North Dakota’s tourism industry is dependent upon millions of visitors annually who come to experience the state’s cultural and natural treasures, including the more than 800,000 tourists who want to witness Roughrider Country at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the state’s top attraction.

Just last week, North Dakota’s state legislature cast an historic vote to approve a $50 million endowment for the operation and maintenance of a Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum at the gateway to the park. Gov. Burgum signed the bill into law on Friday, April 26, just one day after the 72nd anniversary of the day President Truman signed legislation creating and naming Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

This authorization, applauded by North Dakota’s tourism industry across the state, will raise the profile of the national park bearing Roosevelt’s name and provide a home to his presidential papers, diaries, and audio recordings. We applaud the governor and state legislature for their efforts to move this project forward and look forward to the public-private partnership that will build and erect the library.

Labelled the “conservationist president,” Roosevelt believed that while we could harness America’s vast natural resources, it was our duty also to ensure their sustainability. In anticipation of the new library and museum, we must take the opportunity to point out that the park itself is experiencing aging infrastructure, increased visitation, and inconsistent federal funding, which has culminated in $46 million in deferred maintenance needs. The backlog of repair projects includes rehabilitating the road network, fixing water and wastewater systems, and restoring park trails.

This maintenance backlog affects the entire National Park System, which faces an accumulated $12 billion in deferred maintenance costs for crumbling infrastructure, historic buildings, and memorials, among many other needs.

Currently, bipartisan legislation has been introduced in Congress to provide $6.5 billion over five years to help make priority repairs to the parks. This critical investment would ensure that our parks continue to represent the best of North Dakota and our nation to those visiting from other states and countries.

In honor of last week’s National Park Week celebration, let us give a rough-rider salute to Sens. Hoeven and Cramer, and Rep. Armstrong, for spearheading the effort and co-sponsoring legislation to invest in the infrastructure and maintenance of America’s national parks. This, along with the expected library and museum, will preserve and restore Theodore Roosevelt National Park for generations to come.

President, Destination Marketing Agencies of ND Executive Director of Jamestown Tourism

Searle Swedlund

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