Land speculation seems to be on the rise in North Dakota, where the financially strapped National Park Service can only watch as a landowner offers an in-holding to Theodore Roosevelt National Park to the highest bidder.
The Bismarck Tribune opined about the problem the other day, saying that the acreage truly deserves to be made part of the national park. The only problem, the paper's editorial page points out, is that the NPS can't afford it.
"The longer some privately owned land jutting into Theodore Roosevelt National Park remains up for sale, the steeper the asking price appears to be," the paper said. "Partly that's due to the remarkable fact that the two parcels seem to be growing acreage. First listed at 176 acres, then 191, now the tracts are said to contain 218 acres of rugged, scenic Badlands terrain. The price tag at first was $352,000. Now the owner, Norbert Sickler, wants $654,000."
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"It has been said before in this
column: The land needs to be joined with the park. The National Park Service
would like dearly to have it be so, but it can't come up with enough money or
agree that the land is worth the asking price. When an alliance of individuals
and conservation outfits - that came together having the common interest of not
wanting the land ever to be developed - made an offer recently, it was
"The $352,000 initial asking price more than would have been covered by the alliance's bid of $400,000. All would have been well, the land would have remained primitive and the boundaries between the park and the bought land would have disappeared.
"The owner has a legitimate right to set any price he wants and not budge a cent lower. The owner is said by his son - Randy Sickler, an attorney who is acting as family spokesman - not to be averse to having the land be part of the park. But if it takes subdividing the land into 40-acre parcels to make his investment bloom, Norbert Sickler indicates he's willing to do it. He stands to make upwards of $840,000 by going that route.
"No way is the park service going to match that, using taxpayer funds to pay for land appraised to be in an undeveloped condition. Price is certainly an issue. The other is access. There is no access from Interstate Highway 94, even though the land is bordered by it. The park surrounds the parcels otherwise. Who would want to purchase a 40-acre parcel of ground for $140,000 - grandly scenic as it is - and have access to it only by helicopter or on horseback or on foot?
"The chances of a new exit/on ramp being allowed, getting the state Department of Transportation, which bought access control way back in 1964 and would have to be the agency to make the request to the federal Highway Administration, are thought to be zero. It remains an open question for the time being whether section line road access law can be pressed to apply in this situation. The park service's answer is no.
"Maybe nothing will happen. It would feel far better to have the land be brought safely into the park, but the status quo leaves it mostly undisturbed - except for a couple of for sale signs."