Don’t Remove Wild Horses from Theodore Roosevelt National Park

NOTE: I submitted this on the final day of public comment period on the Theodore Roosevelt National Park Livestock Plan. I live 30 minutes away from the park, where wild horses have roamed longer than I’ve been alive. A new park Livestock Plan — put together quietly and quickly by the National Park Service — has stirred up the emotions of many in western North Dakota. Below, you’ll find my stance on the subject, which echoes the thoughts of many others in my region of the world.

The wild (feral) horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s South Unit are an iconic symbol of freedom and beauty in the American West.

Not only do the horses add to the park’s biodiversity and contribute to its rich natural and cultural history, the horses’ ability to roam freely within the national park’s boundaries serve as a symbol of our rights and freedoms as Americans.

But like with so many other decisions the federal government likes to make, it seems like freedom and history are of no value.

While we’ve all heard thousands of reasons as to why the wild horses shouldn’t be removed from Theodore Roosevelt National Park – be it from historic, ecological or financial perspectives – not once in the federal government’s plan have legitimate, scientific data-backed reasons been given to the public as to why this needs to happen. The NPS appears to be making its decisions based almost entirely on 45-year-old policy and overarching federal guidelines unspecific to any one national park or federally protected location.

The National Park Service must reconsider its downright egregious and short-sighted plan to forcibly remove any wild horses from Theodore Roosevelt National Park based almost entirely on decades-old policy. At worst, it must only consider Alternative A in the park’s Livestock Plan while amending it to update the current livestock management plan that caps the number of horses at 60 by working with park-specific ecologists, biologists and zoologists and amending the 1978 Environmental Assessment using modern scientific data and methodologies. The eye test alone shows the South Unit of the park is capable of handling far more than just 60 wild horses scattered across its 46,000 acres.

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Wild stallion

A wild horse in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit stands atop a ridge near the scenic route while taking a break from grazing on Sunday afternoon near Medora.
A wild horse in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit stands atop a ridge near the scenic route while taking a break from grazing on Sunday afternoon near Medora.

I took a drive through Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s South Unit near Medora on Sunday and captured a couple photographs of the park’s wild horses, including one close-up with a lone stallion. For more photos, check out my photo site.