When the National Park Service sent the State of the parks Report to Congress in 1980, it publicly acknowledged some of the most difficult problems currently facing the System. Internal threats to the parks have been known for many years,  but the value of the State of the Parks Report is in its account of the sheer extent of external threats to the System. In four of the seven "threat categories," external exceeded internal sources. 
Moreover, the National Park System is now undergoing considerable expansion: not of territory, but of its own agenda for action, constituency, and sense of purpose. This expansion is partly responsible for the lack of fundamental data and managerial expertise the Report so deplores.
I have made the expansion of national park responsibilities, roles, and problems the point of departure for this history. My analysis of Theodore Roosevelt National Park follows these premises:
Theodore Roosevelt is not comparable in scale with the great wilderness parks of the West. It is not a pristine wild area. Even so, when the park was created in the 1940s it was a pristine rural area, one of only a few parks where continuing processes in nature and the imprint of human living were of equal interest. It remains a rural park today, somewhat civilized, but even in the pride of summer the beauty of its landforms is underlain with the same vein of menace that fascinated the dude Roosevelt. The park is rural, but never pastoral; still rural, but no longer pristine. Recollection of the perfectly rural setting the park enjoyed thirty-five years ago makes the recent physical and social dislocations associated with energy development in the northern Great Plains all the more bitter to the spiritual descendants of Roosevelt, those who still cherish "ranch life in the Far West."
Threats exist, then, not only to the physical resources of the park, but to the collective memory of a unique way of life. This bears upon one of the park's goals: to provide a setting which allows the motivated visitor to re-create the experience of Roosevelt himself. Such opportunities are more possible than one might think. For example, much of the oil development in the immediate vicinity of the park has taken place between the Elkhorn Unit, site of Roosevelt's home ranch, and the South Unit. As late as the early 1970s, the Elkhorn was only a little less isolated than in the open range days, and visitors travelling up from the South Unit could share Roosevelt's sense of adventure in going to his retreat. Now, oil roads have been cut and wells dug all through the intervening country, and the Elkhorn's isolation is gone. With it passed a chance for the visitor to empathize with Roosevelt. A potential linkage across time has been lost. 
A note on other histories
Two histories of the park have already been written. Dale Strand's account, completed in 1962 as a master's thesis for the University of North Dakota, is useful for events in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He also documents the Greater North Dakota Association's role in the park's development, but overstates its importance. Strand takes a narrow, commercial view of the value of the park.
Rather more balanced is Warren Petty's history completed during his tenure in Medora as park historian. There are two versions of this study: a draft of 1965 in the park library, and an abridged version which appeared in the Spring 1968 issue of North Dakota History. The draft manuscript is the more valuable. Petty is strongest on events up until 1947. 
Documentation in this paper
Keep in mind that whenever reference is made to "Theodore Roosevelt," the park is meant; "Roosevelt" refers to the man (except, of course, in some of the quoted matter).
Notes are usually in the forms recommended by the 13th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. Numbers in parentheses are used instead of superscripts after singlespaced, indented quotations. Web Edition Note: Links to Notes are enclosed in square brackets  rather than parentheses.
The following abbreviations are used in the notes:
Unless otherwise indicated, all letters, memorandums, theses, and dissertations are unpublished. The following abbreviations are used for locations of unpublished material:
Last Updated: 15-Jan-2004