History of Badlands National Monument
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In 1956, the National Park Service launched a 10-year park conservation development program known as Mission 66. This was to have great impact on the national monument. Under the program an expenditure of nearly $5,000,000 for roads, trails, buildings, and utilities was planned. Among the major projects undertaken and completed between 1956 and 1960 were a realinement and oil surfacing of main roads, the development of the Conata Picnic Area and the Cedar Pass and Dillon Pass campgrounds, and the erection of utility and storage buildings, three multiple-housing units, five employee residences, and an amphitheater. [240]

In May 1955 the Millard family donated two tracts of land totaling 18.50 acres to the NPS. Of this total, 5.85 acres, located in front of Cedar Pass Lodge, were donated for the right-of-way of the relocated highway; the remaining 12.65 acres made possible the development of Cedar Pass Campground. [241]

The visitor center was completed in May 1959. This large structure houses the national monument headquarters, interpretive exhibits, and an audiovisual presentation of the Badlands story. [242]

The installation of exhibits in the visitor center was essentially completed by November 1960. [243] Some of the materials used in the exhibits were donated by a number of individuals and institutions. Mr. Herbert Millard, son of the late Ben Millard, gave a large mass of sand calcite crystals now in the Small Wonders Exhibit. Dr. Winter of the University of South Dakota at Vermillion donated the plant collection in the Great Plains Grasslands Exhibit. The mounted badger in the Wildlife of the Grassland Exhibit was a gift from Orville Sandall of Kadoka, South Dakota. The skull of an Audubon Bighorn, on display above the Breaks in the Grassland Exhibit, was donated by Willard Sharp of Interior, South Dakota. In the exhibit showing a number of Indian artifacts are casts of early-man points donated by the University of Nebraska State Museum. [244]

The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota, donated both the lower jaw and the upper jaw, including skull, of a fossilized titanothere, which is in the Badlands Bones Exhibit. The materials for the articulated oreodont fossil in the same exhibit were also donated by the school. The oreodont fossil is of particular interest because it was found northwest of Imlay, South Dakota about 100 feet from where a famous fossilized oreodont with unborn twins was excavated. The latter fossil is on display at the Museum of Geology at the school (see Figure 5). [245]

The first full-time resident park naturalist for Badlands National Monument was assigned in June 1958 to aid with the local interpretive program. [246] For a number of years previously, a park naturalist who had been assigned to Black Hills areas of the NPS also served the national monument on an irregular basis. [247]

interpretive walk
Figure 27. CLIFF SHELF NATURE TRAIL. The loop trail, completed in 1962, is constructed over a geological slump which has lush plant cover. To acquaint the visitor with the area's natural history, a trail leaflet is provided. Here, naturalist-guided walks are offered daily during the summer months. [250]

On September 16, 1959, following the completion of the visitor center, the NPS dedicated Badlands National Monument. The featured speaker for the event was Fred A. Seaton, Secretary of the Interior, who gave the dedicatory address. Some 350 persons attended the ceremony. [248]

Tragedy struck a short time prior to the dedication with the sudden death of Superintendent George H. Sholly on August 19. As a tribute to him, the new amphitheater was named the George H. Sholly Memorial Amphitheater. [249]

After the boundary of Badlands National Monument was redefined by secretarial order in March 1957, the NPS began a long-range program for fencing it. The first segment of fencing was completed in 1957. By early 1961 some 108 miles were fenced with 20 miles still to be completed. To fence non-federal land excluding state land within the national monument would require an additional 92 miles of fence. [252]

In December 1961 letters were delivered to all inholding owners and to all persons who grazed stock within the national monument in that year. The letters terminated all grazing on federal lands within Badlands, and gave a short history of grazing in the national monument, the reason for termination, and the objectives and plans of the Service now that grazing was no longer permitted. Most of the private land located inside the boundary was not fenced, so unless steps were taken to fence the tracts used for grazing, stock would still trespass on federally owned lands. [253] Superintendent John W. Jay and Chief Park Ranger James F. Batman attended the legislative-committee meeting of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association in Rapid City on November 30, 1961, where the matter of fencing the inholdings was discussed. Although at the time of this meeting the Service had no plans to fence any of the private inholdings, it later decided to assist with the fencing on an equal cost-sharing basis in the interest of better landowner-Service relations and in consideration of special situations relating to livestock management that faced some of the owners of private land in the national monument. [254] This offer was made to the landowners by letter from Superintendent Jay dated May 9, 1962. As a result three landowners accepted the offer. [255] By 1964 all of the inholdings on which grazing was being done were fenced either on a 50-50 basis or by the individual owners. [256]

trailside exhibit
Figure 28. FOSSIL EXHIBIT TRAIL. Completed in 1962, this paved trail is unique in that along it are displayed partially excavated fossils protected by clear plastic domes. A shelter, located midway along the trail, houses exhibits which tell a brief story of Badlands fossils. [251]

