Today the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch in Billings County, N.D., to its 2012 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. This annual list spotlights important examples of the nation’s architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage. More than 230 sites have been on the list over its 25-year history, and in that time, only a handful of listed sites have been lost.
A proposed road and bridge near Elkhorn Ranch would visually disrupt the landscape as well as introduce industrial traffic, noise and dust through the very place that inspired Roosevelt’s views on conservation, according to Stephanie Meeks, president of the Trust. Additionally, a permit for a proposed private gravel mining operation directly across the Little Missouri River from the Elkhorn Ranch site is nearing approval from the U.S. Forest Service.
Earlier this week, the Theodore Roosevelt Association (TRA) announced its support for a proposal to designate the Elkhorn Ranch area as a national monument. Tweed Roosevelt, great grandson of Theodore Roosevelt and president of the TRA, said he welcomes the recognition by the National Trust and will work with the Trust staff to preserve the site.
“North Dakota is lucky to have one of the most famous sites in the history of conservation, Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch, right in its beautiful Badlands,” said Tweed Roosevelt. “TR fought those who would ravage our natural resources for the benefit of the few. Now it is time to fight to save his ranch from the same type of selfish people today who would destroy it for their own personal gain.”
Lowell E. Baier, a trustee of the Theodore Roosevelt Association and president emeritus of Boone and Crockett Club, said, “The Elkhorn Ranch is the very cradle of conservation in America, the sacred ground of the conservation movement, a geographic, tangible Arcadian icon of American’s cultural identity, symbolizing the conservation ethic unique to our nation which Theodore Roosevelt conceived here in the 1880s. Hence it has also been referred to as the Walden Pond of the American West.”
Boone and Crockett Club, a conservation organization founded by Theodore Roosevelt, and Baier were instrumental in moving Elkhorn Ranch into public ownership several years ago. But inclusion on the National Trust’s new list shows that the threats are far from over for this hallowed ground.
The ranch, located along the Little Missouri River in the rugged North Dakota Badlands, inspired President Theodore Roosevelt’s deep appreciation for the American West and for conservation. Roosevelt first travelled to the Dakota Badlands in the 1880s to hunt buffalo and was so taken by the area that he invested in two ranches, making the Elkhorn Ranch his home. It was here that he first witnessed the rapid degradation of America’s wilderness and wildlife, and recognized the importance of conserving such national resources. The heart of the ranch is part of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
During his presidency, Roosevelt set aside over 230 million acres of public lands in the form of National Parks, National Monuments, National Wildlife Refuges and National Forests. Roosevelt said of Elkhorn, “I never would have been President if it had not been for my experience in North Dakota.”
“The Elkhorn Ranch is not only a picturesque historic site, but as a home to Theodore Roosevelt, a true ‘cradle of conservation’ in the United States,” said Trust President Meeks. “Building a road this close to the Elkhorn Ranch would permanently destroy the nationally significant historic place. Roosevelt had an enormous influence on America’s public lands system and promoted nationwide conservation of natural and cultural sites. His legacy should continue today through protection of this place.”
Public comments on the proposed road and Little Missouri River crossing are being taken by the Federal Highway Administration until June 22. They can be submitted by mail to Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson, Jennifer Turnbow, Project Manager, 128 Soo Line Dr., Bismarck, ND 58501 or by email to email@example.com.
Public comments on the proposed gravel mining operation are being taken by the U.S. Forest Service until June 11. A copy of the environmental assessment on the gravel operation, and the opportunity to comment, can be found at http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/dakotaprairie/.
Members of the public are invited to learn more about what they can do to support these 11 historic places and hundreds of other endangered sites at www.PreservationNation.org/places.