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North Dakota Governor Issues Evacuation Order For Pipeline Protest Area

A sculpture stands at an encampment where protesters of the Dakota Access oil pipeline have been gathered for months near Cannon Ball, N.D., on Saturday.

The governor of North Dakota has issued an evacuation of the area used to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline, citing "anticipated harsh weather conditions" and the unauthorized camps erected by the thousands of demonstrators. The order, issued Monday, is effective immediately and will stay in place indefinitely.

However, the state "won't be using law enforcement or the national guard to enforce the order," said North Dakota Emergency Services spokeswoman Cecily Fong in an email to NPR. Fong added:

"The biggest reason, in my estimation, is that we don't have the force to do so. That said, we have real concerns about the safety of those remaining in the camp because of severe weather."

Gov. Jack Dalrymple's order says anyone who does not follow the order "does so at their own risk." He notes that "emergency services probably will not be available under current winter conditions." On Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the land would be closed by Dec. 5 "to protect the general public."

The first winter storm, which came through Monday morning, brought at least 6 inches of snow and strong winds, reports Minnesota Public Radio's Doualy Xaykaothao, making roads "roads nearly impassable at the camp sites."

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says the pipeline construction would disrupt sacred land and could contaminate the water supply. Native Americans and their supporters have been protesting the $3.8 billion project for months.

A member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Chase Iron Eyes, told CNN earlier Monday, "We are in it for the long haul."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.