Discover / Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch
Save a National Treasure
REGION: Midwest
LOCATION:
Near Medora, ND
TYPE: Landscape
Theodore Roosevelt first came to North Dakota in 1883 to hunt buffalo. | Photo: Dickinson State University
Theodore Roosevelt first came to North Dakota in 1883 to hunt buffalo. | Photo: Dickinson State University
Opportunity
Protect the beauty and serenity of the historic place that inspired one of the greatest conservationists in presidential history.

Overview

Theodore Roosevelt hunted, ran cattle, and explored this expansive ranch in the rugged North Dakota Badlands in the late 19th century. It was here that the 26th president of the United States developed a deep appreciation for the American West and for conservation. Unfortunately, the serenity of the ranch, which lies on both sides of the Little Missouri River, is threatened by a proposed bridge that would introduce a visual disruption, as well as traffic, noise, and dust. In addition, the site is threatened by the potential development of private mineral rights that are scattered throughout the Elkhorn Ranchlands. An owner of a portion of those rights has proposed a gravel mine pit on a ridge within the Ranchlands and the view shed of the Elkhorn Ranch Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

National Significance

As early as the 1880s, Roosevelt witnessed the environmental degradation in the Badlands wrought by overgrazing and overhunting, an experience that led directly to the development of his influential conservation beliefs. Today, incompatible development imperils the Elkhorn Ranch landscape. Similar development threatens countless historic places on public lands across the country.

Campaign Goals

  • Promote a bridge location that will not harm the ranch and the surrounding landscape.
  • Provide long-term protection to Elkhorn Ranch from incompatible development.

Ways To Help

Donate to our campaign to save Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch.

Tell us why Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch matters to you.

Sign the petition urging the North Dakota governor to provide greater protection to Elkhorn Ranch!

Posted on February 11, 2015

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

The story of Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch and the National Trust for Historic Preservation's efforts to protect this "cradle of conservation" were recently featured in a radio segment on Ultimate Outdoors Radio. This Wisconsin-based station with an audience of outdoor enthusiasts learned of the Elkhorn Ranch from viewing our CBS Sunday Morning piece with correspondent Mo Rocca. While significant to the growth and history of North Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt and his Elkhorn Ranch resonate with a national audience. It is a place of great importance to our Nation's history, and it will take a Nation to protect it.

Please sign our petition in support of Elkhorn Ranch and check back often for additional updates. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on January 09, 2015

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

This week the U.S. Forest Service released its final decision to allow for the development of a 25-acre gravel pit within Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch and Greater Elkhorn Ranchlands National Register Historic District. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and several other interested stakeholders filed objections to the proposed development based on lacking compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act and inadequate consideration of a range of alternatives that could provide greater consideration of adverse impacts to this national treasure. Despite these objections, the agency approved the gravel pit, the proposed location of which is within a mile of the ranch house where Theodore Roosevelt sought solace from personal tragedy and built a conservation ethic and outlook that propelled him to the presidency.

The National Trust is disappointed that the Forest Service has approved this project and we continue to be concerned that the gravel pit will adversely affect the setting, solitude, and soundscape of the Elkhorn Ranch National Register Historic District. We will continue to work with our partners and decision-makers to ensure that this landscape, managed by the federal government for the enjoyment and appreciation of the American people, invokes the serene and naturally wild character with which our 26th President became so enamored.

Please sign our petition in support of Elkhorn Ranch and check back often for additional updates. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure. 

Posted on January 06, 2015

Excerpted from CBS Sunday Morning:

The Elkhorn Ranch occupied a remote and empty patch of the North Dakota Badlands. And to this day it occupies an important part of a former U.S. president’s legacy. Mo Rocca of CBS Sunday Morning is our guide…

Learn more about Elkhorn Ranch's Star Turn on our Preservation Nation blog >>

Read the full CBS Sunday Morning story >>

Posted on October 27, 2014

Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project ManagerValerie Naylor

Today is Theodore Roosevelt's 156th birthday. In 2003, 145 years after his birth, one of the National Park Service's most dedicated leaders, Valerie Naylor, took the helm as superintendent of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. She had grown a love for the remarkable place in the heart of North Dakota's Badlands when she interned there with the Student Conservation Association in 1979. Valerie's return to the Badlands as superintendent coincided with the rapid rise of the current oil and gas boom. As a result, she spent her decade plus time at Theodore Roosevelt National Park working with the oil and gas industry, state government, other federal land managing agencies, and non-profit partners like the National Trust to ensure that Park resources were protected from negative impacts associated with oil and gas development.

