LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — North Unit, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

“The sun is round. I ring with life, and the mountains ring, and when I can hear it, there is a ringing that we share. I understand all this, not in my mind, but in my heart, knowing how meaningless it is to try to capture what cannot be expressed, knowing that mere words will remain when I read it all again, another day.”Peter Matthiessen

Everyone I see these days asks me if I saw the solar eclipse, and Jim and I eagerly share our experience with one another. Last night, I looked at the moon over my backyard with different eyes than ever before. What glorious orbs in this universe!

On the top of the list of “glorious”: North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt Park is one of the most glorious places in North Dakota, if not the most. I’ve stood on the rim of the canyon there, at River Bend Overlook, with my father, and he has said, with some authority, that it is as beautiful there as the Grand Canyon.

I’ve camped there 50 times or more. I’ve hiked all of the trails and bushwacked plenty of my own trails. The solitude is one of the elements that make it special, even more so than the more frequently visited South Unit. It is off the beaten path, off the interstate.

Juniper Campground is very peaceful, and the scenic drive is chock-a-block full of stupendous views, wildlife, prairie vegetation and stellar examples of the geological forces that shape the Bad Lands.

The conservation group I founded, Badlands Conservation Alliance, keeps a close watch on this place, along with the Dakota Prairie Grasslands as a whole. The North Unit is an important refuge for North Dakotans, and all visitors.

So it is with consternation that I absorb the news that yet another oil and gas lease sale is proposed that will impact the boundary of this relatively small place. You can read more about that proposal here.

I’m also furious about the North Dakota Department of Transportation proposal to build a new bridge, replacing the Long X bridge on U.S. Highway 85, right up against the North Unit. The sound of only the birds and the cottonwood leaves stirring will be invaded by the maddening hum of a bridge.

NDDOT could do it differently, and many excellent suggestions have been made, by BCA and others, to preserve this treasure. The evidence to date is that NDDOT is ignoring this input.

Watch for notices about public meetings to come this fall and attend these meetings, to let them know that you also are concerned and to tell them that they must do better. Call or write NDDOT and request that it schedules one of the upcoming hearings in Bismarck.

Full moon setting, dawn, autumn cottonwood, TRNP North Unit.
Full moon setting, dawn, autumn cottonwood, TRNP North Unit.

Another action item you can choose is to become a member of BCA. This is easily done on the website.  Another tiny, ridiculously easy thing you can do is to share this blog posting widely, with the knowledge that each voice speaking for TRNP makes a difference.

Cause, folks, when it is gone, it is gone.  Poof.  How will we explain to future generations that we just let it go without a word of protest?


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