Senator: National Park's Wild Horses Can Stay

Park Service is dropping plans to remove them from North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 26, 2023 9:48 AM CDT
Updated Apr 26, 2024 2:00 PM CDT
Beloved Wild Horses May Be Removed From National Park
A wild horse stands near a hiking trail in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.   (AP Photo/Jack Dura)
UPDATE Apr 26, 2024 2:00 PM CDT

Wild horses will stay in North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park amid fears from advocates that park officials would remove the beloved animals from the rugged badlands landscape, a key lawmaker said Thursday. Republican US Sen. John Hoeven said he has secured a commitment from the National Park Service to maintain wild horses in the park, though the number remains to be determined, the AP reports. Roughly 200 horses now roam the park. Hoeven said the NPS will abandon its proposed removal of the horses under an environmental review process begun in 2022 and will continue to operate under an existing 1978 environmental assessment that calls for a reduction in their numbers. "People love horses," Hoeven said. "And where do you go to see wild horses?"

Aug 26, 2023 9:48 AM CDT

The beloved wild horses that roam freely in North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park could be removed under a National Park Service proposal that worries advocates who say the horses are a cultural link to the past. Visitors who drive the scenic park road can often see bands of horses, a symbol of the West and sight that delights tourists. Advocates want to see the horses continue to roam the Badlands, and disagree with park officials who have branded the horses as "livestock," the AP reports.

The Park Service is revising its livestock plans and writing an environmental assessment to examine the impacts of taking no new action—or to remove the horses altogether. Removal would entail capturing horses and giving some of them first to tribes, and later auctioning the animals or giving them to other entities. Another approach would include techniques to prevent future reproduction and would allow those horses to live out the rest of their lives in the park. The horses have allies in government leaders and advocacy groups. But one advocate says the horses' popularity won't stop park officials from removing them from the landscape of North Dakota's top tourist attraction.

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"At the end of the day, that's our national park paid for by our tax dollars, and those are our horses. We have a right to say what happens in our park and to the animals that live there," says Chasing Horses Wild Horse Advocates President Chris Kman. Last year, Park Superintendent Angie Richman told the Bismarck Tribune that the park has no law or requirement for the horses to be in the park. Regardless of what decision is ultimately made, the park will have to reduce its roughly 200 horses to 35-60 animals under a 1978 environmental assessment's population objective, she previously said. Kman says she would like to see a minimum of 150-200 reproductive horses remain for genetic viability.

(More Theodore Roosevelt National Park stories.)

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