Letters to the Editor

Hello and Happy Wednesday to everyone!

We are getting a lot of positive feedback from yesterday’s blog.  We are glad it helped!  We have more to say on the historical/cultural aspects so please check back!  We will also be giving some samples of ways you can easily incorporate the information we are sharing into your own letter.

We have also been asking that the public send “letters to the editor” to their local newspaper.  Understand, this is a NATIONAL PARK, so don’t feel like you HAVE to live in North Dakota to send one. You can send one to your own local newspaper and/or to the newspapers in North Dakota. 

Letters to the editor are a way to get your message to the public.  If enough letters to the editor are published, it DOES get the attention of our state and federal lawmakers.  THAT is part of how we got the State of North Dakota to draft and pass Senate Concurrent Resolution SCR 4014 earlier this year.  Our ND legislators told us that when they continued to see letters to the editor daily about the TRNP horses, they knew they had to do something.

Can you imagine what would happen if enough newspapers in other states started publishing letters to the editor about our TRNP wild horses?  It could possibly help get the attention of other members of congress!

No matter what – it doesn’t hurt and really takes just a few minutes to do!

What should you write?  I am including a few letters to the editor that have recently been published in our North Dakota newspapers. 

Before I share a few, I want to address a topic that comes up a lot.  Paywalls.  The Fargo Forum does an amazing job at covering the plight of the wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Patrick Springer at the Forum especially does an incredible job.  His articles are usually behind a paywall.  I believe the cost is 99 cents for 3 months.  Yes, it is a pain, and we understand if you are on a fixed budget and cannot afford that.  But if you can, subscribing to read the articles in any newspaper – and sharing those articles so hopefully more people read them – is a GREAT way to let the newspaper know that wild horse stories matter to the public. 

Here is my letter to the editor that was printed recently in the Fargo Forum:

Letter: What will the National Park Service’s actions cost us?

Christine Kman, founder of Chasing Horses Wild Horse Advocates, urges readers to express their support for keeping wild horses at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Opinion by Christine Kman

October 29, 2023 at 2:39 PM

Theodore Roosevelt National Park held their “virtual” civic engagement meeting Jan. 12, 2023. The park selected questions to answer, as they consciously grazed over questions that they did not want to answer, as they spoke out of the other side of their mouths about their commitment to remain “transparent” with the public.

Not only is the park currently on course to remove all of the wild horses from the boundaries of the park, the weeklong helicopter roundups along with the euthaization of horses that do not sell will come at the expense of the taxpayers.

We asked Supt. Richman the following questions that were blatantly ignored by the park during the civic engagement meeting:

When the park plans to eliminate 150-200 horses during week long helicopter round-ups, what is that cost and where will that money come from?
Is this something that will come out of the budget of the National Park Service or will the Bureau of Land Management be footing that bill like they did with the GonaCon experiment?
What is the proposed budget for the removal of the horses?
We are sure you have prepared a budget that was proposed to cover things like the cost of week-long helicopter roundups, veterinarian bills, and all of the aftercare associated with rounding up the horses. While you are asking the public to weigh in on the alternatives you have presented, it would seem that knowing what that budget is, that will obviously be paid for with our tax dollars, would be important to making an educated comment on the Draft EA.

If, in fact, you will say that there is no proposed budget, aside from the obvious comment that there needs to be a determination before any such actions take place, can you tell us what the cost was to round up the 400 bison recently? Maybe that will help us get an idea of the overall cost.

Also, I noticed on the BLM sites for comments, there is a way for the public to see how many comments have been submitted. Is there a way for the park’s planning site to give the public updated information on the number of comments that have been submitted for the TRNP Livestock Plan?

Lastly, the Draft EA states that if after “several” attempts to sell the horses on GSA Auctions that the horses would be euthanized. Can you define “several” and that timeline for selling the horses, please? For example, will the horses be listed for a day, a week a month, etc. before they are relisted and/or euthanized? Also, what agency will be responsible for the actual euthanization of the horses and the costs associated with that? The NPS, BLM or is this new and alarming direction coming from the Department of Interior directly?

It would seem like all of this should have been discussed in the Draft EA.

Thank you for your consideration. I appreciate your commitment to being transparent with the public.

As you have probably assumed, in their standard “transparent” fashion, Superintendent Richman refuses to answer these questions. Instead, I was directed to make them part of my comment letter. To be clear, this is our last public comment period during this process, so when will these questions be answered for the public to comment on before the proposed action they want to take is initiated?

The answer: It won’t. None of our valid questions will be answered because the park has shown us time and time again that it is above having to answer to anyone, let alone the taxpaying public.

Aside from the public losing part of our culture and history that just under 20,000 people spoke up against during the last public comment period, isn’t it nice to know that our tax dollars will pay for the very action we all oppose?

Please submit your comments at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/documentsOpenForReview.cfm?projectID=105110&parkID=167 by Nov. 24, 2023!

Christine Kman is founder of Chasing Horses Wild Horse Advocates.

I will admit, that was a longer letter than some letters to the editor will allow.  I sent the same letter to the Bismarck Tribune and had to cut 400 words! 

Here are a couple other letters to the editor some of our followers shared.  If you have a letter to the editor that gets printed, please share the link with us!

Letter: The wild horses draw visitors to our state

“Almost 90% of visitors rate the quality of their visit based on wildlife viewing, including wild horses. I am one of those people. My visit quality is always based on seeing wild horses. Period,” writes Michelle Jennison of Fargo.

I urge the National Park Service to stop trying to remove the only herd of wild horses in North Dakota from Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP).

