Heritage of Pine
I recently read “North Dakota’s Heritage of Pine,” by Loren Potter published by the State Historical Society in 1952. The manuscript describes some of the history associated with the stands of ponderosa pine in the southwest part of the state. It may surprise a few North Dakotans, but there is a fair amount of native ponderosa pine in that area, mainly near the Little Missouri River from roughly Medora southward to the Montana and South Dakota state lines.
Ponderosa pine is the most widely distributed pine on the continent. It is common in the Rocky Mountains, but seems to be out of place in the North Dakota badlands. There are other relatively small stands of ponderosa pine scattered around southeastern Montana as well, but these stands are considered to be the most northeasterly native populations of the species. The nearest extensive stands of ponderosa pine are in the Black Hills and Bighorn Mountains.
The author speculates that these stands of ponderosa pine may be relict stands left from a time when the pines were much more abundant, or perhaps they are the result of chance establishment of the species across some barrier or barriers such as climate or soils. Either way, this area was extensively logged in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, so what we see today may be quite different that what existed during pre-settlement times.
The author estimated the extent of ponderosa pine in the area at a little over 4,000 acres.
The largest stand (3,908 acres) called Rangers Grove, was named after the nearby ghost town of Ranger which was located a mile or two northwest of the burning coal vein campground.
For those of you unfamiliar with this area, the burning coal vein campground is located about 14 miles northwest of Amidon, or around 25 miles south and west of Medora
President Theodore Roosevelt set aside a little over 14,000 acres of this area as the Dakota National Forest in 1908. However, in 1917 President Woodrow Wilson nixed it all. So Dakota National Forest lasted only nine years. Even without federal protection this area continues to support the ponderosa pines and a rich mix of other plants and animals. It is one of the more interesting areas of the state and really is a “must see” for all North Dakotans.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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