Theodore Roosevelt National park: Save the Horses

Horses have been an ornate part of American history. First brought over by European settlers around 1600 AD, horses quickly became a part of our shared American culture. By the Lewis and Clark expeditions of the late 1700s, horses had spread across the American continent to Oregon and California with little noticeable disruption to the native wildlife. Many Native American tribes found these rugged, usable animals to be a welcome trade tool, and traditions like pony races and mass horseback migrations became abundant in Native American communities. From the Shetland ponies of Scotland to the painted horses of the Mongolian steppe, a wide range of species have influenced the classic American horse we know today.

Governor Burgum recently wrote a letter to the National Park Service urging them to reconsider their plans for reducing the herd within the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. He spoke of their importance to tourism, the local fans, and the history of Teddy Roosevelt himself. Teddy Roosevelt was an adamant horseback rider and was often observed, even as President of the United States, riding his gelding Bleistein.

Burgum's letter was approved by the North Dakota Visitors Bureau, state legislators, and other landowners with wild horse visitors. The park service’s plan would slowly reduce the herd of over 200 horses to zero via sales to local tribes, separating the herd, and leaving a small population of non-reproducing horses to live out the rest of their natural lives in the park. The park's officials say they have "no basis" to keep the horses in the park but want to assure visitors and readers that no horses will be harmed." Tasha Hagre, a local horse boarding property owner and horse aficionado, stated, "It's actually a really neat program that they do." She continued, "They keep up with the people who adopted the horses and make a whole ordeal about it [online]."

Governor Burgum was quoted in his open letter, "For decades upon decades, these horses have coexisted peacefully with the national park and, in the process, have become a hugely popular attraction and an indelible symbol of the untamed character of the Badlands,... [wild horses] are a major tourist attraction treasured by hundreds of thousands of visitors and social media followers from near and far. Removing these horses from the park, or reducing the herd size to a level that fails to support genetic diversity and longevity, would strike a blow not only to park visitation but also to the economic vitality of Medora, nearby communities including Dickinson, and our entire state."

Many North Dakota citizens, as well as tourists, are upset by this decision. Those wishing to help in the Save The Horses effort are encouraged to volunteer for the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation or comment on the National Park's website to share their feelings and opinions and link with others to help with this cause. No matter what happens, the health and safety of the animals will always be the top priority to North Dakotans.


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