N.D. lawmakers urge preservation of Theodore Roosevelt wild horses

/ In The News, News

Wild horses at Theodore Roosevelt National Park photographed by Deborah Kalas. Her book “The Wild Herd: A Vanishing American Treasure” features photographs of wild horses within the park and at RTF’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary.

Elected officials in North Dakota this week continued voicing their support for the preservation of the state’s only wild horse herd, which lives inside   Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The National Park Service is considering management options for the park that includes “expedited” or “phased” removals of all of the approximately 200 wild horses from Theodore Roosevelt’s South Unit, as well as a handful of longhorn steers.

The North Dakota Legislative Assembly’s House of Representatives on Tuesday passed on a voice vote a resolution urging Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and the director of the National Park Service (NPS), Charles Sams to “recognize the benefits of grazing and to continue to allow for interpretative, cultural and historical purposes” of the herd.

The resolution also urges the NPS to continue to allow a small number of longhorn steers to graze in the park’s North Unit. Nine cattle live in the park.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 4014 now returns to the state Senate, which passed an earlier version in February in support of the wild horses.

Livestock management plans for Theodore Roosevelt developed in the 1970s set a population goal of 35-60 wild horses and 12 cattle. It is important to note, the term livestock as it pertains to this is defined as “any species of animal that has been selectively bred by humans for domestic and agricultural purposes, including, but not limited to, cattle, sheep, horses, burros, mules, goats, and swine.”

Return to Freedom submitted scoping comments and is urging the NPS 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 population goal.

The NPS utilized fertility control in the past to slow herd growth at Theodore Roosevelt, but the project was not maintained.

In January, Gov. Doug Burgum held a press conference calling for a collaborative effort with the federal agency to preserve the popular wild horses and the longhorns.

Burghum also sent a letter to the NPS calling for such an effort. He later joined U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Attorney General Drew Wrigley and legislative leaders in a conference call with NPS Director Sams and the park’s superintendent, Angie Richman.

The state and NPS have previously worked together to manage Theodore Roosevelt’s elk population.

When the Environmental Assessment is published, Return to Freedom will provide guidance on how to submit your own public comment.