THEODORE ROOSEVELT NATIONAL PARK, ND (KXNET) — The wild horse population in Teddy Roosevelt National Park has been struggling for years. But what to do to help them is up for debate. Should the park keep them, or let them go? And what works best for the horses?

In the spring, there was a lot of concern regarding the sterilization protocols and clinical trials on the wild horse populations in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Now, the Park’s most recent move would either cut or eliminate the wild horse population altogether by selling them off to the highest bidder.

One local group says this is a problem.

“We are getting the best management plan possible for these horses. The park had about six different analysis that they were considering, and they came back with three now. So, of the three, their preferred action is to remove the horses from the park. The alternative action is what they’ve been managing the horses on, which is a 1978 plan that says 185 horses in the park now would be reduced to 35 to 60. That’s not enough for a viable herd,” says Christine Kman, founder and president of Chasing Horses Wild Horse Advocates.

Kman says her organization believes reaching out and giving public comments is very important at this time. She says comments and alternative solutions should be based on science and facts, not emotions or anger towards the situation.

“It would be horrible for 1 million reasons. One, it’s a huge tourist drive to North Dakota. People love to come and see the horses in the park. You’d be separating these families of horses and breaking up the families. The Park was saying they would give the tribes first pick on the horses that they take. Again, still breaking up families. Then, they would auction them off on GSA auctions, which is not monitored. Nobody is vetting any of the buyers for that, so then there’s a question about what happens there. Then, there’s always the fear of kill buyers,” says Kman.

According to  Dr. Gus Cothran, the minimum wild horse and burro herd size to stay healthy and strong is 150-200 animals.

In simple terms,  to have a genetically viable herd you need at least 150 horses.

Kman says the plan allowing 35-60 horses to stay in Theodore Roosevelt National Park does not abide by this.

So, what’s the current call to action? 

“The call to action is for people to go to the Theodore Roosevelt Park website, their park planning website, and make comments before January 31. The park is looking for comments that give different alternatives to what they’ve offered. What they’re offering is two options: 1) the park is saying we want to have the 35 to 60 horses we’ve always said, and 2) if you don’t like that, we’re just gonna take the horses away. We believe that there are other options that need to be considered. They also make no mention of what kind of birth control they’re going to use, especially if they’re talking 35 to 60 horses. That becomes important because you don’t want the herd to inbreed,” Kman said

She says many other parks see the value and culture of wild horses, so why doesn’t this park?

“I think it’s what they’re offering. This is all a NEPA process. The National Environmental Policy Act was passed in 1970. That’s the groundwork for environmental law in the United States, and there’s a process that has to be followed. NEPA says they have to consider the alternatives, other than the three that they’re telling us,” says Kman. 

KX News reached out to Theodore Roosevelt National Parks deputy superintendent Maureen Mcgee-Ballinger, who provided KX with no formal written comment, but attached the newsletter which contains information on the background of the project, the purpose and need for action, the description of the preliminary alternatives, and information on how to comment.

She also informed us of the virtual public meeting to take place on January 12, 2023.

The links to all this information are listed below. The Park will also review all input and develop a preferred alternative, prepare an Environmental Assessment and again seek public comment in summer of 2023.  

The final National Environmental Policy Act decision document is expected in Fall of 2023.

This is an ongoing story.

Note, that this is not a voting issue.

Teddy Roosevelt National Park is just looking for solutions, alternatives and suggestions.

There will also be a virtual event taking place on January 8th, at 1pm MST, which will feature several wild horse activists finding solutions to our wild horses.

KX’s Adrienne Oglesby will be heading to the National Park next Friday to meet with park officials there.

For more information on this story and upcoming events — head to https://chwha.org/blog/ and https://www.nps.gov/thro/learn/news/thro-livestock-plan-comment.htm .