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Theodore Roosevelt National Park to present findings of study

Theodore Roosevelt National Park invites community members from the surrounding area to informational meetings concerning the results of the park's visitor use study.

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Forum News Service file photo / Sarah Monke A scenic view stop in Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s South Unit north of Medora, N.D., overlooks the lush North Dakota Badlands on June 9.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park invites community members from the surrounding area to informational meetings concerning the results of the park's visitor use study.

The Watford City meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 30, at 6:30 p.m. CDT at the Watford City Civic Center. A meeting will also be held in Medora on Wednesday, May 1, at 6:30 p.m. MDT at the South Unit Visitor Center.

"Researchers from Kansas State University, Clemson University and the University of Utah

will present the initial results of the study," said Eileen Andes, chief of interpretation at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. "The meetings are expected to last approximately an hour and a half, with an additional 30 minutes provided for comments and questions."

During the spring of 2017, the park partnered with the three universities to begin a two year study of how visitors use the park and local communities.

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"The study used geospatial devices, traffic counters, photography, interviews and written surveys," Andes said. "An analysis of local community views, goals and connections with the park was also an integral component of the study."

As part of a larger park study, the University of Utah staff conducted interviews and community surveys.

"The results of the visitor use study will be used to help the park make sound management decisions that provide better visitor experiences, and the final report will be made available to the public in the near future," Andes said.

In other park news, plans to implement prescribed fire projects in the park's North Unit have been approved and will take place between April 29 and May 25.

Portions of two areas covering approximately 4,300 acres could receive burn treatments as a result.

"The largest area consists of everything from the Scenic Drive south to the Little Missouri River,

extending from River Bend Overlook west to Oxbow Overlook and is approximately 3,600 acres, of which 1,800 contains burnable vegetation," Andes said. "The second area is north of the Scenic Drive to the north boundary between Mile 9.5 and Oxbow Overlook, and is approximately 700 acres."

A primary objective of the burns is to bring flame to areas of the park that have historically been

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subjected to natural periodic wildfire.

"Nearly two thirds of the topography within the burn units includes clay buttes, moist drainages and areas of bare ground that will not burn," Andes said. "These natural firebreaks greatly reduce the total area that actually burns and help firefighters contain the fire to desired areas, avoiding impacts to fire-sensitive vegetation and culturally important sites."

The resulting mosaic of burned and unburned areas is a desired outcome, as would be expected in a naturally occurring fire.

"If favorable weather and vegetative conditions continue this spring to allow for safe burns, local fire departments and law enforcement agencies will be notified and signs will be placed along

neighboring roadways and at park visitor centers to notify the public," Andes said. "National Park Service personnel will be assisted by other federal land management agencies to carry out the prescribed burns."

Portions of the park's North Unit Scenic Drive as well as the Achenbach and Caprock Coulee trails may be temporarily closed as necessary for visitor safety.

Information will be available on the park's website at www.nps.gov/thro , on Facebook at

www.facebook.com/ThedoreRooseveltNationalPark and on twitter @TRooseveltNPS.

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