocent bystanders that are seeing their property destroyed and their lives turned upside down simply because President Obama and Secretary Jewell sympathize with the protestors. Their failure to act in accordance with the law puts both human life and property rights at risk. This is unacceptable, it is negligent, and it is unconstitutional. Law and order must be restored.


Tracy Brunner is the NCBA President and 4th generation on his family cattle operation located in Ramona, Kansas.

Dave headshot
Dave Eliason is Public Lands Council president and 4th generation rancher from Utah.