Environmentalists are on a mission to stop a gravel mining project adjacent to Teddy Roosevelt’s historic Elkhorn Ranch in the Badlands of North Dakota from advancing any further.
Roger Lothspeich, of Miles City, Montana, and his fiancee, Peggy Braunberger, have spent more than six years proving they own the right to remove gravel and other surface minerals at the 5,200-acre ranch and the businessman began mining last month.
The National Parks Conservation Association took its case to federal court in Washington, D.C., on Friday seeking a motion to stop the U.S. Forest Service from allowing the mining project to continue.
Roosevelt, who was president from 1901 to 1909, set aside millions of acres for national forests and wildlife refuges during his administration. He spent more than three years in the North Dakota Badlands in the 1880s.
The Forest Service purchased the ranch next to Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch site in 2007 from the Eberts family. It cost $5.3 million, with $4.8 million coming from the federal government and $500,000 from conservation groups.
The Eberts family had bought the ranch where Roosevelt ran his cattle and half the mineral rights from the Connell family in 1993 for $800,000.
Lothspeich, who grew up near the ranch, bought the other half of the mineral rights from the Connells at an undisclosed price, knowing the government had not obtained them in the Eberts deal.
Lothspeich signed an agreement with the Forest Service more than two years ago to work out an exchange for other federal land or mineral rights at a different location.
But he said the government was too slow in responding, and he decided to mine gravel at the site instead to take advantage of the growing need for roads and other projects in North Dakota’s booming oil patch.
‘There is a big demand for gravel, no question,’ he said.
Lothspeich said he plans to start gravel operations in the spring with about a dozen workers.
The Forest Service last January said it found no significant impact with the project, and last month it gave final approval for the plan and a 4-mile road to the mine. Lothspeich had crews digging at the site a day later.
‘He’s got a valid set of permits, and he went through all the steps,’ said Shannon Boehm, a Forest Service district ranger in nearby Dickinson said last month.
‘We’re holding him to the tenets of the approved operating plan.’
Conversationalists are arguing that the Forest Service violated the National Policy Act in approving the environmental assessment, according to Fox News.
The Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center first filed the lawsuit in September. They want a more thorough environmental analysis of how the gravel pit affects the historic ranch.