This year, Valerie will be retiring from her post after more than three decades with the National Park Service. For her unceasing commitment to the preservation of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Valerie was awarded the prestigious Stephen T. Mather Award by the National Parks Conservation Association last year. She will continue working to protect the Park, including Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch, as a concerned citizen.

Valerie has been one of the strongest partners that the National Trust has had the fortune to work with through our National Treasures campaign. We look forward to our continued partnership with her in her new role, and congratulate her on an amazing career.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure. 

Posted on October 17, 2014

Mo Rocca, Stephanie Meeks and Ted Roosevelt Cross the Little Missouri River at Elkhorn Ranch.

Written by Erica Stewart, Team Member

UPDATE: We now expect the CBS piece to air in November. Please check back here and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates on the air date.

Nearly a year of behind-the-scenes coordination paid off in July when CBS Sunday Morning traveled to Medora, North Dakota, to shoot a segment on Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch. The president’s great-grandson, Theodore "Ted" Roosevelt IV, shared family stories during a horseback ride through the ranch site with correspondent Mo Rocca while National Trust President Stephanie Meeks spoke of the threats posed to the landscape by rampant oil and gas development. Elkhorn Ranch was named to the Trust’s 2012 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, and is one of the National Trust’s National Treasures. As such, the National Trust has been working hard for over two years on securing the long-term protection of the historic landscape from incompatible development.

We now expect the CBS piece to air on Sunday, October 26 between 9 am – 10:30 am. Be sure to tune in for a look at this site of great natural beauty and historic significance and to learn more about our efforts to protect it.

After you watch the segment, join the conversation on social media: 

Twitter:
National Trust for Historic Preservation: @PresNation
Stephanie Meeks: @SavePlacesPres
#SavingPlaces

CBS Sunday: @CBSSunday
Mo Rocca: @MoRocca
#CBSSunday

Facebook:
National Trust for Historic Preservation:https://www.facebook.com/NationalTrustforHistoricPreservation
CBS Sunday:https://www.facebook.com/CBSSunday

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure. 

Posted on October 07, 2014

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project ManagerElkhorn Ranch

Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch is located in a remote setting roughly 35 miles north of the small town of Medora along the meandering Little Missouri River. It takes a bit of an effort to get there. The reward is worth it. As autumn continues to settle on the landscape the cottonwood trees that once shaded the Elkhorn Ranch are now brilliant hues. The setting is striking during any season, and information on how to get there can be found on the National Park Service's website.

To fully understand the Elkhorn Ranch as a place of serenity and natural beauty as Roosevelt did, one has to step foot on the landscape itself. This is more difficult for some then others, which is why the National Park Service has created videos that illustrate the story and qualities that make this nationally significant place so unique and inviting. If you can't visit the site in-person, you can experience it here.

Through Ken Burns' recently aired "The Roosevelts" film series on PBS, the nation learned of the integral role the Elkhorn Ranch played in building Theodore Roosevelt's conservation ethic. Now is the time to visit the Elkhorn Ranch, to experience the landscape firsthand, and build an appreciation in support of protecting it from development that could potentially impair its integrity and visitor experience.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure. 

Posted on September 09, 2014

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project ManagerTeddy Bear Cartoon

The origin of the Teddy Bear is distinctly tied to our 26th President Theodore Roosevelt. He is indeed the namesake.

Roosevelt first visited the North Dakota Badlands in 1883 on a hunting trip, and immediately developed a deep appreciation for the stunning, serence landscape that would become his Elkhorn Ranch. Several years later in 1902, he would find himself on another hunting trip, this time in Mississippi. According to the Theodore Roosevelt Association, Roosevelt was dismayed that he had not sighted bears like others in his party. In response, the hunting guides found an old black bear and tied him to a tree. Roosevelt refused to shoot it because it was unsporstmanlike, but he did request that it be put down because it was injured. Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman took advantage of ths situation and came up with the cartoon you see here that was printed in the Washington Post. Thus began Roosevelt's tie to bears.

