American president Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, for whom a Medora, North Dakota national park is now named, wrote about wild horses in the Dakota Badlands during his trips to the territory as a young man in the 1880s. And horses still roamed the area freely in the 1940s, some of them getting accidentally fenced into Theodore Roosevelt National Park when it was first created.
Park officials initially sought to eradicate the wild horses, then considered a nuisance, in a variety of ways. Tolerated since the 1970s as a historic demonstration herd and celebrated by locals as a tourist attraction and a cultural link to the past, the now-beloved horses are seen by others as an example of the need for conservation that the Badlands awakened in Roosevelt. Yet they are now facing the possibility of removal again, with park officials contending this would benefit native wildlife and vegetation.
Public comment period
To this end, the National Park Service on Sept. 25 opened a 30-day public comment period to help decide whether the approximately 200 horses now roaming the Theodore Roosevelt National Park should stay or go. The federal agency’s related Livestock Plan Environmental Assessment, which reportedly includes options for removal or gradual population reduction, will be available for public review until October 25, 2023.
Members of the public who are interested in commenting on the wild horse situation may go to the NPS webpage set up for this purpose and submit input by selecting “Open for Comment” on the left menu bar. Next, they should scroll down to the bottom of the page to open “Livestock Plan Environmental Assessment [Open for Comment],” then click on the green “Comment Now” button on the left menu bar to access the online commenting form.
During the public comment period, Theodore Roosevelt National Park will host a virtual public meeting from 6-7 p.m. Mountain Time (7- 8 p.m. Central Time) on October 3, 2023. Information on how to join the public meeting will be available soon on the above webpage.