The Congressionally-chartered Theodore Roosevelt Association (TRA) recently launched a national campaign to protect Theodore Roosevelt’s sprawling 4,400 acre Elkhorn Ranch site in North Dakota’s Badlands against greedy developers hoping to capitalize on the state’s recent oil boom. Often referred to as the ‘Cradle of Conservation” and “The Walden Pond of the American West,” the Elkhorn Ranch site inspired Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. President, to pioneer the American conservation movement at the turn of the twentieth century.
That heritage of land stewardship is now under threat as The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently announced that Roosevelt’s revered lands have become of America’s 11 most endangered historic places.
Two proposals emerging from North Dakota’s recent economic boom currently threaten the landscape. Billings County (ND) aims to build a new bridge crossing over the Little Missouri River – which zigzags the property – to provide a service road for neighboring oil enterprises. The proposed routes would run through the ranch itself, bringing more than 1,000 trucks a week to Elkhorn Ranch.
The bad news doesn’t end there for there for the Badlands – a North Dakotan prospector is also planning to excavate a gravel pit in order to begin mining in the area. If approved, these two projects will displace the many animals who call Elkhorn Ranch home - bison, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, and even some endangered species like the Bald eagle - as well as despoil the pristine landscape that nature-enthusiasts so admire.
Roosevelt’s great-grandson, Tweed Roosevelt, heads up the TRA. In March he met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, urging the president to use his executive powers to designate 4,400 acres of the Elkhorn site as a national monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Unfortunately, Obama still hasn’t made a decision.
Let’s jump on the conservation bandwagon by showing our support for the TRA’s important campaign to save Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch. If Mr. Obama doesn’t take decisive action to save this historic site, Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy of land stewardship will fall prey to the jaws of commercialism.