Conservationists, Hunters, and Historians Losing Fight To Protect Teddy Roosevelt’s Famous Badlands Ranch From Gravel Company

1452694218969One of the thrills for many people in North Dakota has been to visit the Elkhorn Ranch of former President Teddy Roosevelt in the Badlands along the Little Missouri River. While long listed as one of the “11 most endangered historic places” in the nation by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Elkhorn Ranch was the beloved location where Roosevelt hunted, bred cattle and began his writings on conservation. Although the government U.S. Forest Service purchased 4,400 acres, including the ranch, in 2007 as part of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, it did not acquire the mineral rights. Now, over the intense objections of Roger Lothspeich, owner of Elkhorn Minerals, intended to mine gravel and destroy much of the area around the historic site. In response to a national outcry from historians and hunters, Lothspeich said “There is a lot of gravel to mine. I will keep on mining year after year, for years to come, and will not stop until I get all the gravel. That’s the type of individual I am. I just don’t give up.”

Whatever “type of individual” Lothspeich may be, it does not include a respect for history or conservation. He simply wants the gravel and the profits and has made it clear that he does not care about anyone or anything else.

The site itself lies within Theodore Roosevelt National Park but, the surrounding lands are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service. The U.S. Forest Service approved the mining project and now historians, conservationists and hunters have gone to court to try to stop it through a preliminary injunction. They are arguing that the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act in its approval of the environmental assessment, particularly given the distinction of the site as one of the “11 most endangered historic places” in the nation by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Roosevelt was 26 when he established the ranch in 1884 and originally came to the Badlands in September 1883 to hunt buffalo. The ranch would help him recover emotionally from the loss of his wife and his mother who died on the same day. He also forged his vision for conservation in the United States and the national park system.

Lothspeich however has been unmoved by pleas from different groups: “I have the right to mine my gravel. It’s legal. It’s constitutional.”

Source: Fox

46 thoughts on “Conservationists, Hunters, and Historians Losing Fight To Protect Teddy Roosevelt’s Famous Badlands Ranch From Gravel Company

  1. Olly

    What is perverse is not whether one has or has not rights, natural, inalienable, or other. What is perverse is the irresponsible manner in which those who demand their rights deal with them. We all live on the same planet and no one, absolutely no one, has any right, regardless of where they think it comes from or from whom, to crap in our communal back yard. The issue is responsibility and without it ones rights are the first thing to go. Now that cannot be that difficult to understand. If it is, then spend some time reading history. When the same thing happens over and over and over again, it just may be time to pay attention.

  2. isaac,
    You are the last person I would take advice from regarding history and most certainly regarding rights. In your world we’ve “progressed” beyond all of that and now you want me to reflect ON history as valuable lessons? You and your progressive ilk are shining examples of the utter arrogance in believing NONE of that history has any relevance in today’s world. Make up your mind for crying out loud!

  3. Well I for one find industrial mining operations to be quite beautiful. There is especially something romantic about abandoned *anything*, lets say mines and equipment here, rusting away and becoming a rusty hulking shell of it’s once former glory… It lets the imagination run with what stories could have happened there.

    But there is also something quite profound about our technology in action- the way humans create and engineer to aid them in their never ending quest for productivity. Perhaps making money is only secondary to this man’s motive: He must mine all the gravel. It’s who he is. Getting paid for doing what you love is just icing on the cake. Icing which you’d die without.

    • Steg – I went to a beautiful pleine air painting contest at the old mines in Jerome, AZ. Both the scenery and the paintings were gorgeous.

  4. “Part of the draw of hunting is being out in the wilderness”

    Yes. That is the .0001 percent of “hunting” that is not the enjoyment of killing. As everyone knows, enjoying the wilderness doesn’t require a gun.

