UPDATE: 10/4, 11:31 a.m.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is now planning to host a virtual public meeting on Tuesday, October 10, 2023, at 6:00 p.m. MT (7:00 p.m. CT) regarding their Livestock Plan.

Information on how to join the public meeting will be available at the park’s planning website soon.

ORIGINAL STORY: 9/29, 6:59 p.m.

MEDORA, N.D. (KXNET) — The fate of the wild horses and livestock in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is still up in the air.

The most recent update, concerning the National Parks Environmental Assessment, came this week. 

It’s offering three alternatives for the horses and livestock, however, some advocates and supporters say they’re still not pleased.

“We’re very disappointed. I think it’s, we expected this, but I think, we expected most of it. I think that it’s worse than we thought it was going to be,” said Wild Horse Advocate Chris Kman. 

Kman feels as if out of more than 19,000 public comments, their voices were not heard.

Kman says ultimately there will be no viable herd based on the assessment no matter which alternative is chosen.

“The last two pages of the environmental assessment are probably really the most telling because it lets you know what they’re not considering and pretty much what they’re not considering is anything that allows horses to remain in the park. Whether it’s reproductive, non-reproductive, genetically viable, historically, culturally, in any aspect, which then also calls into question alternative A, are you doing an objective environmental assessment here? Are you doing an objective NEPA process? Because the reproductive herd listed in Appendix D is very similar to Appendix A. If you’re not considering that, then I think that we can assume that they’re not considering Appendix A either, which is not a genetically viable herd either,” said Kman. 

The National Parks assessment even looks at the economic contribution the wild horses have.

“Throughout their report, they say that there will be no, little or no economic impact if they remove the horses from the park. I know personally as a small business owner in Medora, every business in Medora is extremely concerned about the negative impact it will have on their businesses if these horses are removed from the park,” said Kman. 

Kman says people come for the horses.

KX News reached out to our state lawmakers who have also been advocates and supporters from the beginning.

Senator John Hoeven says:

“The legacy of Theodore Roosevelt is a central aspect of North Dakota’s history, and our efforts to maintain the wild horse herd at TRNP is about preserving this historic scene as a key part of the visitor experience,” said Hoeven. “We continue pressing NPS to maintain this herd, both in meetings with their leaders and through my role on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and we encourage North Dakotans to provide their input to the agency during this public comment period.” 

Governor Doug Burgum says: 

“We continue to urge the National Park Service to maintain a herd of wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, just as wild horses roamed those lands during Roosevelt’s transformative years in the Badlands, when President Truman signed the bill creating the park in 1947 and when it received official national park status in 1978,” Burgum said. “These horses are a hugely popular tourist attraction, embodying the untamed spirit of the Badlands while also reminding us of the deep ties to Roosevelt’s ranching and conservation legacy. As we’ve expressed repeatedly to the NPS and Director Sams, the state remains ready and willing to collaborate with the Park Service to keep wild horses in the park in a manner and number that supports genetic diversity and protects the park for visitors now and long into the future.”

Senator Brad Bekkedahl stated: 

“I truly appreciate that the National Park Service has opened a new public comment period for the Theodore Roosevelt National Park Livestock Plan to address the wild horse and longhorn cattle herds present in the Park units.  The Legislature showed enormous public support for the continued presence of these herds with the passage of our Senate Concurrent Resolution 4014 and I am still fully supportive of maintaining the herds as part of the historical narrative of the Park. I hope the public engages in this public comment period with the same enthusiasm as they did for the hearings on our Resolution.  And I further ask that the National Park Service listens to the citizens involved and selects the alternative that maintains the herds and in terms of the wild horses, in numbers that makes them continue to be a genetically viable and diverse population. “

As for Senator Kevin Cramer: 

“I encourage all North Dakotans to make their voices heard through the public comment process on the proposed Livestock Management Plan, which closes on October 25. I have heard the concerns of North Dakotans who want to maintain a wild horse population within Teddy Roosevelt National Park and have relayed them to the National Park Service. It is incumbent on the Park Service to listen as they devise the best plan to honor Teddy Roosevelt’s heritage in North Dakota, look out for the wellbeing of the park, and provide the best experience for visitors.”

And Senator Josh Boschee:

“It’s certainly disappointing that the environmental assessment related to keeping the herd in Theodore Roosevelt National Park didn’t come to the conclusion that we were hoping for. You know, I’m going to continue to encourage North Dakotans to reach out and use the open comment period to voice their support for the horses and the longhorns and make sure that we continue an all of North Dakota approach to make sure that we keep these treasures in Theodore Roosevelt National Park so that generations of North Dakotans and visitors can continue to enjoy their beauty and what they bring to the park.”

Kman says the comment period is open until October 25, but she thinks it needs to be extended, and answers need to be given — before the public can make an informed decision.

“How can you comment when you don’t know what that natural prairie ecosystem is?” said Kman. 

KX News did reach out to the Theodore Roosevelt Park superintendent, requesting an interview which was denied.

We also have requested some term clarification and the new civic engagement meeting date, as that has changed.

The group says if the park does remove the horses, their proposed methods for removal are not the best either.

“When they do round the horses up, they’re going back to helicopter roundups. So they’ll do week-long helicopter roundups. They’ve also said that in the instance where it’s a 10-year process of phasing the horses out, they will be chemically and surgically contracepting the horses. So I mean, those are other things too that are extremely concerning. I mean, it’s just a horrible document in terms of the horses and with not a lot of science backing it,” said Kman. 

The parks have not replied to our request just yet, we will bring you updates as they become available.

You can view the park’s full environmental assessment act here.