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Roosevelt National Park officials seek public comment on livestock plan

TRNP
The landscape of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press
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MEDORA, N.D. — In March 2022, the National Park Service (NPS) asked for your input in developing a Livestock Plan for horse and cattle herds at Theodore Roosevelt National Park (the Park). NPS staff considered the input received during that civic engagement process to further develop and refine the alternatives presented in the plan. Currently, horse management is guided by a 1978 Environmental Assessment (EA), and cattle management is guided by a 1970 Management Plan.

This current effort addresses livestock, horses and cattle herds, and considers their role on the park landscape and their impacts on native species and prairie ecosystems. This plan would also align with current laws, regulations, and policies, to ensure balance with natural and cultural resource management priorities, as directed by the NPS Organic Act (54 United States Code 100101). Three preliminary alternatives are being considered for analysis.

Citizens are invited to submit comments through Jan. 31, 2023 and join a virtual public meeting on Jan. 12, 2023. Throughout the National Environmental Policy Act planning process, the NPS will offer several opportunities for public input and comment. Currently, two livestock herds reside in the Park: there are nine cattle in the North Unit and approximately 200 horses in the South Unit. Both herds have been allowed to occur as nonnative livestock on NPS lands. While past perspectives focused on managing for a historic scene, park priorities are to manage the species, resources, and ecosystems that are native to the landscape of the Park.

A Livestock Plan is needed to address operational commitments to livestock management, potential impacts of livestock on landscape and natural resources — including native wildlife, native vegetation and water resources. They also seek to analyze potential impacts of livestock on archeological sites, provide resiliency for native ecosystems and bring livestock management into compliance with relevant laws. Three plans are outlined below.

TRNP horse
A wild horse nibbles on the earthly short grass in the mist of prairie dog burrows.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Alternative A – No Action Alternative: Continued herd management under the 1978 EA and 1970 Management Plan Alternative A enables no new management action. Stewardship would continue under current management plans with a population objective of 35–60 horses and up to 12 cattle. Although the population fluctuates year-to-year, there are approximately 200 horses living in the South Unit currently. Active capture, handling, sale, and removal of excess horses would continue to occur for reduction of the population to meet the management objective. The NPS would continue to use capture and contraceptive techniques to maintain horse numbers at the population objectives defined in the 1978 EA. Cattle would be replenished from external sources, as individuals perish, to maintain numbers at or below 12 animals, as indicated in the 1970 Management Plan.

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Alternative B – Action Alternative: Expedited Reduction of Herds to No Livestock This alternative would require active capturing of horses in the Park with the methods best suited to reducing the population to zero in an expedited fashion. Tribes would be provided the first opportunity to receive horses. After Tribal requests are fulfilled, horses would be transferred to other authorized entities or sold via U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) auction. Cattle would be gathered and donated to other authorized entities or sold via GSA auction. NPS would plan to remove all livestock within 2 years of plan implementation, though logistical, operational, and environmental circumstances may dictate that the effort could take longer.

Alternative C – Proposed Action: Phased Reduction of Herds to No Livestock This alternative would also require active capture of horses with the methods best suited to reducing the population to zero, but in a phased approach. Tribes would be provided the first opportunity to receive horses; after Tribal requests are fulfilled, they would be sold to the public via GSA auction. Contraceptive techniques would be used to prevent future reproduction. Once a reduced herd size of fully contracepted horses is achieved, these horses would be allowed to remain in the Park to live out their lives. Cattle would be gathered and donated to other authorized entities or sold via GSA auction.

Concerned citizens are asked to submit comments no later than January 31, 2023, online through the PEPC website at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/LP or in writing to: Superintendent Theodore Roosevelt National Park PO Box 7 Medora, ND 58645 Before individuals include their address

Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge. His reporting focuses on Stark County government and surrounding rural communities.
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