The plush toy animal that we are all familiar with as the teddy bear sprung from the Washington Post cartoon. Morris Michtom, a Brooklyn, New York, candy store owner, capitalized on the media by placing two toy bears made by his wife in his shop window and called them "Teddy's Bears." They became so popular that Michtom began to mass produce them, leading him to form the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.

If you visit the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs, where Roosevelt stayed twice during his presidency, you'll hear a different story that claims the teddy bear originated at this historic hotel in the beautiful Coloraodo Rockies. But the Mississippi hunting trip is the true one. Nevertheless, teddy bears have had staying power, as has Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch legacy, so much so that September 9th marks National Teddy Bear Day.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure. 

Posted on July 30, 2014

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project ManagerElkhorn Ranch Horseback Ride

Visiting Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch on horseback is an ideal way to experience the landscape referred to by many as the "cradle of conservation." It was the way our 26th president Theodore Roosevelt travelled across the North Dakota Badlands, soaking in his passion for outdoor adventure, natural history and, ultimately, conservation.

In mid-July, National Trust for Historic Preservation President Stephanie Meeks and Theodore "Ted" Roosevelt IV visited this storied landscape on horseback. They were joined by CBS correspondent Mo Rocca for the taping of a CBS Sunday Morning story on the legacy of the Elkhorn Ranch, a National Treasure and 2012 11 Most Endangered Historic Places site of the National Trust. While much of the landscape retains the same serenity and beauty as during Roosevelt's time, those very qualities that spoke to Roosevelt are now threatened by oil, gas and other minerals development that mark the terrain.

It was remarkable to hear Ted Roosevelt's family stories and share the experience of visiting his great grandfather's former ranch home. Building greater public awareness of the importance of the Elkhorn Ranch to our nation's history and the threats that face this legacy is paramount to successfully protecting it for generations to come. The key is to find balance between resource extraction and conservation. As Roosevelt said, "I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on June 15, 2014

David FordWritten by David Ford, Team Member

Photographs, literature and testimonials can tell you a lot about a place and its historical significance, but nothing beats visiting in person. While I’ve been a member of the Elkhorn Ranch National Treasure team since its inception, I recently made my first trip to the North Dakota Badlands to visit the city of Medora, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and Elkhorn Ranch.

On an evening flight to Dickinson, ND, I was surprised by the number of folks aboard the aircraft. While I anticipated a small prop plane, I traveled on an Embraer jet that carried over 50 passengers to the swiftly growing town with a population of 25,000. A young man in his mid-20s seated next to me shared that he works in the oil fields. He left his wife and two children behind for a work assignment in the area which is booming because of the abundant Bakken Shale.

I was greeted upon my arrival by our project team lead, Jenny Buddenborg. While the skies were dark and didn’t provide a glimpse of the landscape, the ride from Dickinson to Medora was fairly desolate. It wasn’t too far down the road when we came across the first drilling site.  As we headed towards our destination, gas flares and towering flames littered the landscape magnifying the impact of the state’s oil and gas industry.

As the sun rose the next morning, I was greeted by the magnificent landscape of the Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The trip to the Elkhorn Ranch Unit was amazingly beautiful but I was taken aback byO&G Truck Traffic the number of well pads that extended off the beaten path. While I expected oil and gas activity, I quickly lost count of the well pads given the sheer magnitude of the drilling sites and the numerous 18 wheeler oiler tankers on the dirt roadways that negatively impacted my experience. While visiting a landowner who provided a tour of his property overlooking the Elkhorn Ranch, he highlighted the drilling activity that is industrializing and polluting the landscape. If a surface landowner does not have subsurface mineral rights ownership, the owners of those mineral rights can set up shop on the land above and begin drilling, even if the surface landowner opposes it. Hearing the testimony of an affected rancher truly impacted me and literally brought a tear to my eyes. While this activity is not unlawful, it’s simply disheartening. 

