North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple has ordered an emergency evacuation for Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protesters at the main camp due to “harsh winter conditions” and approaching snow storms, according to Reuters.
With much of western and central North Dakota are under a winter storm warning on Monday night, Dalrymple stressed that the conditions in the the camps are “not zoned for dwellings suitable for living in winter conditions.”
The governor signed an executive order for the evacuation Monday, ordering protesters to leave the area immediately and not return because of the dangers of staying in the harsh North Dakota climate once winter hits.
“Winter conditions have the potential to endanger human life, especially when they are exposed to these conditions without proper shelter, dwellings, or sanitation for prolonged periods of time.”
The National Weather Service has announced a winter storm warning and predicts that much of the area will experience heavy snow through Wednesday.
Winter Storm Warning: Significant Winter Storm To Impact Most Of Western And Central North Dakota This Evening...http://t.co/XZSKG7xCVK— ⚡️SimpleWeatherAlert (@SimpleWeather4U) March 30, 2014
Weather Underground reports that a severe storm warning has been issued for the area, in effect until 6 p.m. Wednesday. Five to eight inches of snow are expected to fall across far western North Dakota. For central North Dakota, snowfall amounts of eight to 13 inches will be common, they say. As much as 18 inches are expected in the Hannover through New Town areas. Blowing snow is expected to reduce visibility, as well.
Travel is not advised during the storm warning period except in cases of emergencies.
Most of the DAPL protesters, who call themselves water protectors, are currently staying at a camp on land owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in southern Morton County.
The Army Corps of Engineers recently ordered the protesters to leave the area, but the Argus Leader reports that they said in a statement issued late Sunday that the Corps “has no plans for forcible removal.”
Governor Dalrymple said that he was surprised by their decision, calling it “puzzling.”
“When you put out a pronouncement that people must leave your land by a certain date, I think you take on a responsibility to somehow bring that about,” the governor said. “Clearly the responsibility of clearing that land now lies primarily with the Corps.”
Morton County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz said that local agencies are frustrated by news that the Corps does not plan to enforce their eviction order. He said that state and local officials lack jurisdiction to remove the protesters and that local hands are tied for removing the DAPL protesters, despite the notice of eviction.
“It’s useless for local and state law enforcement, and the order from the Corps is self-serving and amounts to them limiting their liability,” Schulz said.
Now officials are hopeful that the brutal North Dakota weather to come may prove too much for the Standing Rock protesters, especially those who have come from out of state and are not used to area winters.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said that he hopes the coming storms will empty out the protest camps.
“That’s what I’m hoping, or at least cut the number of them,” he said.
Members of Standing Rock have said that they are fully equipped to stay and carry on with their water protection. In a Facebook post on November 18, Standing Rock Rising said that they are fully prepared to stay safe during the winter weather, and are not convinced that authorities are truly concerned about their safety in light of the treatment DAPL protesters have received at the hands of law enforcement at Standing Rock.
“It’s good to know that after your civil rights, and human rights violations, pepper spray, rubber bullets, tasers, bean bag guns, sound cannons, low flying aircraft, psychological warfare, slander, lie, racism, and over all bigotry towards peaceful and prayerful water protectors, its good to know you are worried about our well being in the winter months,” they wrote.
“We won’t freeze. The fire in our hearts will keep us warm. Not to mention the fact we are surrounded by a culture of people that have learned to survive in this weather for thousands of years before you showed up. We’re good.”
Standing Rock Rising posted a photo of snow covered tipis on Monday.
LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a Standing Rock Sioux tribe member and founder of the Sacred Stone camp, said that the governor did not have authority over the land and that the water protectors would not comply with the evacuation order, The Guardian reports.
Allard, who owns some of the land where protesters have been camping, scoffed at the idea that the protesters would leave or that officials were concerned with their well-being.
“We are not leaving. We are standing. Ask every grandma who is standing out there.
“Winter is a normal thing for us. The people are prepared and ready. They poured water over people when it was freezing.
“This is taken land. We have a right to be there. This time we are standing.”
The governor’s order did not specify any action to be taken against protesters who don’t comply with the evacuation order.
[Featured Image by Roman Tsubin/Shutterstock]