I read with interest the feature article by Brendan Borrell concerning Badlands National Park (HCN, 2/4/13, "Making Good on the Badlands"). I served as the superintendent there in the mid-1980s and was responsible for the preparation of a revision to the park's 1982 master plan. This revision was approved by the director of the Park Service's Rocky Mountain Region, as well as by the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council in 1986. The plan recognized many of the shortcomings identified in Borrell's article. It recommended relocation of the South Unit's developed area from White River to Fog Creek, several miles west. The new developed area was to provide a new visitor contact center, including a visitor center, primitive campground, staff quarters and a maintenance area. The plan also provided for phasing out of livestock grazing and reintroduction of elk and bison, as well as limited access to the Stronghold Table, an area of religious significance to the tribe.
But the plan lacked the funding support needed by the congressional delegation. This is only one of the many obstacles that can be added to those Borrell mentioned, which need to be overcome to establish a tribal national park at Badlands.
I had the opportunity of working with Gerard Baker when we both served as superintendents in the Rocky Mountain Region and know the process is in good hands with his involvement as head of the Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority. I wish him, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the National Park Service all the best in making this dream a reality.
Former superintendent of Badlands and Zion national parks