I look forward to our critical work to protect the landscape of this important National Treasure.  

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on March 21, 2014

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

In early March, the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) unanimously voted to approve a policy that identifies extraordinary places in North Dakota, including Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch, but that provides no assurance that such places will be protected from incompatible oil and gas development. What started as a robust rules amendment proposed by North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem—one of the three NDIC commissioners—ultimately turned into a watered-down version of a list of places that may or may not be given additional consideration in the State’s drilling permit process.

While the National Trust for Historic Preservation is pleased that the NDIC recognizes the importance of the Elkhorn Ranch by identifying it as an “extraordinary place,” we are dismayed that the state of North Dakota missed an opportunity to provide greater stewardship to the natural and cultural places that make it so unique. We and our partners will continue to look for opportunities to collaborate with the State to ensure that the Elkhorn Ranch maintains its integrity for future generations to enjoy.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on January 21, 2014

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project ManagerWildlife Symposium

Wildlife and historic preservation aren’t commonly linked in the work of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, but at Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch, it is not the history of the place alone that makes it so noteworthy, it is also the qualities of the natural environment and wildlife that lend to its integrity. That is why the National Trust and its partners are hosting a wildlife symposium on January 25th entitled “North Dakota’s Oil Boom: Protecting Our Hunting Heritage Action Summit.”

We invite you to this important summit of North Dakotans who want to work together to make sure the voices of North Dakotans who care about wildlife habitat and hunting are clearly heard as the state develops its oil resources in the western part of the state.

The wild game that once was a staple of western North Dakota has been impacted by oil development. We are faced with a choice of dramatically diminishing the hunting experience in that part of the state or helping to make sure that we can have oil development, healthy wildlife habitat, and the hunting experience North Dakotans expect.

The summit will be held at the Downtown Radisson in Fargo, North Dakota, from noon to 4:00 p.m. The keynote speaker is John Cooper, a renowned wildlife expert, and the facilitator is Joe Satrom, president of the Friends of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and former director of public policy for the Great Plains Region of Ducks Unlimited. 

Be sure to check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure. 

Posted on January 07, 2014

Written by Erica Stewart, Team Member

Good news from North Dakota! On December 19, the state’s Attorney General Wayne Stenehem released his list of proposed ‘special places’ and Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch was included.

The 18 identified sites are places the Attorney General believes to be so important that they deserve their own unique permitting consideration for oil and gas drilling activity. This process would require an impact mitigation plan and a public comment period to ensure that drilling’s potentially harmful effects on these places would be fully examined.

This is a great step toward protecting North Dakota’s priceless resources from its booming oil and gas industry. We will be watching closely as the commissioners discuss the proposed list and legislative amendment at a future meeting.

Learn more about our position on this historic opportunity to protect North Dakota’s precious historic and natural resources in an opinion piece by our Executive Vice President and Chief Preservation Officer, David J. Brown, which was published December 21, 2013, by the Bismarck Tribune.

Be sure to check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on December 18, 2013

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project ManagerWinter at Elkhorn Ranch

On Thursday, December 19th, the three commissioners of the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) will come together in Bismarck for their monthly meeting. Among several agenda items is a discussion on the consideration of designating places of extraordinary significance and requirements for permitting oil and gas drilling in those areas. The build-up to this discussion, led by Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, has received a fair amount of press. Many North Dakotans are eagerly watching and waiting to see what will unfold, as is the National Trust and our partners.

The proposal could help provide the balance between resource development and resource protection to ensure that the state’s historic treasures are not lost to future generations. The state currently has very little in place to guarantee this, and merely having this discussion is a huge step forward for North Dakota. The National Trust supports this effort, and has requested that Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch be selected as a “special place.”

The December 19th meeting is open to the public. The National Trust and partners are working to build attendance in support of the idea to protect North Dakota’s places of extraordinary significance. If you have the time, please attend the meeting to show your support for this effort. Click here for meeting details and an agenda.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on October 28, 2013

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

Yesterday marked Theodore Roosevelt's 155th birthday. Born in New York City in 1858, our 26th president early on developed an affinity for natural history. As he grew so too did his beliefs in conserving the natural environment. HisCredit Library of Congress time at the Elkhorn Ranch in the North Dakota Badlands played no small part in this development. At the end of Roosevelt's presidency, he protected approximately 230 million acres of some of our nation's most prized public lands.

