- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A federal judge has upheld the rights of a Montana businessman to mine gravel near Theodore Roosevelt’s historic western North Dakota ranch.

The judge’s ruling Thursday goes against the National Parks Conservation Association, which tried to force the U.S. Forest Service to conduct a more thorough environmental study, the Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/1YaFEjL) reported.

Bart Melton, the association’s regional director, said the decision was disappointing given the historic significance of the site on the former Eberts Ranch.

“Thanks to the Forest Service, visitors who explore the site where President (Theodore) Roosevelt walked and contemplated our nation’s conservation legacy will now also experience the visual scars and noise of a gravel pit,” Melton said.

Last year, the Forest Service said it found no significant impact with the project and issued a permit to mineral rights holder Roger Lothspeich, who had been trying to get permission to mine gravel at the site for more than six years.

The judge ruled that the agency considered the potential noise, visual and wildlife impacts, as well as honored Lothspeich’s legal right to mine gravel privately owned before the Forest Service acquired the 5,200-acre ranch.

Shannon Boehm, ranger for the Forest Service Medora District, said the ruling indicates that the agency made the right call, but he wouldn’t be surprised by more litigation.

In February, mining activities were halted to accommodate a possible golden eagle nesting nearby, but a survey didn’t find a nesting pair. Lothspeich voluntarily suspended operations into April for a second golden eagle survey, which will coincide with a sage grouse lek survey, Boehm said.

Eberts Ranch was renamed Elkhorn Ranchlands to reflect its relationship to Roosevelt’s historic cattle ranch in his namesake national park just across the Little Missouri River.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com


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