BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Thursday praised state fundraising efforts for a proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in North Dakota and said he hopes the project moves forward.
As the administration Cabinet member who oversees management of federal lands and the National Park Service, Bernhardt was invited to North Dakota to discuss maintenance improvements for Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which library backers say are needed to promote the facility. By law, libraries for presidents before Herbert Hoover, who served from 1929-33, must be built without federal money. Roosevelt was president from 1901-09.
Bernhardt offered moral support to the effort.
“These are precisely the types of things that we hope succeed and that we can partner with going forward,” he told reporters in Bismarck before embarking on a trip to the park and the tourist town of Medora, located at the entrance of the park. Bernhardt called the state’s commitment to the project and a private philanthropic effort “special.”
The National Park Service has a $12 billion maintenance backlog, including about $50 million at the Roosevelt park. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said he appreciates Bernhardt’s commitment to fixing those issues.
North Dakota’s Legislature this year approved a $50 million endowment fund for library operations. Money from the fund is available only after $100 million is raised privately to construct the library. Burgum said the fundraising campaign kicked off about two weeks ago.
“There’s an opportunity to have a conversation with just about everybody in this country about the impact that Roosevelt has had and the relevance of him today,” Burgum said.
The foundation raising money to build the library identified several potential library sites in the Medora area, some inside the park and some outside of it. Roosevelt ranched and hunted in the area as a young man in the 1880s before becoming the nation’s 26th president.