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. Owners of anything in this country are in danger. Perhaps the people wanting the end of gathering gravel might consider purchasing those rights. In the meantime the OWNER of the rights may do whatever he wants, which is collecting. As for environmentalists, I never believe a word they say?

  2. Dear Mr. Turley,

    There are many of us in the west that believe the ‘federal’ government has far exceeded the good intentions of the States by ceding much of its land to the whims of the political class (mostly easterners). How would you like it if over 50% of your State was claimed by the ‘federal government?

    Perhaps your live in DC, where most of the land is owned by the government, so it is not important to you; but it is to us.

    David Kelly Oregon

  3. This is for those of you who do not understand why government bureaucracies may need to be overhauled:

    “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.”

    It is not Lothspeich’s fault for buying it. He paid for a resource to be developed. It is entirely and completely the US Forest Service’s fault for inexplicably selling it to him. It clearly lacked oversight into its apparent descent into madness, as well as any cohesive planning for the area. The Environmental Impact Report must have been a hoot.

    It appears that the gravel mining site is not directly on Roosevelt’s ranch, but it sure would spoil the view.

    “The site itself lies within Theodore Roosevelt National Park but, the surrounding lands are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service.” For clarification, is the site referenced that of the Ranch, or of the proposed mining?

    This reminds me of when I was in Ecuador many years ago. I heard about a land dispute between to owners of vast amounts of rainforest. One wanted to turn it into an ecotourism destination. The other said, fine, and slashed and burned his portion, which abutted the proposed vacation spot. Once a lush rain forest, the view was now scorched earth.

  4. Real bad lands dont have much grass. Really are just eroding gravel mounds. Th ere is a teddy natl type park in north dak. It has bison bison and wild horses. And a river. It also has badlands of dirt. That aint good fir nothing but rattle snakes and gravel. Actually mining it then seeding it would be better for it. If you could make the ph right. As is its only sceneray. A couple mounds are neat to see afterthat its no mans land. Good for nothing. Then again we want to go to mars….for a whole planet of it. Teddy’s grieving in sure.

  5. David, Of course that land is as important to those of us that live on the east coast as it is for you. We want to preserve places of historical importance and of natural beauty for everyone’s appreciation. Digging up gravel will make this site ugly, noisy and will ruin it for other American citizens to enjoy. The rest of us have every right to enjoy our national parks. I guess in this case there would not be a problem if owning a piece of land would guarantee owning the minerals and oil beneath it. Maybe the law should be changed so what’s above the ground and what’s below it will be joined for the owner.

  6. “Conservationists and hunters” – not the cat and dog relationship many assume. Many hunters are fierce conservationists. Part of the draw of hunting is being out in the wilderness, providing for yourself in archetypal independence. Not much fun hiking through a gravel pit coughing on dust.

  7. Capitalism is amoral. It is always only about the return on investment. Capitalism does not care about the environment, or people, or governments, or history, or anything but the money. This is why is has to be regulated, because it will always go for the lowest common denominator, it will always take whatever it can without concern for anything else.

    Some 80 humans now control as much wealth as 1/2 the rest of all the humans on the planet, and capitalism not only says that’s OK, it says it’s a good thing. Money on top of money, making more money by manipulating markets, bribing governments, They will crash economies over and over yet somehow manage to cash out just in time…every time. We have bought into this idea in the US, being totally convinced that each of us might be the next winner, and that money making the rules is a good thing.

  8. Who was President of the U.S. when these mining of gravel rights were sold to him? TR? FDR? George W.? JackMehoff? Harry Rectum? Harry Truman? LBJ? Nixon?

  9. One can dance all day between individual rights and collective rights. In their extremes, both are perverse. However, strip mining, gravel mining or any other raw material extraction that defaces the surface of our planet should be mitigated by either restoring or recreating the surface.

    J’s idea of seeding what was left is closer to the point. Instead of leaving and open sore on his way to the bank the capitalist defender of his constitutional rights should be obligated to leave the land in a better state.

  10. Chrissake it’s GRAVEL! The govt. wastes TRILLIONS of dollars yearly. Take some of our tax $’s that is extracted from the producers of this country and buy this a-hole out. I would only ask that a business person be retained to negotiate for the govt., not some idiot bureaucrat.

  11. This just in.

    A battalion has been detached from the freedom fighters of Oregon and is now on its way to the Badlands. Word is that the battalion is armed to the teeth and is lead by a guy by the name of Wayne the Peter who says that he will blow the head off of anyone that refers to himself or his pals as terrorists. Wayne the Peter has been quoted as saying that everything he says can be found in the Constitution’s 2nd amendment, if you read it right.

  12. The notion that money gives you certain rights is just one of the many perverse conclusions of an unregulated capitalist market. Do the rest of “us” have any rights about what happens to our air, our water, our land? If you buy mineral rights because you have money, how does that so-called right exceed the rights of others to live on a clean planet? What bizarre creatures we are.

  13. phillyT:

    Socialism is immoral, too. True socialism is a nihilistic existence. No matter how hard you work, you will always be poor. Everyone wears thin clothes in winter and eats stale government bread. Everyone gets free healthcare which is equally bad for everyone. And since human nature will always try to improve one’s individual lot, they set neighbor to spy against neighbor, to turn in any capitalist criminals starting evil cottage industries in their basement. Since everyone in equal misery foments dissent, such government invariably crack down on free speech and criticism of government.

    True socialist countries are some of the worst polluters in the world. We’ve heard it all – “communism really cares about the people!” “Socialism really cares about the people!” Meanwhile Russia and China are the worst polluters in the world, poisoning their own people and infamous for dire working conditions.

    Liberalism and nanny state socialism exists because capitalist taxpayers make enough money to support it.

  14. Enjoy being Liberal? I work hard so you can dream up more ways to spend my money on projects without much oversight or research on efficacy.

    You’re welcome.

  15. “The notion that money gives you certain rights is just one of the many perverse conclusions of an unregulated capitalist market.”

    Money is a possession like your house, car, clothes, electronics, jewelry, and garden are possessions.

    Why stop at taxing money? Why not have the IRS march into your house and take half of your stuff, too? The notion that owning stuff which you bought with your hard work gives you certain rights over that stuff, or an opinion or say in how much of that stuff the government an take is so perverse.

    And by the way I want your shirt to use to make a dog bed. Hand it over, and don’t be so perverse about it.

  16. phillyT,
    If we don’t proceed from the premise this man owns this property and has the legal right to mine it within current regulations, then we are disabling our natural right and giving it away to the government. Unalienable means NO ONE shall take or give it away. This is precisely where regulations are SUPPOSED to be of value. This man wants to mine gravel on his own property and the government hasn’t yet imposed upon this right. Maybe it’s because mining this property only impacts the aesthetic value and that might not outweigh the economic value. Who knows. If this bothers people too much then put your money where your mouth is and buy him out.

    If this is perverse to some people then they don’t deserve whatever natural rights they have left.

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. He has the rights, let him have the gravel. BTW, how many people visit Teddy’s home each year. I never did.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. “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.

  23. 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?

  24. “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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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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