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.
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.
- 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
Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager
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.
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.
Written by Jenny Buddenborg, Project Manager
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.
Written 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. His 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!
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. (email@example.com)
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.