Fort Union Trading Post to use cattle grazing to control invasive grass species

WILLISTON, N.D. - Historic Sites are some of America's most protected areas that provide the public with glimpses of the ways of life and nature from long ago.

Employees at one location, Fort Union Trading Post, are taking a new approach to maintaining the historical integrity of the area, which they say could have an effect on how the past is preserved in the United States.

Superintendent Andy Banta and Museum Curator Fred MacVaugh are working with ecologists to use grazing cattle instead of harmful chemicals to control invasive grass species surrounding the Bodmer Overlook Trail in Northwest North Dakota.

"They really eat the non-native grasses, and the native grasses haven't really even greened up yet. So, we expect good results," explained Banta.

Cattle graze like the bison that roamed these fields in the 1800s, so they can keep the 30 acres of land surrounding the path in a state similar to how it was back when the trading post was active.

MacVaugh said this could change the way that many national parks preserve America's most significant areas of history.

He added, "If this model would be successful here, this might be something that could be adopted at National Park sites elsewhere in the country."

The Bodmer Overlook Trail is a significant homage to history. It's named after Carl Bodmer, an artist who created illustrations that became the basis of the most famous pieces of art portraying Fort Union.

This artwork was used to attract immigrants from Eastern Europe to the Midwest.

Banta said, "Fort Union is an important piece of the settlement of the west and the upper Missouri valley, and so that’s really what we're trying to maintain."

Keeping these snapshots of the past as close to how they were when history was taking place is essential to maintaining the impact these sites have on visitors.

The Rendezvous run on June 13 and the Pow Wow in August are some of the events that take place at the Fort Union Trading Post to celebrate the area's culture.