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Osage tribe threatens legal action to stop proposed wind farm

PAWHUSKA – The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs is considering court action to stop a wind farm from rising over the Osage County prairie amid oil fields owned by the Osage Nation.

Floyd Waters, the acting superintendent of the BIA’s Osage Agency, wrote in a letter to the Osage County Commission, the tribe and wind developers, “In order to reduce the possibility of litigation, we recommend that any wind power proposals or agreements be submitted to this office for review prior to construction, so we may all work together to minimize conflict between the various parties, and to ensure that all federal statutory requirements are being met.”

The Osage Nation has been steadfastly opposed to the 8,300-acre development by Wind Capital Group, as has a group of landowners calling themselves Osage Ranchers Against Wind Factories.

The tribe, which owns all mineral rights in Osage County, is concerned that 94 wind turbines and their network of electrical lines and roads will interfere with oil production and harm the delicate ecosystem of the tallgrass prairie.

In its letter, the BIA says courts have repeatedly ruled that the tribal mineral estate is the dominant estate, and the surface subservient.

Despite that, wind developers and the county government, whose Board of Adjustment approved a variance to permit Wind Capital’s development west of Pawhuska near Burbank, have essentially shrugged off the tribe’s concerns and forged ahead, said Chris White, the tribe’s director of governmental affairs.

“We met with them, we’ve expressed our concerns, they listened – and that’s been about it,” White said.

“The Osage Nation will not wait until the damage is done to the tallgrass prairie by this industrial wind project to take legal action,” White said. “The Osage Minerals Council has a legal team in place and preparation is nearly complete to file against the proper parties in this matter. The Nation would prefer to not have to take legal action, but the commissioners and wind developers have left us no choice.”

Although many residents of Osage County welcome wind development, a coalition of opponents that includes the rancher group and The Nature Conservancy – which owns the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve north of Pawhuska – is growing.

In early September, the ranchers group, led by father-son ranchers Frederick and Ford Drummond and Melvin and Jason Reed, came out against the wind projects.

Original Print Headline: BIA eyes lawsuit to stop proposed wind farm