N.D. gov urges preservation of Theodore Roosevelt National Park horses

/ In The News, News

Wild horses grazing at RTF’s San Luis Obispo satellite sanctuary.

The National Park Service recently completed a scoping process and is now preparing an Environmental Assessment for horses found within Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Return to Freedom submitted scoping comments and is urging the Park Service to: consider an alternative that treats a high proportion of mares with safe, proven and humane fertility control and front-loads its use in a management plan, which would allow for a higher number population goal. Currently, there are about 200 horses within the park, according to the agency, plus nine cattle. Management plans dating back to the 1970s set a population goal of 35-60 horses and 12 cattle. When the Environmental Assessment is published, we’ll provide guidance for how to submit your own public comment.

As published by the Bismarck Tribune

Gov. Doug Burgum on Thursday urged the National Park Service director to preserve the wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, in a phone call he said was “very positive.”

Burgum, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Attorney General Drew Wrigley and the four legislative leaders participated in the phone call with park officials who included National Park Service Director Charles Sams and Park Superintendent Angie Richman.

The western North Dakota park is looking at three alternatives to address the horses and also longhorn cattle, and consider the role that they have on native species and the prairie ecosystem. The options include eliminating or reducing the horses and cattle.

Burgum on Monday had sent a letter offering collaboration to preserve the animals, prompting the phone call, which Hoeven coordinated.

Burgum told the Tribune that state-federal collaboration was a focus of the call, stressing “the importance of saving the wild horses in the park, and hopefully this will be a positive first step in the collaboration.”

He said the officials also discussed a past collaboration to manage the park’s elk around 2010.

“There’s a long history of collaboration between the two (governments), and that was the focus today,” the governor said.

House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, said the call was “a good conversation” and “free-flowing.” Sams was “open and understanding” to the governor’s concerns, according to Boschee.

Sams said he would take the input from the phone call into consideration, according to the governor’s office.

Burgum led a news conference Monday touting his and North Dakota lawmakers’ support for preserving the horses and collaborating with the federal government to maintain the horses, which are popular with park visitors.

Sen. Brad Bekkedahl, R-Williston, has introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 4014 in support of preserving the horses and longhorns. A hearing has not yet been scheduled for the resolution.