BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Montana businessman agreed Wednesday to halt development of a gravel mine near the site of Theodore Roosevelt's historic Badlands ranch in western North Dakota.
Roger Lothspeich of Miles City, Mont., told The Associated Press that he signed an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to work out an exchange for other federal land or mineral rights at a different location.
Forest Service district ranger Ron Jablonski called it "a major change in direction" and said the agency is anxious to work with Lothspeich.
The Forest Service purchased the ranch, next to Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch site, from brothers Kenneth, Allan and Dennis Eberts and their families in 2007. It cost $5.3 million, with $4.8 million coming from the federal government and $500,000 from conservation groups. The purchase did not include mineral rights.
More than 50 wildlife and conservation groups, including the Boone and Crockett Club started by Roosevelt himself, pressed Congress to approve the purchase.
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, grazing cattle on land that government agencies and conservation groups have hailed as the "cradle of conservation."
The Ebertses had bought Roosevelt's ranch and half the mineral rights from the Connell family in 1993 for $800,000. Lothspeich, who grew up near the land before moving to Montana, 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 had previously said he wanted the Forest Service or conservation groups to pay him $2.5 million. Neither the federal agency nor the conservation groups took up his offer.