I’m sorry for the lack of posts this past week. I was out of town enjoying some R&R. There is still a few weeks to go but now I am getting ready for the upcoming spring semester. I faced an avalanche of emails when I returned, including one from a friend about a potential gravel mine threatening the vicinity around Theodore Roosevelt’s ranch on the Little Missouri River in North Dakota. Over the past several years the area surrounding Roosevelt’s Badlands has faced considerable environmental threat from the oil boom. The danger, though still real, has subsided in recent months with the drop in gas prices and resulting slowdown in oil field production. The land now in question is managed by the U.S. Forest Service but the mineral rights to the gravel belong to an outside individual.
In many ways the Dakotas made Roosevelt. Yes, he was always first and foremost a New Yorker. Indeed he was the only president to have been born in New York City. He was still finding himself when he began visiting the region while in his twenties, around the time he dropped out of Columbia Law School. It was there that he lost himself in the strenuous life after the death of his wife and mother in 1884. He shed some of his patrician airs while hunting and ranching with the roughnecks who worked the land. Years later his ties the area enabled him to straddle the three regions of the nation during his presidential campaigns. Truthfully and accurately he claimed membership as a bonafide New York Knickerbocker, a Southerner via his unreconstructed Georgian mother, and an adopted Midwesterner. The West, opened up by the railroads and immigration, was coming into its own in these decades between the Civil War and World War One.
It’s hard to see if and how the Forest Service can find a solution to this additional threat. I guess we’ll see what happens.
(image by The Hafstrom Co., Bismarck, N. Dakota from the Tichnor Brothers Collection, Boston Public Library)