BISMARCK, N.D. — Government orders for protesters of the Dakota Access pipeline to leave federal land could have little immediate effect on the encampment where scores of people have been gathered for months to oppose the $3.8 billion project.

A North Dakota sheriff Monday dismissed a deadline from the Army Corps of Engineers as a meaningless move aimed only at reducing the government’s legal responsibility for hundreds of demonstrators.

The Corps “is basically kicking the can down the road, and all it is doing is taking the liability from the Corps and putting it on” the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said.

The Corps said last week in a letter that all federal lands north of the Cannonball River will be closed to the public for “safety concerns” starting Dec. 5. The order includes the encampment called Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires camp.

The agency cited North Dakota’s oncoming winter and increasingly contentious clashes between protesters and police.

But in a statement issued late Sunday, the Corps said it “has no plans for forcible removal.”

Anyone on land north of the river, including the main protest camp, after the deadline may be prosecuted for trespassing.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple called the Corps’ position “very 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,” Dalrymple said. “Clearly the responsibility of clearing that land now lies primarily with the Corps.”


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