A plan to build a Little Missouri River bridge and road near Theodore Roosevelt's historic Elkhorn Ranch vaulted the property to being named one of America’s most endangered historic places.
On Tuesday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the ranch site — a remote part of Theodore Roosevelt National Park at Medora — among 11 most endangered sites for 2012.
The trust has named more than 230 sites in its 25-year history and only a few have been lost since then, it says.
Trust President Stephanie Meeks said the annual list spotlights important examples of the nation’s architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage.
The trust is the latest of three national groups that have put out a call this week to preserve the character of the ranch where Theodore Roosevelt lived in the 1880s and where he developed his ideas about conservation.
The other two are the Theodore Roosevelt Association, chaired by great-grandson Tweed Roosevelt, and the Boone and Crockett Club, a conservation group chartered by Theodore Roosevelt.
They're reacting to last week's release of an environmental impact statement that lists five alternative locations for a bridge crossing. One is less than a mile from the ranch site.
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Billings County wants the bridge to serve oil and ranch traffic in the remote Badlands.
Park Superintendent Valerie Naylor said she agrees the proposed river crossing is a serious threat to the ranch site. It's also threatened by a proposed gravel mine right across the river and increased oil activity in the general area.
"It's hard to know what the next thing will be," Naylor said. "Our goal is to keep the site as untouched as possible, similar to the way it was when Roosevelt first saw it in 1884."
She said the 218-acre site is small in size, but large in national importance.
Meeks said the Elkhorn Ranch is where Roosevelt witnessed the rapid degradation of America's wilderness and wildlife and recognized the importance of conserving such national resources.
"Building a road this close to the Elkhorn Ranch would permanently destroy the nationally significant historic place. Roosevelt had an enormous influence on America's public lands system and promoted nationwide conservation of natural and cultural sites. His legacy should continue today through protection of this place," Meeks said.
During his presidency, Roosevelt set aside more than 230 million acres of public lands in the form of national parks, national monuments, national wildlife refuges and national forests.