Despite the Service's hope that grazing on the national monument's federally owned land would be terminated at the end of 1961, it continued. Due to drought conditions of 1961 and early 1962, Congressman Berry requested on behalf of the ranchers that grazing be continued during 1962. NPS Director Wirth decided to set up an emergency grazing program that would include only those ranchers who held permits in 1961. Accordingly, special-use permits were issued to 26 ranchers during 1962. This was the last year that grazing was permitted on federally owned lands in the national monument. [257]

Some livestock trespassing by local ranchers continued, nevertheless. In November 1962, the United States Attorney took direct action against five ranchers who had been in trespass for some time. [258]

As early as 1919 a U.S. Forest Service report expressed the idea that "Sage Creek Basin contains a large acreage of land that can be used for a game preserve for buffalo, elk, deer, antelope and mountain sheep." [259] In 1935 the proposed Badlands National Monument plus the Badlands Recreational Demonstrational Area (most of which was later included in the national monument when it was established in 1939) were considered to be favorable localities for the reintroduction of buffalo, mountain sheep, and pronghorn. [260]

However, after the national monument was established, the NPS believed that the area was too small to provide a wildlife range. [261] Dr. Murie's report

recommended that no buffalo be introduced on the monument because of the artificial conditions under which they would have to be maintained. If it were deemed desirable to fence an area for buffalo the most suitable spot would be north of Cedar Pass. [262]

Concerning bighorn sheep he "recommended that the bighorn be introduced when the opportunity develops, and that Sheep Mountain Peak be added to the monument for the use of the bighorn. [263]

Pronghorn, commonly referred to as antelope, were seen during the 1940's on rare occasions in Badlands National Monument and just outside the north boundary. However since 1959, 100 or more head have been reported annually in the national monument. These animals have come from the outside since there has not been any formal reintroduction of pronghorn inside the boundary. [264]

Figure 29. AMERICAN BISON AGAIN IN THE BADLANDS. After an absence of about a century, buffalo were reintroduced into the national monument in 1963. The fast-increasing herd roams largely in the 45,000 acres of Sage Creek and Tyree Basins. [268]

release of bighorn sheep
Figure 30. REINTRODUCTION OF BIGHORN SHEEP, 1964. These Rocky Mountain Bighorns are closely related to the now-extinct Audubon Bighorns. [269]

Immediately after grazing was terminated on national monument lands in 1962, the range underwent a remarkable recovery, due to the abundant rainfall of the 1962 and 1963 seasons. Questions arose as to why the range was not being utilized. Superintendent Frank Hjort recommended that bison be reintroduced as a means of getting the wildlife restoration program underway. [265]

In November 1963 the first herd of bison, comprised of 28 head from Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park in North Dakota and Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska, were released in Sage Creek Basin. In October of the following year, this herd was enlarged by an additional 25 head from Theodore Roosevelt. The herd has done well and by the end of 1967 numbered 122 individuals. [266]

Since 1963 the buffalo have shown that they prefer the remoteness of Sage Creek Basin and have demonstrated little desire to leave that area. [267]

In January 1964 in cooperation with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department, bighorn sheep were reintroduced. Twelve head of Rocky Mountain Bighorns from Colorado were released in a 370-acre holding pen with the view toward eventually restocking Badlands National Monument and other parts of South Dakota. This flock was supplemented by ten more animals the following month. [270]

Unfortunately, losses were suffered by both adults and lambs during the first two and one-half years. The situation improved early in 1966 with no further losses until the summer of 1967 when the peak flock of 27 individuals suffered a severe setback. In September, when all but 13 had succumbed to a respiratory infection, the bighorn were released from the holding pasture. They now roam the rugged Badlands south of Pinnacles Overlook. [271]

In February 1964, the NPS purchased Cedar Pass Lodge, together with 72 acres of the surrounding land, for $275,000 from the Millard family. The lodge is now being run on a contract basis by a concessioner. [272]

Increased travel to the area during the years of Mission 66 fully justified the expanded development program of the national monument. From 1956 to 1966 the number of visitors increased 65 percent (see Appendix A).

Because of this great increase in travel, the summer visitor may find some of the scenic-overlook parking areas full, the visitor center crowded, and the nightly campground amphitheater program with "standing room only." Since increased visitor use is practically assured in the foreseeable future, plans are already being made to provide additional facilities for visitors to Badlands National Monument.


History of Badlands National Monument
©1968, Badlands Natural History Association
badlands/sec6.htm — 04-Feb-2005

Copyright © 1968 by the Badlands Natural History Association and may not be reproduced in any manner without the written consent of the Badlands Natural History Association.