Thursday, September 06, 2012

American Prairie Reserve & the changing face of Montana

Last month, the grassland conservation group American Prairie Reserve more than doubled its holdings in northeastern Montana when it purchased the 150,000-acre South Ranch from the Page Whitham Land and Cattle partnership for an undisclosed sum. The transaction had been rumored in the Glasgow area for months. It didn't sit well with some local ranchers, who view APR's continued acquisition of family ranches as an erosion of Montana's ranching heritage. APR's long term goal is to establish a three-million-acre grassland preserve to accommodate scores of species, including up to 10,000 free-roaming bison. "We're not just a bison conservation project," says APR managing director Pete Geddes. But given South Ranch's roots in the bison hunting industry of the 19th century, the reintroduction effort makes this spread a somewhat fitting purchase. Geddes describes the Page spread as "a key piece" in APR's jigsaw puzzle. The property is not only massive but lies on the northern flank of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, believed by conservationists and state agents to be a potential home for a new wild bison herd in Montana. In assembling a contiguous landscape just over the refuge boundary, APR is setting itself up as a major future player in large-scale bison restoration. The fences aren't going to drop overnight, though. As part of the recent acquisition, APR is leasing back grazing rights on South Ranch to the Page family for up to 12 years, a common practice in APR's private purchases. Although South Ranch will be subject to some immediate habitat protections, Geddes says, "I don't want to give the impression that overnight this turns into a conservation Garden of Eden, because it doesn't." APR has already accumulated roughly 123,000 acres of deeded or leased public land throughout the area. Much of that land has come through private purchases of family ranches...more

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Somebody better put pencil to paper and figure the carrying capacity of this Buffalo range, or it won't be long until they are hauling hay to them or taking them to market.