NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Many across our state are worried about the plans for the wild horses at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

We’ve spoken with advocates for the horses and even a specialized doctor. But now, KX  is hearing from the National Park itself.

Due to the struggling population of Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s horses, the rumor is that the next plan of action is to eliminate the horse entirely.

But, the park’s deputy superintendent, Maureen McGee-Ballinger, says they did not choose a plan at this time. However, as of now, three options look the best.

“The first one is to continue the livestock management under the current plan, and so the current plans are; there’s a 1970 plan and that was covering the cattle, the longhorn cattle, and the 1978 plan that was covering the horses. So those are the two plans that we currently operate under. So Alternate A would be to continue to operate under that, now the herds. The number of horses under that management would be 35 to 60 animals. The number of longhorn cattle would be 12 or fewer. That’s Alternate A. Alternate B is an expedited removal of all the livestock through capture, sale, and transfer to other entities, and that would be on a project two-year time frame. The third alternate is a phased process of capture transfer in a contraception of horses, and that’s to reduce the population eventually to zero through donation or sale, a small herd or non-reproductive horse would be allowed to live out their lives in the park,” said McGee-Ballinger.

Now that the options are placed on the table, the growing question for many is still why. Why are we looking at any options for removal or reduction in the first place?

“We need to have a new management plan, the old ones are too old and they’re not meeting the actual thing that we are supposed to be doing, which is paying tribute to the conservation legacy of Theodore Roosevelt with a natural ecosystem that has native animals like bison and elk, antelope and a native grassland,” said McGee-Ballinger.

In the last segment, we spoke with Dr. Gus Cothran, who says if the horses were to be reduced in herd size, they would need to be maintained, and there would need to be at least 150-200 horses.

But that’s not in the park’s plan either.

“The point is not to have a genetically viable herd. That’s not the reason that they would be maintained. They would be maintained through the management plan in 1978,” McGee-Ballinger said.

She says looking at the options on the table again, if any of the wild horses were to be removed, they would be sold to local tribes first by their choice. This would be for horses and cattle.

Next up for grabs would be nonprofit groups, and if there are still some left, they would typically go to a GSA auction.

So, how soon are we looking at changes in the park to be made?

“Once the ES is produced, that will probably be finalized late in the spring and in the summer. This summer, 2023, that would be the release of the environmental assessment document again for a public comment. So there’s going to be another public comment period when that ES is released, and then we anticipate in the fall that there will be some kind of decision,” McGee-Ballinger said.

She shares that the parks did host a virtual meeting where they took public comments to offer new options or ideas. The public has until the end of January to submit comments and suggestions.

The national park says this is still in the process to establish a plan and the public’s comments and thoughts will be very helpful.

After all the comments are gathered, the scoping process will begin to view the environmental impact of each plan.

To leave a comment or learn more, visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s website.

This is an ongoing story.