BISMARCK, N.D. – In a phone call today, Gov. Doug Burgum urged National Park Service (NPS) Director Charles Sams to allow wild horses to remain at Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP), stressing their importance to the state’s tourism industry and their deep historical and cultural connections to the park and Roosevelt himself.
The call with Sams was prompted by a letter Burgum submitted Monday as part of the NPS’s public comment period on its proposed management plan for the less than 200 wild horses in the national park’s South Unit and 12 longhorn cattle in the North Unit. The NPS has indicated its preferred plan for managing the wild horses involves gradually reducing the herd to zero, a plan the governor opposes.
Also participating in today’s call with Sams were U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, who coordinated the meeting, Attorney General Drew Wrigley, North Dakota House Majority Leader Mike Lefor, Senate Majority Leader David Hogue, House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, Senate Minority Leader Kathy Hogan, TRNP Superintendent Angie Richman and TRNP Deputy Superintendent Maureen McGee-Ballinger.
“We appreciate Director Sams taking the time to listen to our concerns about removing the wild horses, which would not only hurt tourism at Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the surrounding communities but also irreparably damage the deep connections between the wild horses and Roosevelt’s ranching and conservation legacy,” Burgum said. “As I stated in the letter and expressed again today to Director Sams, the State of North Dakota stands ready to collaborate with the National Park Service, whether with resources or management expertise, to ensure that the herd of wild horses can be maintained in a manner and size that supports genetic diversity and protects the park for visitors today and for generations to come. We’re confident that by working together, we can reach a collaborative solution. As evidenced by the groundswell of support from across the nation, these wild horses are a differentiator for our state’s top tourist destination and hold a special place in the hearts of citizens from North Dakota and beyond.”
The NPS’s public comment period closed on Tuesday, Jan. 31. The agency says it will update its proposed management alternatives based on the public input and then provide additional opportunity for public engagement and comment on its environmental assessment this coming summer. Sams said he would take the input from today’s meeting into consideration.
North Dakota legislators also are considering a resolution urging the NPS to preserve the wild horses and longhorns in the park and the U.S. Congress to assist with the preservation.