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Turtle Mountain Forest Reserve


When settlers began arriving in the Turtle Mountains in the 1880s, they discovered the only densely wooded area for miles. The Turtle Mountain forest was a ready source for building materials, fence posts, and fuel. As the railroad moved into the area, there was a demand for wood as rail ties. At first, the supply seemed endless. But as early as the 1890s, it became clear that the widespread logging would soon leave the area bare of trees.

On this date in 1897, the Grand Forks Herald announced that Colonel Clement Lounsberry had been ordered to report on a proposed forest reserve. Lounsberry was an experienced military officer. In 1889, he was appointed as special agent of the General Land Office. The proposed forest reserve would cover over 100,000 acres of the Turtle Mountains, extending from Bellecourt to Bottineau, a distance of 36 miles. Lounsberry was tasked with investigating the area and reporting on the feasibility of placing the area off limits to logging and settlement.

The land had been withdrawn from the market in 1892, but the government paid little attention to the area. Settlers disregarded the residency prohibition, making homes there and using large amounts of timber. As a result, extensive areas were nearly stripped of timber. The Grand Forks Herald indicated that many North Dakotans opposed the suggestion for a forest reserve, as had the 1893 state legislature. The new attention being paid to the Turtle Mountains was not welcome by those who lived there. They were afraid they would be forced off what they considered to be their land. The scrutiny also resulted in legal action against some of the settlers. The newspaper reported that the U.S. District Court in Fargo was preparing to hear over one hundred cases of timber trespass.

The land in the Turtle Mountain Forest Reserve was set aside, but without funding. However, in 1906, the North Dakota Forest Service was established, and the new agency was able to take responsibility for managing the reserve.

Today, the Turtle Mountains offer a spectacular recreation area that straddles the American-Canadian border. Activities include camping, fishing, and horseback riding. It is our good fortune that our ancestors were farsighted enough to save it.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Arlington Cemetery. "http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/calounsberry.htm" http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/calounsberry.htm Accessed 10 September, 2015.

Grand Forks Daily Herald. “Turtle Mountains.” 6 October, 1897.

North Dakota Forest Service. "https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/ndfs/programs-and-services/turtle-mountain-state-forest" https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/ndfs/programs-and-services/turtle-mountain-state-forest Accessed 10 September, 2015.

North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department. "http://www.parkrec.nd.gov/parks/trsp/trsp.html" http://www.parkrec.nd.gov/parks/trsp/trsp.html Accessed 10 September, 2015.

Souris Plains Heritage Association. "http://vantagepoints.ca/stories/tmfr/" http://vantagepoints.ca/stories/tmfr/ Accessed 10 September, 2015.