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Night use restricted at oil patch wildlife areas

Blake Nicholson, Associated press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- North Dakota's Game and Fish Department is closing two wildlife management areas in the oil patch at night for any use other than legal fishing and hunting as officials continue to grapple with the effects of the western oil boom.

The restrictions at the Trenton and the Lewis and Clark management areas in the Williston region apply from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise. They are aimed at people who use the areas for activities such as drinking alcohol and drug use.

"We get other associated problems — littering and those types of things," said Robert Timian, enforcement chief for Game and Fish. "Wildlife management areas are established for people to hunt on or to fish on, and to also raise wildlife. There's a lot of activities that go on that are not compatible with that, or they diminish the public's ability to engage in the activities which the (areas) were established for."

Game wardens will enforce the new restrictions. Violators could be subject to an administrative fine. Game and Fish has not yet determined the amount but it could be as much as $250, Timian said.

Overnight camping already is prohibited on the Lewis and Clark, and Trenton management areas, along with many others in western North Dakota and along Lake Sakakawea. Several other wildlife management areas are closed to camping on certain days of the week.

The restrictions — established last year and continued this year as a response to the heavy oil activity — also are aimed at ensuring the areas are available for hunters and anglers. Rules are posted at entry points.

The population in the oil patch has increased dramatically in recent years as people from around the country flock to the region in search of high-paying jobs. The U.S. Census Bureau says the Williston and Dickinson areas are among the fastest-growing in the nation. Many of the out-of-staters find themselves with no place to stay and some turn to public camping areas, squeezing out people seeking areas in which to recreate.

State Tourism Director Sara Otte Coleman said there are no concerns that restrictions on the wildlife management areas will hamper tourism in the region, since the campsites are primitive — without amenities such as electricity.

"These restrictions would have no effect on travelers planning or booking full-service camping opportunities in North Dakota," she said.


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