This is not an environmental issue so much as a sovereignty issue. America has always treated treaty rights with natives as speed bumps to be disregarded without great concern; they simply don’t have a history of taking them seriously or respectfully.
But those rights are real.
This is a nutshell demonstration of the battle between laws for little people, and government abetting of illegal actions for the wealthy. The Bundy occupation in Oregon was about federal mismanagement of land that ought to be treated as local. This is more than that: this is about federal mismanagement of land that wasn’t even theirs to begin with… compounded with a healthy dose of corporate greed and willful, shameful destruction.
If America wasn’t so divided, the crowds that cheered on the Bundys should be there. For those that want to speculate on such things: in an American two-party state wherein those parties are captured by oligarchs, it would be to their advantage to keep challenges to the de facto oligarchy isolated from each other.
There are, of course, complicating counterfactual narratives. The Bundys were basically going to bat for some arsonists that didn’t want to hold the bag on what they’d done. Here, there’s hay to be made about environmentalists holding back a multistate permitting process that’s already exceedingly complicated and has multiple rounds of reviews with stakeholders. And in the end, any solution here will have to be arrived at through some kind of compromise with the acquiescence of the feds themselves, which is why we both need to maintain federal power as well as govern it more wisely: petroleum interests in ND aren’t going to stand against big money, especially for natives. Someone has to be the adult in the room or else in the end money rules everything, and that adult is supposed to be laws administered by fair arbiters.
The way things are now, money does rule most things, as it ever has. It’s really up to the people to scale that truth back.