The American Prairie Reserve (APR) has a goal of preserving untouched land surrounding the Lewistown area, helping to bridge the gap between us and Mother Nature.
“There's an opportunity here to conserve one of the earth's rarest biomes or ecosystems,” explains Pete Geddes, Vice President and Chief External Relations Officer.
That ecosystem is otherwise known as temperate grasslands, which, according to APR, are the least protected biomes on earth.
“Temperate grasslands have the unfortunate characteristic of being flat, so they were easy to plow and there were no trees to uproot,” explains Geddes.
As a result, temperate grasslands across the world started to disappear, which is something many feel needs to stop.
“Getting people out and appreciating the habitats and the landscapes and the wildlife of Montana, which is unique. This place is the last best place in my experience,” says Bruce Gordon, President and Founder of EcoFlight.
American Prairie Reserve has already purchased 10,000 acres of private land and leases 300,000 acres of public land; all of which is for the community to use recreationally.
“Mountain biking, hunting, river trips, where we like folks to camp and set up campsites. So really that whole range of how the public interacts and accesses American Prairie Reserve,” says Mike Kautz, Director of Recreation for American Prairie Reserve.
However, many in the community, such as a group known as Save the Cowboy, are against American Prairie Management, saying the end goal is to push out farmers, ranchers and cattle in the surrounding area.
“These ranchers are buying stuff all the time. I mean they're buying equipment, they're buying feed, they're paying taxes, and when you get a big wild park, all the money you're going to have is tourists,” explains Darlene Rich, a supporter of Save a Cowboy.
However, according to American Prairie Reserve, that isn't the case.
“Temporarily, our land is leased to cattle operators who work with us to run those operations in what we consider to be wildlife friendly ways; and people likely don't know, but we probably have 4,000 head of cattle right now, running around on the American Prairie Reserve on our BLM leases and will for quite some time. Of course the end goal is to eventually transition those leases over to bison,” explains Geddes.
American Prairie Reserve still has a lot of fundraising to do before they can purchase more land.
However, at the end of the day, both Save the Cowboy and American Prairie Reserve agree on one thing.
Learn both sides of the conversation so you can make the best decision for you.
For more information from American Prairie Reserve, head to: https://www.americanprairie.org/
You can also visit http://www.upom.org/ for information from Save the Cowboy.