“I’m Dena Hoff and I live about 5 miles west of Glendive on an irrigated farm. We have sheep and cows and pigs and poultry and vegetables and corn and wheat and alfalfa and dry edible beans. We have lived here since 1981, my husband Alvin and I. Our kids are grown and gone so we’re just hanging on trying to figure out how we’re going to do this succession from the farm. In January 2015 there was an oil spill below our sheep pasture on the Yellowstone River.”


oil spills impact water and ranchers


“When the spill first happened, I was actually in Billings with a friend who has two sons that work in the oil field, and her youngest son called her really upset because he couldn’t take a shower in the diesel fuel water because of that damn oil spill, and gave no more details. We came home and it was the dark of night, and I drove up and saw all the lights down by the river and suddenly went, ‘I know where the oil spill is, it’s right below my sheep pasture.’”



“The fact is that people were drinking water right after the spill. Well, I hope they were smart enough not to drink it when you turn on your tap and it smells like diesel fuel, why would you? But they weren’t giving any explanations for days as to if the water was good. It wasn’t until Tuesday night which was the first public meeting four days after Saturday afternoon when this spill was noticed.”

“I went to that first public meeting and a young woman said, “So, I called the police department, cause it was on a weekend and there was no place to call, and said I turned on my water and it smells like diesel fuel, and they said are you sure you don’t have something running in your garage?’” Then one of the county commissioners told her she shouldn’t have called the police department. She then ask, “then who should I call?” and the county commissioner said “we don’t know that yet”



“I’ve heard different estimates about the size of the spill. You know, I’m not even sure. Like 50,000 barrels was one that I heard.”

“The intake for Glendive’s entire water supply was downstream and the EPA said, ‘Oh it’s impossible for that to get into your water,’ when it’s sucking it right out of the river, downstream from the oil spill and covered by feet of ice. Where do they think it was going to go? I’m pretty sure every place between Billings and the state line takes water out of the Yellowstone for their municipal water supply…”



“We live in an area of lesser consequence which makes us people of lesser consequence and so nobody really has to worry about dealing with us. We’re few and easy to put down they like to think. Sometimes it’s very difficult to see a little ray of sunshine at the end of the pipeline anymore because there is just so much influence and power and wealth, and such little concern for the long term and for the people who are impacted. Because the people who benefit don’t live in the areas they’re impacting, they live in the clean places they don’t have to worry about what they’ve done to a community or a state or a whole region. But when we are organized it makes it harder for them to dismiss us”

“But sometimes you’ve just had enough and you make a lot of noise. That is the power of organizing,! Things don’t happen at the grassroots level unless somebody speaks up and organizes people and says there’s somebody over here that thinks like you do. That was one of the great things about getting involved with Northern Plains Resource Council. Finding out, ‘Hey, I’m not this crazy person that everybody says oh, you tree hugger or obstructionist, you.’”

Dena Hoff
Glendive, MT