Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Theodore Roosevelt in North Dakota

I spent the last week in North Dakota so I thought I would share some presidential facts from that state (seemed appropriate and all).

Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota.

The National Parks Service (NPS) site for this park quotes TR as saying, “I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.”

TR came to North Dakota in 1883 to hunt buffalo. While he was there though he purchased a cattle ranch (Maltese Cross Ranch). Soon after he returned home, both his first wife (Alice) and his mother died and he returned to North Dakota as a way to deal with his grief. When he went back in 1884, he purchased a second ranch (the Elkhorn) north of Medora. The winter of 1886-1887 was a disastrous one for all North Dakota cattlemen. TR lost 60% of his herd. After 1890, TR seemed to have stopped working with the ranch. His last visit was in 1892 and in 1898 he sold the land. (NPS)

While TR turned to cattle ranching for a time, he came to North Dakota in 1883 for big game hunting. The devastation he saw of the buffalo population there helped to turn him into the conservationist he would be as President. As President, TR placed a huge amount of land under protection. The NPS gives these figures for his actions:

  • 51 bird reserves
  • 4 game reserves
  • 150 national forests
  • Established the US Forest Service
  • 5 National Parks
  • 18 National Monuments (in the 1906 Antiquities Act)
  • Total Land: 230,000,000 acres
  • From the NPS site linked above you can get a list of the specific parks and monuments.

TR said this about his time in North Dakota: I heartily enjoy this life, with its perfect freedom, for I am very fond of hunting, and there are few sensations I prefer to that of galloping over these rolling limitless prairies, with rifle in hand, or winding my way among the barren, fantastic and grimly picturesque deserts of the so-called Bad Lands…

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