It is an atrocity, then, that the very place where Roosevelt cemented his conservation beliefs is now threatened by development related to the booming oil and gas extraction industry. While the 218 acres of land that comprise the Elkhorn Ranch Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where Roosevelt's ranch home once rested, is provided a certain degree of protection given the nature of its national park designation, its viewshed and natural serenity--the very qualities that make it so unique and important--are at risk. So, too, is the larger cultural landscape surrounding the ranch home site where Roosevelt ran his cattle, hunted, and explored the land. That area, particularly within the boundaries of the Elkhorn Ranch National Historic District of which the Elkhorn Ranch Unit is the core, is covered with private mineral rights holdings that could very easily be developed and potentially cause devastating impacts.

There are many public and private stakeholders in this discussion, including the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture who manage thousands of the acres of land that Roosevelt once roamed. We need the help of both the department secretaries to protect this spellbinding place. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell recently visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park and learned of the threats facing the Elkhorn Ranch. The National Trust and its coalition called on her to ensure that this cultural landscape be preserved in its pristine state. To continue that conversation, the National Trust asks that you reach out to Secretary Jewell by signing this petition to ensure that Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch is preserved for future generations to enjoy.

One of the best birthday gifts we can give to Theodore Roosevelt is the protection of the very place where he sought refuge and developed his renowned conservation ethic. Sign the petition today and add your name to the more than 10,000 supporters for the preservation of the Elkhorn Ranch!

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on October 23, 2013

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

Two projects with the potential to impact Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch have been reinvigorated after a short lull. With Halloween right around the corner, it only seems appropriate to cue images of Frankenstein rising from the table:  "It's Alive!"  

The first such project is the Little Missouri River Crossing proposal. There had been such a considerable lack of activity with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance process that we had thought the project had once again stalled. However, that is not the case, and the Federal Highway Administration has set a new NEPA timeline, looking to release a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in January of 2014. The National Trust will be sure to provide updates on the opportunity for public comment. Our preferred alternative is 'no build.’ Ultimately, we want to ensure that the selected bridge location will not negatively impact the Elkhorn Ranch National Historic District.

On a more positive note, the second project that is once again alive is the XTO Energy permit that surfaced several months ago. It included the proposed development of a well pad directly adjacent to the Elkhorn Ranch Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The National Trust and partners successfully thwarted the proposed siting and XTO Energy went back to the drawing board to identify another location. What they selected was an existing well site two miles from the Park that is outside the viewshed of the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The spacing unit was approved by the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) just this week. While this is a step in the right direction the National Trust still believes that a more comprehensive approach to ensuring the protection of the Elkhorn Ranch should be put in place. The NDIC's identification and consideration of "special places" in North Dakota and how they can be protected from incompatible oil and gas development could be one way to achieve this.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on September 05, 2013

Jenny Buddenborg AvatarWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

If you find yourself in Fargo, North Dakota on Monday, September 9th be sure to stop by the Memorial Union on North Dakota State University's campus at 7:00pm for free admission to the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival. This event is hosted by National Trust for Historic Preservation partner Dakota Resource Council and sponsored by various organizations including the National Trust and National Parks Conservation Association. It will kick-off the grassroots campaign of the National Trust and partners to build awareness and support for the protection of Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch from insensitive development related to the oil and gas boom in the Bakken.

Attendees will see eleven inspiring films featuring themes on energy, preservation and community action. There will also be an opportunity for people to voice their concerns to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell by signing and sending a postcard asking her to act swiftly on her recent statement concerning Theodore Roosevelt National Park: "...there are places important to America that are too special to drill and must be protected for future generations.”

Attend this exciting event and help build the grassroots movement to protect Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch!