  5. Olly,
    The notion that an individual has rights concerning the ownership/possession of land/water/air without regard to others, including the government as a representative of the people, is insane. If you own a bicycle and a helmet you bought with your own money, or someone gave you, that may be your inalienable property. But if a stream runs through your land, you don’t have a right to poison it. If you mine property you “own” and leave ponds filled with acid and arsenic, and walk away, you should have top pay to clean it up.

    I just don’t agree that having the deed to a piece of land gives you unending, unassailable rights. The planet belongs to everyone, and we pasted our money and our rules over it, stole the land from the previous inhabitants and wrote it down on pieces of paper. How on gods green earth is that a natural right?

  6. “As everyone knows, enjoying the wilderness doesn’t require a gun.”

    Isn’t that ironic. We leave the state of nature to live within civil society for the security of our natural rights and we have become more secure in those rights in the state of nature. Progress, intelligently planned.

    Nicely done!

  7. Olly

    Regarding my advice and your accepting it, I don’t post on this blog, for a ‘Pearls before swine.’ exercise but to hear intelligent responses agreeing or disagreeing with my thoughts. Your intro discounts your input substantially. Regardless of what anyone individual thinks, we are all bozos on this bus.

  8. I’ll second the Star Wars in IMAX. If you can, pay the extra and see the IMAX version. It’s well worth it.

    The only disappointment for me was they didn’t have the wisdom to include a scene of Jar Jar Binks exploding in full 3-D. I would have paid double to see that.

    • Darren Smith – have you seen the Red Letter Media critics of Episodes 1-3? They are hysterical. By they time they end you wonder why someone lets George Lucas near a camera.

  9. Isaac:

    “What is perverse is the irresponsible manner in which those who demand their rights deal with them. We all live on the same planet and no one, absolutely no one, has any right, regardless of where they think it comes from or from whom, to crap in our communal back yard.”

    Why are you blaming the man who bought the mining rights rather than the US Forest Service for selling it to him? The government sells logging, mining, and grazing rights to people all the time. Whether Lothspeich is nice or a conservationist is immaterial.

    This reminds me of a case where a couple bought a parcel of land to build their dream home, only to be told the department changed its mind about development, and would never grant them a permit to build. So they paid for something they could not use or sell.

    I agree that it was wrong to sell the mining rights in the first place, wrong not to safeguard those rights in the beginning. I hope they buy the rights back and compensate Lothspeich.

    This was a horrid mistake in judgement, but of course since it’s government there will be no accountability, and everyone will get raises.

  10. I’m not blaming the man. It doesn’t say when they sold him the rights, but I’m going to bet I know under whose administration it was.

    So admit the mistake. Buy it back and send him on his way. Compensate him for his time and trouble and let him go find something else to do. There is no absolute right to make money doing any damn thing you please.

  11. Karen

    You almost understood what I wrote. Again, regardless of whether or not the fellow has or has not rights to extract the gravel, he should be obligated to leave the site in a state equal to how he found it or better. Gravel is created by water flowing through the soil taking away the ‘fines’ and leaving the natural aggregate which tumbles over time into almost uniform bits called gravel. This is a natural phenomenon. However, enhancing the flow of water by extracting the gravel will typically create erosion, down stream, downstream is typically on someone else’s property. This is not much different from when, on a hillside, someone builds a house and removes 3,000 sq ft of water absorbing soil and replaces it with 3,000 sq ft of ‘hardscape’. The rain runs off of the hardscape, concentrates, and erodes the surrounding area, unless the condition is mitigated with dispersal and channeling systems.

    Strip mining coal and other stuff, logging, etc can all be done, when feasible, with or without responsible stewardship. That’s my point. If the dude is going to exercise his rights he should only be able to exercise his rights in a responsible socially conscious manner. In other words, he should not be allowed to ‘crap’ in our communal yard. Barkin Dog has already addressed this.

    • No one has yet said that they have been to the ranch or even to the Badlands of North Dakota. I have been to the Badlands and he is probably not doing much damage to the land.

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