The Fight for Elkhorn
"It was a land of vast silent spaces, of lonely rivers, and of plains where the wild game stared at the passing horseman… In that land we led a free and hardy life…."
—Theodore Roosevelt-An Autobiography 1913
Theodore Roosevelt wrote those words three decades after his life-changing sojourn in Dakota Territory, where he went to recover from the tragic same-day deaths of his young wife and mother. Though Roosevelt spent only about 360 days from his first visit in 1883 until 1887, his time in Dakota Territory crucially shaped him as a person and influenced his philosophies and ideas about conservation.
From the porch of one of his ranch homes—now part of the Elkhorn Ranch Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park—Roosevelt looked out on the starkly beautiful landscape and reflected on how man’s footprint already had changed the remote spaces of the American west. It was here that he formed the very idea of conserving our country’s lands, wildlife, natural resources and scenic wonders. For that reason, Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch Site rightly has been called the Cradle of Conservation, and is an iconic place in America’s cultural heritage worthy of preservation.
While the site of Roosevelt’s ranch home lies within Theodore Roosevelt National Park and can’t be developed, the surrounding lands—under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service—do not enjoy the same protections. The phenomenal Bakken formation, which encompasses about 200,000 square miles in the western third of North Dakota, is fueling a tremendous oil exploration boom. Development pressures are threatening both the viewshed and soundscape of this rugged and revered spot of such importance to American conservation.
The Theodore Roosevelt Association has been an active and vocal advocate of keeping this site as it was in Roosevelt’s time, as a permanent reminder of how Elkhorn’s silent grandeur sparked America’s conservation movement.
Theodore Roosevelt Association
P.O. Box 719
Oyster Bay, NY 11771