100 Miles of Wild in the North Dakota Badlands

Earth Day, April 22, marks the start of 100 Miles of Wild, the first eco-expedition of Calgary-based Adventure Science set against the inhospitable backdrop of North Dakota’s Badlands. Over the course of 10 days, teams of ultra-endurance athletes and scientists will run, climb, and trek through one of the United States’ last unexplored and most rugged acres of wilderness, documenting the state of the vastly shrinking wide open spaces now under threat from expanding development from the Bakken oil fields.

“The first 100 Miles of Wild project has a simple aim,” Adventure Science founder and PhD geologist Simon Donato said. “We will discover and report first-hand the condition of the wilderness that inspired President Theodore Roosevelt’s effort to preserve the rugged, wild spaces for all Americans and the world.”

Adventure Science is a neutral organization of volunteer experts and citizen-scientists. While members obviously appreciate wilderness, they also have diverse viewpoints about oil development and growth. What they share is a determination to collect information and make scientific observations ahead of the drill-bit. The goal of the project is not to tell communities what to do, but rather to help them gather the information they need to make informed decisions. The team will produce educational materials to teach students and the public about the natural and historical significance of the region, as well as to educate them about the relationships between oil development, natural, and cultural resources.

Andrew Reinhard, one of the team’s two archaeologists, noted, “[team member] Richard Rothaus and I had been planning a relatively casual Badlands journey for the past few years. As the Bakken Oil Boom exploded, we realized we needed to hit this idea hard.”

Expedition members are no strangers to wilderness travel, backcountry navigation, and extreme sports. Most of the science-athletes are ultra-marathoners, mountaineers, ice climbers, and solo explorers. One is an ex-Army Ranger. All are supported by a seasoned crew of search-and-rescue paramedics and safety personnel.

“In the Badlands,” archaeologist Rothaus explained, “anything can happen. The weather in April could bring anything from blizzards to tornadoes. There’s no drinkable water. We’re traveling over more than 20,000 feet of elevation change in a short amount of time. And the rattlesnakes might be waking up.”

Along the Badlands transect the team members will document the flora, fauna, historical sites, archaeology, and geology they encounter. Every hour they will stop, record photos and video panoramas, and make an audio recording to check for noise pollution, making notes on what they observe. The route and records will be carefully tracked with GPS units. The world can follow along on Twitter using @100MilesOfWild and the #ndbadlands hashtag.



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