There are about 200 wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.
The local residents, tourists, and even state and federal politicians want the wild horses to remain. This is something that brings people together, reminds us of our shared heritage. We all agree on this.
The National Park Service wants to eliminate them. And we know what that means – separation from their herd and family, holding pens for a lifetime, or slaughter. And, importantly, the loss of freedom.
This park is where Teddy Roosevelt first came out west and fell in love with the vastness of the wilderness. It's where he discovered his deep love of nature and his passion to protect it. He is quoted as saying, "The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom."
And yet, the Park Service, despite public outcry along with bipartisan support from the Governor and Senator and some in Congress, wants to take that same freedom away from the wild horses. These are horses that have roamed the badlands for centuries, and are believed to trace back to Sitting Bull’s horses, a rare bloodline.
Theodore Roosevelt was devoted to preserving not only our natural history but our cultural history. Wild horses, a representation of the spirit of the Badlands and freedom of the west, are part of that cultural history he loved.
We owe a lot to Theodore Roosevelt, I have visited many of the monuments and parks that he set aside as President – 230 million acres in all. They include the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde in Arizona, Chaco Canyon and Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico, Muir Woods and expanding Yosemite in California, Crater Lake in Oregon, and Mount Olympus in Washington. That’s just a few.
This is a battle that’s happening across the West on public lands. Wild horses are being removed from our public lands by the Bureau of Land Management without transparency and without science to back up their claims. The removals are inhumane, with low flying helicopters chasing the horses and many horses and foals dying in the process. These removals cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year as the horses are held in crowded pens, with little hope for a good life.
Is this how we treat our symbol of the west?
This outcry in Theodore Roosevelt National Park goes far beyond North Dakota as major news outlets including the WSJ, Washington Post, and even the London Times report on this absurd move by the Park Service.
There are better solutions, but the Department of the Interior, headed by a Native American woman, Deb Haaland, is not taking action or intervening on the part of the horses.
Let’s be true to a man who helped us learn how to love the wilderness and preserve it.
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” - Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President, 1901-1909
It's time to stop these abusive removals all across the west. Let’s follow Roosevelt's passion and protect our cultural heritage. This is a good place to begin the change. Get Informed. Take Action. Here are some resources: