I want to take a quick break from our substantive comments. 

I am continually amazed by the people who continue to cross my path as we continue to Fight for the Spirit of the Badlands. There are so many people who have come in and out of my life since all of this started in March of 2022 that I don’t always get to talk about them because time and the focus gets so critical.

Last week, I was talking to former ND Governor Ed Shafer.  When I told him how hard this fight gets sometimes, he told me to call him anytime I need a “pick me up”. 

How crazy is that?

The truth is, I have a great list of people who seem to say the right thing at just the right time when even I didn’t know I needed to hear it the most.

At the very top of that list is always my husband, Gary.  He is the quiet one behind the scenes, always doing something to help raise awareness about these horses.  Our truck has literally become a moving billboard of sorts! Last week, when all of the legislative stuff was happening, he kept reminding me that I had to keep going “even if this doesn’t turn out the way you want it to” – he knows that I like to get my way and how hard I will fight for what is right.  “I know, I know, I know.”  I reassured him.  And when we didn’t get the votes, he was the first one to call me to make sure I was ok.  The other day we had a conversation where he let me know that he believed these horses came first, above even him, in my life.  I am glad we had that conversation because truly he is and always will be #1 in my life.

I have to mention my mom, who usually knows before I do when all this gets to be too much for me and does one of her “mom things” to help. 

I have also had the pleasure of meeting and talking to Dr. Castle McLaughlin.  This amazing woman emails me just about every week and we talk on the phone as our schedules allow.  It can be as simple as how great the last zoom was, a random thought or idea that came into her head, an argument to a thought I shared in a blog or just some encouraging words, like part of this email from her the other day in response to my “Defeated” blog: “I am always encouraged by your posts, and in my mind you have become such a model for effective activism. Truly Chris you are incredibly committed, resourceful and skilled at this and regardless of what happens here you can use these gifts to make the world a better place.”

Yes, I cried lol

Here is the woman, who we cannot thank enough for recording the history that would be gone otherwise, telling ME how I encourage her. 

People like her and my dear friend, Frank Kuntz, who also called me this week to tell me that he admired me, really move me.  These are people I have come to really look up to for all of their work in preserving the history that is so important to the Badlands of North Dakota.  They remind me that I am doing the right things with a level of integrity that is very important to me.

During the last public comment period, a man named Steve Martens and his wife Joanna contacted me.  They shared their comment letter with me, and it was honestly one of the best comment letters I read.  You can read it on our website: https://chwha.org/january-2023-comment-letters/

My hands down favorite part of that letter is this:

“At a minimum, if the horses are unwisely removed from TRNP, NPS alternative management plans should provide for mitigation of the harm from extermination of the herds.  Please understand; this is not meant to be sarcastic, although it is plainly critical.  Minimally, the mitigation of harm should include producing a permanent exhibit and video recording commemorating the rich multicultural tradition of free-roaming horse herds on the Northern Plains.  As a way of educating future generations about the tragic effects of bureaucratic management by the National Park Service in the brief period 1978-2023, a permanent bronze plaque could be installed overlooking Cedar Valley, or another setting in which we have observed horses, informing future generations of the consequences of irresponsible neglect of a living heritage resource. 

The plaque might read, “Had you stood in this spot anytime from 1880 to 2020 you could have experienced the iconic free roaming herds of naturalized horses that were the product of Native American and Euro-American ranchers and cowboys.  In your experience of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, consider the reasons and rationale for why this experience no longer exists.  Then, the visitor should travel to the reservation lands of the MHA Nation near Mandaree and Twin Buttes, or the habitat of free-roaming Nokota horses near Linton, ND to experience the equine heritage that no longer exists here (within the park).”

I hope you are nodding your head in agreement with those very fine-tuned words of wisdom shared in those two paragraphs.  They defined very well the plight of not just these horses, but the rich history of a very important period in time for the entire US and of course, the town of Medora that is nestled in the Badlands of North Dakota. 

Steve Martens and I correspond regularly through email.  This amazing man and his wife are now added to the list of people who just randomly send me messages that really hit me in just the way I needed in that moment.  They are always wonderfully encouraging and I always look forward to seeing what they have to share.

Steve wrote to me again today.  He shared an article wrote back in 2014.  He said, “This was my attempt to summarize cultural heritage significance of the park, based on what I learned about the Neuens family who had lived in that Little Missouri Badlands landscape from about 1885 onward.”

This story is important as a record of the birth of what we now know as Theodore Roosevelt National Park. 

His email today was a reminder that we are literally Fighting for the Spirit of the Badlands.  That spirit includes the history that made this park what it is as much as the horses that we are fighting for today.  We are fighting for the preservation of the past.  We are fighting to make sure this history is available for future generations to SEE with their own eyes, not through accounts of what once was able to be experienced within the boundaries of one of the best National Park’s in the US.

So today, instead of listening to me ramble on about how to write your comment letter, I hope that you will take some time to read the two articles I have attached here.  Both are also available in the Library section of our website. 

The first: Badlands and Broomtails: The Cultural History of Wild Horses in Western North Dakota by Dr. Castle McLaughlin

The second: The Designed Landscaped of the North Dakota Badlands: Weldon and Marjorie Gratton, Faithful Stewards and Genuine Collaborators by Steve Martens.

These two articles will give you more information than I ever can on the historical & cultural significance of our fight.  You might even find a thing or two to add to your comment letter.

Tomorrow we will be hosting a new Zoom with me, Chris Kman, to answer your questions on this process. Please remember to register in advance to get the zoom link: https://secure.everyaction.com/smU9KC-nNkyPAevZYGFDEA2

I’ll be back this weekend with some new tips on substantive comments with Section 106 and the historical and cultural significance up next.  

While you wait for that, I hope that you will take the time to read these two articles and I will spend some time letting my husband know that wild horses could never drag me away from him 😉

And if you need to hear that song, here it is: https://youtu.be/QhwwCWkmYoc?si=G0fLJMKwGixLjOC1

Enjoy your day!  We will pop in if something comes up on social media! I hear there will be something good in tomorrow’s Fargo Forum! Please make sure that you like and follow us for those updates: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChasingHorsesWHA Instagram @chasinghorseswha

Thank you also to each and everyone of you who stand with us in this fight.  My voice alone does not make the same sound as ALL of our voices together.  THANK YOU all for giving this lone voice some strength!

Thank you for your support and have a GREAT day!

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