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An oil company that staked out 2 square miles of land near the site of Theodore Roosevelt's historic Badlands ranch in western North Dakota has withdrawn a state application to develop the area for oil wells.
XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corp., notified officials late Thursday of the decision to pull the application, state Department of Mineral Resources spokeswoman Alison Ritter said Friday.
"They don't have to provide a reason, and we don't have to ask for one," she said when asked why the company dropped the request.
XTO Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company said earlier in the week that it had made no decisions about actually drilling for oil in the area and was consulting with federal officials about an alternative location.
The company's proposal to develop the land for up to four oil wells had drawn criticism from officials at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where the Elkhorn ranch site is located. Park Superintendent Valerie Naylor earlier called the possibility of oil wells near the site the worst threat to the park in its history.
Roosevelt raised cattle at the Elkhorn ranch in the mid-1880s before returning to his native New York and eventually becoming the nation's 26th president. The 218-acre site was added to the National Register of Historic Places last year.
Mineral Resources officials had been scheduled to discuss the XTO Energy proposal at a hearing next week. The matter is no longer on the agenda, Ritter said.
"We're very pleased about it," park spokeswoman Eileen Andes said. She thanked those who spoke out against the plan "and helped us protect that area of the park — the most important cultural resource that the park has."
Roosevelt credited his time at the ranch with deepening the love and respect he had for nature that helped make him an early champion of conservationism. He also said in his writings that he would not have become president were it not for his time in the Badlands.
Had Mineral Resources officials approved the land development application, it still would have required the OK of the state Industrial Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry in North Dakota. XTO Energy also would have faced other hurdles before it could actually drill for oil. State permits would have been required, along with federal permits because the land is on the Little Missouri National Grasslands, which is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.