Reader response: Threat from mining to Teddy Roosevelt's North Dakota badlands ranch


In response to yesterday's post Teddy Roosevelt's North Dakota badlands ranch 'threatened' by gravel pit Chris Johnson from Painted Canyon, Medora, North Dakota had this to say:

An opinion from a Billings County lifer working for her dollar and not in the oilfield.

My son sent me the link. He is in mining, an asset manager at a coal company. He grew up in the badlands where we still live. My grandparents homesteaded here. I would like you to see the prospective of a person who is here day in and out, good and bad economy and has to adjust live accordingly with huge influxes of people migrating in and out with the prices of oil and or discoveries.

It never ceases to amaze me how the people who do not live here seem to want to make decisions for us and take factual information and tweak it for their agenda. In general, we as a whole are proud of our area, know what is best and should be trusted to be good stewards of this land. My dad as a poor farmer had drought , hoppers and poverty and had to get the most out of a barren land. He took good care of it as many others have and still do. We who live here were taught to respect the land.

There is plenty of park area here. I do think Teddy had a good plan to conserve acreage for the rest of the public to experience. There needs to be a happy medium though and common sense on boundaries, permission and working with other entities.

Having lived here all my life, I have seen the oil companies have to jump through all kinds of hoops and the majority are very conscientious of where they drill and the wildlife and scenery. The rules and regulations are stringent as they should be. Where to drill and put roads has much thought and study put into it and consideration for all.

Teddy did not choose to stay here, so to me his political career was more important than his beloved badlands. If he had stayed here all his life and devoted blood, sweat and tears to these rugged lands like the major of people who did live and die here then I would be more inclined to make it a shrine than just because he vacationed here and hunted buffalo that we are not allowed to hunt now. The actual site will not be affected and more would see it.

My problem is the majority of the people who do not want any activity on the outskirts of these areas, drive petroleum fueled vehicles, wear petroleum based makeup, use plastic etc. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. If they are against oil and coal activity then theoretically they should not use any products made from them. They should not drive SUV’s with, yes with SIERRA Club propaganda bumper stickers on them and they should try living strictly off the land using their hands only and heat themselves with wood only from non toxic nor endangered trees. Oh yes, they should not eat meat either because cow flatulence is putting holes in the atmosphere.

The safety of being in the remote area and lack of ability of our emergency personal who have to go in on foot for miles because of a lack of a road in an area that is restricted by the park is of great concern. Even when someone’s life is in danger the rules have to be followed. A road in the area would help in these search and rescues to get people closer and the ambulances ready for transport.

We have had several accidents with people attempting to cross the river in rugged areas, we have had dangerous men hid out in there that needed to be apprehended (one wanted for murder and one for assault). One avid hiker died a few weeks ago in the park and another just the other day had to be rescued due to severe dehydration. Most of the areas have no cell service, so it is not like you can just call when you are in trouble.

I guarantee you if they had “mock” simulations where you had to be deprived of water, have nothing and be dropped off in the middle of these wilderness areas and wait for someone to “find” you on foot, on horse or only established areas, your views and prospective would change drastically. Remember the majority of the search parties are volunteers and middle aged and it is taxing on them to find the tourist who chooses to “get away to peace and solitude” and gets lost, bit by rattlesnakes and not reported missing until the next day.

The proposed bridge has been studied for years. It would take some of the oil field traffic off the roads, cutting off extra miles of day in and day out travel. This would be a good thing as poor Highway 85 is now called suicide highway due to all the accidents due to wall to wall truck traffic on a 2 lane basically country highway meant for leisurely rides. They have plans to expand it, but that is years down the road to being said and done. Widening to passing lanes is not the only answer. The local people have had to go around the long way to get their kids to school, go to town and get to the hospital.

Change is good. Teddy changed the area by being there and he left. Now it is time for our generation to do some changes that will alleviate some the problems we have and yet preserving the untamed wild badlands for people to enjoy from the safety of their car!

Thank you,

Chris Johnson

Painted Canyon, Medora, North Dakota