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on August 09, 2013

My AvatarWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

“The park pays tribute to Theodore Roosevelt and his enduring contribution to the conservation of our nation’s resources,” said Jewell. “This landscape, which inspired President Roosevelt and still inspires visitors today, is a big economic engine for the region. It’s also a powerful reminder that, even as we bear witness to a production boom in the Bakken, there are places important to America that are too special to drill and must be protected for future generations.”Sec Jewell Visits Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Department of the Interior Secretary Jewell released this statement on August 7th after spending a day touring Theodore Roosevelt National Park with our partner and park superintendent Valerie Naylor as her guide. They were joined by North Dakota Senators Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven, along with a bevy of other National Park staff. The support of Secretary Jewell and Senators Heitkamp and Hoeven for the protection of the Elkhorn Ranch landscape is critical to achieving the goals of the National Trust for our Theodore Roosevelt Elkhorn Ranch National Treasure. We will be working with these national leaders and urge you to do the same by telling them what this place means to you and how important a role it has played in shaping our nation’s conservation history.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on May 08, 2013

Jenny BuddenborgWritten by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

Last week the United States Geological Survey (USGS) released a new oil and gas assessment of the Bakken and Three Forks Formations—the 200,000 square mile rock unit that spans parts of North Dakota, Montana, and Saskatchewan, Canada, and which rests below Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch landscape. The assessment shows that the formation contains an estimated mean of 7.4 billion barrels of undiscovered, recoverable oil, a two-fold increase over 2008 estimates. And it is not just oil that is being drilled, natural gas and natural gas liquids are also available in copious amounts, both now estimated to be in recoverable quantities three times previous estimates.

All of this is to say that the threat of oil and gas development at the Elkhorn Ranch will not be diminishing any time soon. Technologies like hydraulic fracturing make it easier now more National Parks & Hydraulic Fracturing Mapthan ever to recover every last drop of oil and natural gas. According to the National Parks Conservation Association’s (NPCA) recently released report entitled National Parks and Hydraulic Fracturing: Balancing Energy Needs, Nature, and America’s National Heritage, “fracking” comprises 90 percent of domestic oil and gas production, and more than one-third of America’s national parks lie directly above or less than 25 surface miles from oil and gas deposits.

The report details the negative impacts of fracking on wildlife habitat; scenic views, natural sounds, and night skies; water quantity and quality; and air pollution in our national parks. Recommendations are provided with a stern warning that a measured, careful approach to fracking needs to be taken to avoid irreparably damaging America’s heritage. This includes the Elkhorn Ranch and Theodore Roosevelt National Park, one of seven case studies included in the NPCA report due to the great oil and gas development threat it faces.   

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on April 02, 2013

Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

Today, the Center for American Progress released a video entitled A Boom with No Boundaries:  How Drilling Threatens Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The short film explores the negative impacts of oil and gas drilling on one of America’s 59 national parks. As the Bakken Formation in western North Dakota continues to experience increased minerals extraction activity more and more people are beginning to realize that although there are financial benefits to the industry there is also much being sacrificed. This film specifically highlights the loss of natural and cultural resources at Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the surrounding landscape that includes Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch.

The release of the Center for American Progress video could not have come at a better time as North Dakota newspapers continue to print stories on the recently withdrawn XTO Energy drilling permit that would have allowed up to four wells directly adjacent to the Elkhorn Ranch Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Many of those newspapers printed editorials calling for the North Dakota Industrial Commission to avoid areas like the Elkhorn Ranch from oil and gas development due to the importance of the places to the history of North Dakota and the Nation. The National Trust heartily agrees with this approach and is working with partners to achieve it.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on March 22, 2013

By Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

XTO Energy 1280-acre spacing unitA little over a week ago the National Trust learned that a drilling permit application from XTO Energy on a 1280-acre spacing unit directly adjacent to the Elkhorn Ranch Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park would be heard by the North Dakota Industrial Commission on March 28th as part of the state approval process. Stakes had already been placed in the ground, one a mere 100 feet from the visitor parking lot, marking the location of a well pad on the Little Missouri National Grasslands that could include up to four wells. The visual impacts alone of such a development so close to the Elkhorn Ranch would severely damage the national treasure, not to mention the effects of the noise, heavy truck traffic, and pollution.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park superintendant Valerie Naylor called the threat the worst in the Park’s history. In response, the National Trust and partners quickly jumped to action and mounted a public engagement campaign to build a collective voice requesting an alternate location that would not harm the Elkhorn Ranch. State and national media had already been sharing the news and creating a buzz earlier in the week. Just this morning, before we could even implement our entire engagement strategy, we learned that XTO Energy withdrew their application.

