"STUTSMAN COUNTY, N.D. — Over the past few years, Neil Shook has watched his world burn acre by acre.
'I could tell something was happening,' Shook recalled, when he first noticed the plumes of smoke in 2011. By 2013, fires were raging every day, sending smoke billowing into the air — imagery that reminded Shook of Kuwait’s burning oil wells during the Persian Gulf War.
Hundreds of acres of rolling green grasslands in North Dakota were being intentionally burned, plowed and planted in a matter of days. Shook, who manages the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding conservation area, watched as landowners backed out of federally funded conservation programs, opting instead to cash in on the state’s economic boom."