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Officials: Montana reservation feels ill effects of Bakken oil field

POPLAR, Mont. – Tribal officials said Thursday that Eastern Montana’s Fort Peck Indian Reservation is feeling the adverse effects of the nearby oil boom – without any of the economic gains.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester hosted a listening session focused on human trafficking here, where he heard from tribal citizens and leaders about rising crime overall related to the increased oil drilling in western North Dakota and the far eastern edge of their state.

“Because of our proximity to the Bakken oil field … we are already seeing the negative effects of oil and gas development without any financial benefits,” said Rusty Stafne, chairman of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux tribes.

The oil boom has brought in tens of thousands of workers and nearly eliminated unemployment. But it’s also spiked crime and tested local infrastructure.

“Montana and North Dakota have been especially hit hard with an increase in crime, including human trafficking, due to the explosive influx of people and resources following the oil and gas boom in the Bakken,” said Tester.

The senator said while there is no way to quantify human trafficking in eastern Montana and on the reservation, it has gone up sharply since the oil boom began. “We know that energy development brings tremendous opportunity to the region, but with that comes a bit of bad,” he said.

Local law enforcement has struggled to keep up. Eastern Montana’s Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office has just 10 deputies covering an area roughly the size of Delaware. But increased crime toward the heart of the oil patch in the east often pulls them away from the reservation.


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