We applaud XTO Energy for reconsidering this development and urge them to work with the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service to find a more suitable drilling location. While this is a step in the right direction we want to make sure that the same or similar threat will not resurface. David Brown, National Trust Executive Vice President and Chief Preservation Officer, released a press statement emphasizing the need to remain alert to this issue. The Elkhorn Ranch and Theodore Roosevelt National Park are irreplaceable places for both North Dakotans and Americans alike. We understand that oil and gas extraction is an important piece of North Dakota’s economy, but it should not be at the expense of the “Cradle of Conservation” and the state’s only national park.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.       


Posted on February 14, 2013

Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

T.R.'s February 14, 1884 Diary EntryOn February 14, 1884, Theodore Roosevelt's diary entry included a large 'X' and the words, "The light has gone out of my life."

Tragically, Theodore Roosevelt lost his mother and first wife on that day 129 years ago. His mother, Mittie, died of typhoid fever in the early morning hours and his wife, Alice, succumbed to kidney failure several hours later in the same house. She had given birth to their first child, Alice, only two days earlier.  Roosevelt's devastation led him to never again talk about his first wife.

That June Roosevelt headed west to his beloved North Dakota Badlands to seek solitude and soothe his grief. A year earlier he had purchased the Maltese Cross Cabin in Medora and delved into the world of cattle ranching. His cattle had wintered well and he made the decision to expand his ranching business, purchasing the rights to a second site 35 miles north of Medora. He named it the Elkhorn Ranch. By the spring of 1885 the cottonwood log ranch home and outbuildings were complete. Roosevelt would own the ranch for another 14 years before selling it to Sylvane Ferris, one of his managers and partners at the Maltese Cross Cabin.

The Elkhorn Ranch not only provided Roosevelt with a healing outlet for his tragic loss, it also further exposed him to the growing loss of wildlife and wilderness in the North Dakota Badlands due to overhunting and overgrazing. During his presidency, Roosevelt established the U.S. Forest Service and enabled the Antiquities Act. The latter allowed him to designate 18 National Monuments across the country. He would go on to protect wildlife and public lands by designating numerous national parks, forests, and preserves on more than 230 million acres of public land.  

Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch helped lay the foundation for the president's deep conservation legacy. The national importance of this is the reason that the National Trust continues to advocate for protection of the Elkhorn Ranch from incompatible development. Later this month we will be meeting with a broad array of partners in North Dakota to further strategize how to best tackle this issue. The support for the Elkhorn Ranch is vast, and we are optimistic that solutions can be found to preserve the legacy of the nation's 26th President.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on November 30, 2012

Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

Elkhorn Ranch Interpretive Site TourEarlier this week the Bismarck Tribune printed a stirring article written by Theodore Roosevelt scholar and North Dakotan Clay Jenkinson on the continually expanding oil and gas development in the North Dakota Badlands and its jarring impacts to Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. He plainly shares that no one should be under the belief that this landscape will be spared from devastation. It is a sobering view.

Clay is dedicated to expanding awareness of this issue broadly through articles like these. He also works with a passionate group of people who volunteer their time as board members of the Friends of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. They coordinate and offer activities like interpretive site tours (pictured) and multi-media presentations of the Elkhorn Ranch as part of their mission to support the natural, cultural and scenic resources of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It is partners like these that help strengthen the National Trust’s advocacy to protect the Elkhorn Ranch.

Please check back often for additional updates on the Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.  

Posted on October 09, 2012

Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

For the past five years, the U.S. Forest Service has been diligently working towards listing Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch and the Greater Elkhorn Ranchlands Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places. Comprised of public and private lands on 4,402 acres, the proposed district encapsulates the core area that Roosevelt ranched and roamed during his time at the Elkhorn Ranch. On September 28, 2012, the Keeper of the National Register approved the nomination, placing the historic district amongst the relatively small number of National Register sites listed for their national significance. 

