Hoeven Working to Fill Vacant Forest Service Positions in North Dakota, Alleviate Energy Permit Delays

Senator Holds Roundtable with Forest Service Chief to Address Grazing & Energy Development Priorities

WATFORD CITY, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today held a roundtable with U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Chief Vicki Christiansen and local ranchers and energy producers in Watford City. As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Hoeven secured a commitment from Christiansen to visit the state in order for her to receive firsthand feedback on the agency’s management of natural resources on the National Grasslands, including access for multiple uses like grazing and energy development. Specifically, Hoeven emphasized:

  • The need to fill vacant positions at the Dakota Prairie Grasslands offices in order to more quickly process Surface Use Plans of Operations (SUPO).
  • Efforts to resolve the dispute between North Dakota and the USFS regarding section lines on Forest Service land.
  • Ensuring access to county roads, which were built before the national grasslands were established and now run through USFS-managed grasslands.
  • Maintaining equitable treatment for grazers on USFS lands. Hoeven previously worked to halt a proposed 25 percent increase in grazing fees and helped advance a 10-year extension of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands Demonstration Project.

“This meeting is about ensuring the Forest Service is a good neighbor to our local communities and works cooperatively with ranchers, energy producers and others to properly manage the grasslands,” Hoeven said. “Federal lands often create uncertainty for local economies, including in our energy industry, with Forest Service permits taking anywhere between three months to three years to process. Filling the agency’s vacancies in North Dakota will help prevent these delays, and we are working to enable the Forest Service to do so as soon as possible. I appreciate Chief Christiansen for accepting my invitation to come here and receive direct input on this and other issues, like grazing access, section lines and roadways, which impact our local agriculture and energy producers.”

Permits for Energy Development

The Forest Service currently has 14 openings in its North Dakota offices involving oil and gas permits. This includes the positions of area mineral manager, geologist, biologist, engineering technician and others. 

Hoeven is working through his role on the Senate Appropriations Committee to prioritize funding for filling vacancies like these to help address delays in the Forest Service’s permitting process. The senator stressed that expediting this energy development will benefit both North Dakota and the federal government, noting that oil and gas activity on Forest Service lands in McKenzie County and the Medora Dakota Grasslands District contributed $139 million to the U.S. Treasury in 2018.

Today’s roundtable aligns with Hoeven’s efforts to streamline the federal approval process for energy and infrastructure development, including his:

  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Mineral Spacing Act, which would waive the requirement for a federal permit when less than 50 percent of subsurface minerals are owned or held in trust by the federal government and there is no federal surface land. 
    • Hoeven’s BLM legislation is also included in the ONSHORE Act, a bill he introduced with Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to empower states with the authority to manage oil and gas permitting on federal lands within their borders.
  • Work with the Department of State to streamline the permitting process for important energy infrastructure projects like pipelines and electrical transmission lines that cross the national boundaries between the U.S. and Canada or Mexico, similar to his North American Energy Infrastructure Act, which he introduced in the last Congress.


FS Chief Roundtable

FS Chief Roundtable 2