U.S. Department of the Interior
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Office of the Secretary
September 15, 2007
Joan Moody

Ceremony in North Dakota Recognizes Medora as a Preserve America Community And Dedicates Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch

The Little Missouri River bottomland where Theodore Roosevelt had his Elkhorn Ranch is often called the Cradle of Conservation. This photo, taken from recently acquired private land, shows what was the site of Roosevelt's   home on the ranch. It is located within the Elkhorn Ranch unit of Theodore     Roosevelt National Park..
The Little Missouri River bottomland where Theodore Roosevelt had his Elkhorn Ranch is often called the Cradle of Conservation. This photo, taken from recently acquired private land, shows what was the site of Roosevelt's home on the ranch. It is located within the Elkhorn Ranch unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

MEDORA, N.D. — Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett today joined other dignitaries to celebrate the Preserve America Community designation awarded to the City of Medora and the completion of the $5.3 million purchase and upcoming restoration of nearby Elkhorn Ranch , which was part of Theodore Roosevelt’s open range ranch before he became President of the United States.

Today Medora is a “gateway community” to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The park visitor center is in the town of Medora, while the Elkhorn Ranch is located 35 miles away in the Badlands of western North Dakota. The site of Roosevelt’s ranch home is in the national park. The recent land purchase from a private owner, which preserves other land from the original ranch, will become part of the Little Missouri National Grasslands managed by the U. S. Forest Service.

Scarlett is co-chair of the steering committee for Preserve America. At the event today at the Bumming Hills Amphitheater, other dignitaries included Governor John Hoeven; former Governor Edward Schafer; Mayor Douglas Walker of Medora, Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey; keynote speaker and Roosevelt biographer Edmund Morris; and Department of the Interior partners from the Theodore Roosevelt Association, Friends of the Elkhorn Ranch, Boone and Crocket Club, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Scarlett presented Mayor Walker with a designation certificate signed by First Lady Laura Bush, Honorary Chair of Preserve America, recognizing Medora’s work to preserve, protect and celebrate its unique history and heritage.

“The fewer than 100 permanent residents of Medora have worked hard to preserve what remains of the original town and have designated the entire city a ‘Historic Integrity District,’” said Deputy Secretary Scarlett. “That will and respect for their past to maintain the town’s integrity embody the goals of Preserve America." she noted. “Likewise, the process leading up to the acquisition of the Elkhorn Ranch is a tribute to President Roosevelt’s legacy, as well as a symbol of an era of conservation and stewardship exemplified through the Preserve America Initiative.”

Announced by the First Lady on March 3, 2003, Preserve America is a unique, broad-based initiative that focuses on working with communities and their heritage assets throughout the country to encourage heritage tourism, adaptive reuse, and economic development. In addition to recognizing the accomplishments of Medora citizens, today’s ceremony also highlighted the work of the Friends of Elkhorn, comprised of more than 50 wildlife and related conservation organizations, the Ebert family, and the Departments of Interior and Agriculture, as well as the Governor’s office.

“Cooperative conservation offers a way to keep intact a medley of land ownerships, while creating a context for conservation across boundaries through partnerships,” said Scarlett. “Today is truly a day to celebrate the success of what partnerships can do and this acquisition represents an example of cooperative conservation at its finest.”

More about Medora: Medora and the surrounding Little Missouri River Badlands are rich in lore and legends. Home to hardy ranchers, aristocratic entrepreneurs, Native Americans and even a future president, Medora’s historic resources help illustrate the story of the rugged frontier.
Marquis de Mores, a young French nobleman, founded the town in 1883 and named it after his wife. He constructed a meat packing plant, hotel, and stores. The town bustled for three years but then his operation collapsed due to drought and competition.

A young New York politician named Theodore Roosevelt also came to the Badlands in 1883, chasing buffalo through the wild ravines. Roosevelt purchased a ranch seven miles south of Medora. Following the devastating deaths of his mother and beloved wife within hours of each other in 1884, Roosevelt returned to his ranch. He decided it was too close to civilization for the solitude he wanted, so he established the Elkhorn Ranch, located 35 miles north of Medora.

Like many small prairie towns, Medora gradually faded and was quite dilapidated by the middle of the 20th century. In 1962 a prominent North Dakotan, Harold Schafer, fell in love with the place and began a gradual restoration of the town, eventually turning it into North Dakota’s leading visitor attraction, drawing up to a quarter of a million visitors annually.

More about the Elkhorn Ranch: More than 50 sportsmen conservation organizations, led by the Boone and Crockett Club, as well as national and local officials, worked with the USDA Forest Service to secure the Eberts Ranch. Support came from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Friends of the Elkhorn Ranch. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation recently contributed a $500,000 challenge grant to complete the $5.3 million purchase and restoration of the ranch. Friends of the Elkhorn have set a goal of raising $500,000 to restore native prairie and riparian areas, improve wildlife habitat, and develop educational and recreation opportunities.

More about Preserve America: Preserve America is a White House initiative to encourage and support community efforts for the preservation and enjoyment of our priceless cultural and natural heritage. The goals of the initiative include a greater shared knowledge about the nation’s past, strengthened regional identities and local pride, increased local participation in preserving the country’s cultural and natural heritage assets, and support for the economic vitality of our communities. For more information on the Preserve America initiative, visit www.PreserveAmerica.gov.

“Through the vision and leadership of First Lady Laura Bush, who serves as the Honorary Chair of Preserve America, communities across America are finding new ways to celebrate their history and tell their stories,” Scarlett said.

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