From the air, it appears as an unrolled piece of parchment headed with "We The People," and emblazoned with a bison underscored by a pair of hashtags reading #No45 and #NoKXL.

On the ground, however, the artwork is the end result of an army of volunteers, a tractor-towed disc, and a set of coordinates carefully plotted onto a piece of grid paper.

Wednesday marked the unveiling of a new work of crop art on the farm of Art and Helen Tanderup near Neligh in northeast Nebraska, a direct message to President Donald Trump to halt construction on the Keystone XL pipeline.

"It's been extremely frustrating," Art Tanderup said in a phone call on Wednesday. "President Obama rejected the pipeline in 2015, and then immediately after taking office, President Trump decided it had to be reborn again."

Upon taking office, Trump issued Calgary-based TransCanada -- now known as TC Energy -- a permit to construct the $8 billion pipeline intended to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Environmental and Native groups sued to stop construction, arguing the Trump administration had failed to consider the environmental impacts of the pipeline that would carry 830,000 barrels of crude oil through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska daily.

Trump later revoked the 2017 permit and issued a new one the Justice Department said nullified the previous legal challenges brought against it, an argument a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with last week.

But even with the legal victory, TC Energy said the court delays caused the company to miss the 2019 construction season.

"We are pleased with the ruling," TC Energy spokesman Matthew John told the Associated Press. "We look forward to advancing the project."

Tanderup, on whose land one iteration of the pipeline was planned to cross, said opponents hope to send a message to Trump, other elected officials and TC Energy the project is not needed nor wanted in Nebraska.

"We're out here on the Plains, we're people who understand what the impact of such a pipeline would have on our environment and the potential damage to the Ogallala Aquifer, the land we farm, the people's livelihood and to our tribal relatives," Tanderup said.

Trump visited Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Tuesday, flying from Washington to an appearance at a renewable energy plant. It's unknown, but unlikely he flew over the northeast Nebraska farm.

Jane Kleeb, the chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party and founder of Bold Nebraska, said the Trump administration's stance on pushing the oil pipeline runs counter to his position on helping agriculture.

Before an invite-only crowd in Council Bluffs on Tuesday, Trump said he would fight for American farmers and their "great, beautiful way of life."

"My administration will always defend the great patriot farmer," Trump said.

Kleeb said in approving the Keystone XL pipeline, Trump was siding with a foreign company seeking to use eminent domain on the farmers he claims to love.

"This land is everything to farmers and tribal nations, and Trump continues to show his lack of respect and understanding," Kleeb said. "We the people have stopped this risky pipeline for 10 years and will not let a reckless president destroy our land and water."

Beginning last Thursday, the nearly 100 volunteers who attended the Sixth Annual Sacred Ponca Corn Planting on land deeded from the Tanderups to the Ponca Nation embarked on the crop art.

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Lakota artist Steve Tamayo created the design with input from several tribal nations and Nebraska artist Justin Kemerling and a sketch by artist Jessica K.

Ponca Tribe Chairman Larry Wright Jr. said the buffalo, while emblematic of the way of life of Natives on the Plains, also are a symbol of preservation: "They were driven to near extinction until people took measures to stop and protect them."

Incorporating the buffalo into the crop art design shares the message of the importance of protecting the environment and resources, he added.

Artist John Quigley led the effort, which required creating a grid on the farmland that corresponded to a piece of graphing paper, calling it a clear message to reject what he called a "dirty tar sands export pipeline."

Once the design was plotted, Quigley led Tanderup as the farmer piloted his tractor and disc, tilling up the soil to create the design. No GPS or technology beyond the capabilities of a 1979 tractor and 10-foot disc harrow was involved, Tanderup said.

Four and a half days later, the design was finished, soybeans were planted over the rest of the field, and the message was sent.

Tanderup, who previously hosted crop art opposing the pipeline in 2015, 2016 and 2017, said farmers along the proposed route will continue fighting the project.

"Our goal is that the pipeline is never put in the ground," he said. "We plant corn and soybeans, we don't plant pipelines."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.


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