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Thursday, January 14, 2016


TEDDY ROOSEVELT (note the six--gun) internet photo
Thursday, 9:45 AM.  15 degrees F on both the downtown and back porch thermometers.  Wind SSW, calm with occasional light gusts.  The sky is overcast and the humidity 84%.  The barometer is at 29.75" and steady or falling some.  Snow showers are again predicted for this afternoon and tonight.  The temperature was more or less pleasant walking this morning.
   Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, is enshrined along with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln in monumental sculpture at Mount Rushmore National Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
   Roosevelt was a brilliant student of nature and a very talented and prolific nature writer, a vocation that existed alongside his political career.  His interest in the West and in conservation began in earnest with a brief stint as a cattle rancher in his late twenties.  He retreated to ranch life in 1884 after the death of both his young wife and his mother on the same day.   He bought grazing land along the Little Missouri River and established Elkhorn Ranch, which he owned and operated for several years until a bad winter killed his cattle and nearly ruined him financially, but he never lost his love of the West and its way of life.
   Elkhorn Ranch became a National Memorial Park in 1947.  Along with ancillary lands and sites it comprises almost 90,000 acres; a good-sized ranch indeed!  There is a controversy brewing currently over the development of mineral rights (river gravel)  within the view shed of the site of the original ranch buildings. The rules of development allow only five acres to be "mined" at a time, which must be restored before another five acres are utilized.  This is not good enough for the Park Service, who want no development of the mineral rights at all.
   This is obviously a complex situation, that will end up in the courts for years. But since old TR started the whole federal National Monument and related biological and historical conservation efforts, which eventually ballooned into the EPA, the BLM and myriad other alphabet agencies, many of which are in open war with the ranchers and the West he idealized, it would be interesting to hear what that stone face on the mountain had to say on the subject.
   Would TR side with big government? With the ranchers imprisoned for trying to gain a living from an unforgiving land?  With the businessman who owns mineral rights?  I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for TR to defend the little guy, individual freedom, private property or the sanctity of contracts. TR was, after all, the first Progressive, and was a wealthy eastern elitist born and bred.  In addition he was a true American Imperialist, from Cuba to Panama to the Philippines, who idealized warfare until his own son was killed in WWI.  My guess is he would find a pretext to settle the argument with his six-shooter, and laws and justice be damned.
   Of course, there is a perfectly legal and fair solution to the problem.  The government could purchase the the mineral rights at fair market value, and if the offer was refused, then invoke its right of eminent domain.  
   Probably too simple and fair a solution.

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