The recently published Livestock Plan Environmental Assessment (EA) manipulated statistics to support the NPS removal of the wild horses. If the NPS is willing to publicly falsify documentation about the Brownlee et al. (2020) study, it makes me question how much of the rest of the EA is accurate.

The EA states, “While no comprehensive visitor use survey has been conducted specific to horses in the Park, 49 percent of visitors interviewed for the Brownlee et al. (2020) study supported maintaining horse herds in the South Unit.” This is simply not true. The Brownlee et al. (2020) reports 89.13% of visitors interviewed want the horses to remain in the park and only 4.38% of park visitors want the horses removed.

From the NPS Reference Documents, please see: “Brownlee et al 2020.pdf” which shows 49.16% strongly support, 33.92% support, and 6.05% somewhat support “Maintain the herd of horses in the S. Unit of park.”

The Brownlee report also states, “Because almost 90% of visitors reported participating in wildlife viewing and indicate that this experience was important to the quality of their visit, continue direct and indirect management of park wildlife and associated habitats.” It also states, “The National Park Service’s (NPS) enabling legislation (the Organic Act of 1916) mandates park managers protect and maintain the natural and scientific values of the park and to provide for public enjoyment, education, and inspiration (NPS, 2016). This protection-visitor use dual mandate is applicable to all NPS units, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Theodore Roosevelt National Park (THRO) features natural, cultural, and recreational resources that invite a diverse population of visitors.” The horses are a cultural resource and should stay in the park.

With the above information, I cannot understand why the NPS would want to remove the wild horse herd from the NPS. Almost 90% of visitors rate the quality of their visit based on wildlife viewing, including wild horses. I am one of those people. My visit quality is always based on seeing wild horses. Period. The elk and deer are great to see when they make a rare appearance. The prairie dogs annoy me. The buffalo are nice to see, but my sole reason to visit the park is see how many wild horses I can find.

The TRNP wild horses have lived their entire lives wild and free in the park since the park boundary fence was put up in the early 1950s. They are not livestock. Livestock, by definition, are any population of animals kept by humans for a useful commercial purpose. That does not describe the wild horses in the South Unit at all. Humans do not “keep” these horses as they thrive without intervention, including during harsh North Dakota winters. No one feeds them. No one waters them. No one gives them shelter. Please stop calling them livestock. They are wild horses or feral horses. The park gift shop even sells a postcard with a photo of wild horses and calls them feral horses on the back of it.

The wild horse herd in TRNP is an important historical resource to the state, with reference to rancher and park namesake President Theodore Roosevelt. The wild horse herd is a tourism draw. Many people, including myself, travel to TRNP several times a year just to see the wild horse herd. The horses have an economic impact to the local economy as they draw visitors. I personally visit and spend my vacation money locally in the saltwater taffy shop and Boots every time I visit, at least twice annually from Fargo. Every few years I take in the musical and pitchfork fondue, too. I often camp, but sometimes stay in a cabin or hotel, too. If the wild horses are removed from TRNP, I will absolutely vacation elsewhere in protest of this terrible NPS decision. I am not alone.

The ND Senate unanimously passed Concurrent Resolution No. 4014 to help save the herd because the majority of residents want the wild horses to remain in the park. It states, “A concurrent resolution urging the Secretary of the Interior and the Director of the National Park Service to modify its proposed livestock management plan, to recognize the benefits of livestock grazing, and to continue to allow for interpretative, cultural, and historical purposes a herd of longhorn steers in the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the presence of a wild horse herd in the South Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.”

Gov. Doug Burgum released a statement in favor of keeping the wild horses in TRNP, “We continue to urge the National Park Service to maintain a herd of wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, just as wild horses roamed those lands during Roosevelt’s transformative years in the Badlands, when President Truman signed the bill creating the park in 1947 and when it received official national park status in 1978,” Burgum said. “These horses are a hugely popular tourist attraction, embodying the untamed spirit of the Badlands while also reminding us of the deep ties to Roosevelt’s ranching and conservation legacy. As we’ve expressed repeatedly to the NPS and Director Sams, the state remains ready and willing to collaborate with the Park Service to keep wild horses in the park in a manner and number that supports genetic diversity and protects the park for visitors now and long into the future.”

Please leave the only herd of wild horses in ND in TRNP. Listen to the ND people; we want our wild horse herd to remain in TRNP. I grew up in ND; this is my home. I started visiting the park with my family when I was a toddler, and I am now 49. I go to the park at least twice a year and have for almost my entire life. If the NPS removes the wild horse herd from my state’s only National Park, I will never visit it again. TRNP is a gem of a National Park and offers something almost all others do not: wild horses. Do not kill ND tourism!

Michelle Jennison lives in Fargo.

Letter: We must find a way to keep wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Idon’t even know where to start. I have been told by people not to emotional, not to get angry, and stay calm. When you put it all on paper, how can you not get angry, emotional and very sad! Some people are try to take away a very magnificent part of our North Dakota history! Our beautiful, wild, and free horses! They have earned their place in our history here. People come all over to see them, like the majestic stallion watching over his mares and foals. Running across the tops of the bluffs and down into the valley below. Friends were here in August, they went to Medora for day and took some beautiful photos of the horses, none of the prairie dogs! When we were talking later, she said, “hope it’s not the last time we see them.” They are hoping to come back next summer with Grandkids to see the horses and Medora.

I hope and pray they will still be in the beautiful TRNP. We have to find the way to keep them safe and free.

Thank you for space.

Trish Hulm, Bismarck

As you can see, your letter can be any length and cover any aspect of why we are fighting so hard to keep these horses IN the only home they have ever known. 

Have you written your letter to the editor yet?

Please, let us know when it gets published!

Thank you for your support and have a GREAT day!

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