I just submitted my comment to the National Park Service about their management plan for the horses at the only North Dakota National Park - Teddy Roosevelt National Park, which is seriously one of my all time FAVORITE National Parks, mostly because of the horses. It breaks my heart they are even thinking about eliminating our gorgeous horses.
If you'd like to write a comment to the NPS, be sure to read up some more information here at: www.wildlandswildhorses.com/save-trnp and then follow the link they share to leave a comment. You have until January 31st to leave a comment for them.
I pray we can all come together and that our voices speak louder than their's. Let's save the horses.
Dear National Park Service,
I am writing you about the Teddy Roosevelt horses. They are not only a North Dakota treasure, but also a national treasure. When you look on the North Dakota driver’s license you see the wild horses of Teddy Roosevelt National Park. They are an icon of North Dakota and the wild-west experience. If they are such an icon of our state, history, and beloved by North Dakota citizens (and taxpayers) why would we ever want to get rid of them by eliminating them from their home, which honestly has been their home since before the land was even a national park? Since taxpayers pay for the national parks—that also means the National Park and everything in it belongs TO THE PEOPLE. The people have spoken. We don’t want the NPS to eliminate or get rid of the magnificent horses in TRNP. This would have a negative effect on tourism in the ND Badlands.
The horses were already there when it was decided the area deserved to be conserved by establishing the national park. So the horses should be protected, too. They predate that National Park. That protection also includes them. Your job as the NPS is to protect them just as much as the buffalo, for the historical significance they hold. They are an integral part of the Wild West history of North Dakota. Ranching isn’t an accidental activity in North Dakota and it’s a huge part of the area's history. Teddy Roosevelt and Medora’s husband were also ranchers.
Teddy Roosevelt National Park is one of the few national parks where visitors can enjoy the wild horses. People come for the horses. They state in the Smithsonian Magazine that Teddy Roosevelt is the second best place to see wild horses in America. (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/best-places-see-wild-horses-north-america-180956363/ ) What’s better? It’s in OUR beautiful North Dakota National Park. I vote for keeping the horses in Teddy Roosevelt National Park, first of all, because of their historical significance, and secondly, because it’ll severely affect the park’s and North Dakota’s tourism. Even the North Dakota Tourism includes seeing the horses in their list of must see adventures for fall: https://www.ndtourism.com/articles/20-fall-adventures-await
The last two sources I’ve shared show how the horses draw people out to Teddy Roosevelt National Park –no matter the time of the year. My husband and I come to see the horses about once or twice a season (winter, spring, summer, and fall) Whenever we see them, it’s like seeing a good friend. Almost like coming home. I know many other people feel this way too. I enjoy seeing them every time we visit. I can tell you that there are people who would stop visiting if the horses are eliminated. I will too.
This also isn’t fair to future generations who would love to see a remnant of our rich ranching & cowboy history—that the horses are certainly a part of. If you get rid of them, future generations won’t get to experience their majestic beauty. I hate to imagine a world where I bring my future kids to see TRNP and not be able to show them the gorgeous creatures I grew up loving. I’d hate to visit a place where there’s a vacant prairie where there once used to be horses grazing and running free. That would be a ghost of a park and I couldn’t bring them if the horses were gone.
They should be seen as “natural” to the area, because they were there before the park was a park. Plus, if you think about Teddy Roosevelt and how he was a conservationist and reveled in the strenuous lifestyle that came with riding horse and ranching. Living in ND he loved horses and I know he would’ve been in favor of keeping the horses inside the park. You look back at his writings and how he’d write fondly about the wild horses.
Here’s an example:
"In a great many--indeed, in most--localities there are wild horses to be found, which, although invariably of domestic descent, being either themselves runaways from some ranch or Indian outfit, or else claiming such for their sires and dams, yet are quite as wild as the antelope.” - Teddy Roosevelt
Whether they’re natural or unnaturally native to the area shouldn’t matter, since the NPS isn’t here to just conserve the natural environment. Horses definitely played a significant role in the exploration and settlement of the United States. (Taken from the NPS website: https://www.nps.gov/thro/learn/nature/horse-history.htm) In Teddy Roosevelt National Park, we are able to see a remnant of that Wild West horse.
If you look at Mesa Verde National Park, you’ll see very unnatural formations in rock. That park was established especially to conserve human history. Mesa Verde is protected out of historical significance because those buildings show a story from the past to everyone who visits them. It’s the same when you go to Teddy Roosevelt National Park. You are immersed into a Wild West of a world with the old ranching equipment, Teddy Roosevelt’s old cabin, and the living historical proof of the ranching that brought the horses there. The National Park Service is supposed to protect that. Whether it’s an old building or wild “feral” horses that were there since before the park began – thus they are now natural to the area and have had a part in the historical setting.
Buffalo and wild horses have similar grazing patterns in that they continue to roam while grazing, unlike cattle that just stay in the same area and eat/ruin the environment. So your argument that the horses are hurting the environment is actually null and void. (https://www.habitatforhorses.org/current-myths-about-the-wild-horses-of-the-american-west/)
Where you state that “Absence of livestock would also enable reestablishment of natural grazing regimes to benefit native plant life and natural ecosystem function.” This may be true of cows and cattle, but horses graze up to 10 miles or more for water and food. Really, if anything is competing with and affecting the environment, it’s probably the cattle, not the horses.
The horses are part of the ranching history of ND and the badlands—a part of our human history. The presence of the horses represents Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences here with the open-range ranching times. Ranchers would turn out the horses onto the open range to breed and live. Whenever they needed a horse, they’d round some up for use as ranch horses. And then for many generations, those same ranchers used the land that would later become Teddy Roosevelt National Park for open-range grazing.
In closing, the horses at Teddy Roosevelt National Park are STILL integral as a part of the historical setting. They are required in order to preserve a historic scene for Americans today and future generations. We the people want you to keep our horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
NOW, since you know my stance and that I believe these gorgeous creatures should be kept in their home… since it’s been their home longer than it’s been a National Park. What do I think about thinning the herd and what you should do moving forward with keeping the horses in the park?
OPTION A - but more… not 30-60-some… yes, controlling the numbers humanely… humane auctions. We don’t need it to be 200. Around 100-130 is probably healthy. But, the remaining herds should not be given contraceptives.
That wouldn’t be a natural culling. Something that could be interesting is holding an event which shows the historical setting with the farmers/ranchers rounding up some of the horses for auction. Again, making sure it’s all done in a humane way.
Like I stated at the beginning, many people go to the park just for the horses. You cut them down so much that people won’t see them and they will stop coming to see the horses. PLUS, the horses are integral and do enhance the visitor experience.
And one last thought on the native vs non-native. The horses aren’t doing anything different from the bison. And they aren’t competing for food. There is enough to go around for everyone. We don’t need a bigger bison herd. With a bigger bison herd, we’d be missing the horses. There are many other state and national parks with bison. (To name a few: Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Teddy Roosevelt, SD Badlands National Park, Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area, Capitol Reef National Park, Chickasaw National Rec Area, Grand Canyon, Great Sand Dunes, Tall Grass Prairie Reserve, and even Wind Cave National Park, Custer State Park in SD, and more ) BUT I want to ask you, how many with wild horses? Not many. And that’s the reason they should be kept in Teddy Roosevelt National Park, because they enhance the visitor experience and create a historical scene. The wild horses of our only ND National Park are national treasures worthy of protection and conservation.