This is a great success for the Forest Service, owner of 2,380 acres of land within the historic district, and for preservationists dedicated to protecting Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch. The agency and its partners persevered through political pressures opposed to the designation to give the nationally significant site the formal recognition it deserves. Although the National Register listing does not afford any new protection or impose additional land use restrictions on the site, it does formally recognize the importance of the place to our Nation’s history, as well as the deep commitment of public and private interests in elevating awareness of it. 

We applaud the U.S. Forest Service for its determination and dedication. 

Please check back often for additional updates on Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on August 07, 2012

Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

The story of Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch and the incompatible development that threatens it today continues to resonate on a national scale.

Just this morning, National Public Radio aired a piece that eloquently tells the tale and meaning of this nationally-significant place. Stream the full story and follow along as our partner, superintendent of Theodore Roosevelt National Park Valerie Naylor, takes the author on a tour of the site.

Please check back often for additional updates on Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

Posted on July 22, 2012

Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager

My name is Jenny Buddenborg, and I'm the National Trust’s project manager for Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch, named one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2012.

When the National Trust first started tackling the incompatible development threat to Elkhorn Ranch, we were looking through a small lens focused on the harmful impacts of the proposed Little Missouri River Crossing. This project would construct a road and a bridge within the viewshed of the Elkhorn Ranch Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the surrounding U.S. Forest Service Elkhorn Ranchlands. These are the areas where T.R. himself hunted, explored, and raised cattle.

However, we now realize the threat is much broader and more complicated in scope. The crossing is only one project that could cause harm to the landscape. There is also the surface and subsurface mineral rights beneath the Elkhorn Ranchlands that are owned by a variety of people who retain the right to use the minerals. Exercising those rights could result in additional impacts to the landscape. One particular landowner recently sought a permit with the U.S. Forest Service to do just that, in the form of a gravel pit to be located on the ridgeline within the viewshed of the Elkhorn Ranch.

Fortunately, the landowner just signed an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to work out an exchange for other federal land or mineral rights at a different location – a strategy offered by the National Trust in our letter to the U.S. Forest Service on the project proposal. The National Trust will be working with partners to investigate strategies like these to protect the greater Elkhorn Ranch landscape. 

Please check back often for additional updates on Elkhorn Ranch. Also, donate today to support the National Trust's ongoing work at this National Treasure.

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jacob on November 11, 2013
theodore rooselvelt is my great great great great great uncle
Sandra Chesrown on October 11, 2013
Although I live in Arlington, VA, I grew up in North Dakota. My grandfather ranched near the Elkhorn at the time of TR, before moving to our current ranch outside Bismarck (The Horsehead). If you need any professional help, I am a member of the NTHP and a certified urban planner with a specialty in historic preservation - worked with the CO Savings Places network before moving to VA. I would be happy to work in ND as a professional volunteer to save the Elkhorn's viewshed. (sandrachesrown07@verizon.net)
Alexis Taylor on October 03, 2013
Learning about TR, he is amazing, a wonderful president. Love learning about Elkhorn Ranch, would love to visit.
Jim Fuglie on June 06, 2012
The Elkhorn Ranch site is a tiny, remote spot in one of America's most remote landscapes, surrounded by a million acres of Badlands, mostly free from development, as natural as it was 125 years ago when Theodore Roosevelt lived and ranched here, developed his conservation ethic, and went on to become our greatest conservation president. On a crisp January day years ago, my wife Lillian and I sat on a giant fallen cottonwood log here and felt the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt all around us. We return each year to thank him for his vision and his gift to future generations.
Jenny B. on June 06, 2012
My first trip to Elkhorn Ranch was also my first trip to North Dakota. I expected something similar to the South Dakota Badlands, but the North Dakota Badlands were like nothing I had ever seen before. Pure, rugged beauty. Looking out at the Little Missouri River from the ranch site, I could easily feel what drew Theodore Roosevelt back to the place over and over again, and how that feeling cemented his cause for conservation.

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