BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today submitted a letter urging the National Park Service (NPS) to maintain a herd of wild horses at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, noting their significance to tourism, the local economy and the history of the park and its namesake.
Burgum was joined by tourism officials, state legislators and other stakeholders during a press conference today at the Capitol to discuss the NPS’s preferred plan for managing the wild horses, which involves gradually reducing the herd of approximately 200 horses to zero.
“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,” Burgum stated in his letter, adding that the 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.”
Burgum urged the NPS, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, to find a way to manage the wild horses in a manner and herd size that supports genetic diversity and protects the environmental integrity and capacity of the park for current and future generations of visitors. The governor offered to meet face-to-face with the NPS to explore opportunities for collaboration with the state to help maintain the herd and urged the federal government to provide NPS with the resources necessary to manage the herd.
The public comment period on the NPS management plan closes Tuesday, Jan. 31. Comments may be submitted online here or by writing to: Superintendent, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, P.O. Box 7, Medora, ND 58645.
The state Legislature also is considering a resolution that urges the National Park Service to preserve the wild horses and longhorn steers residing within Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the U.S. Congress to assist with preserving the historic herds.