American Prairie Foundation is building a wildlife reserve larger than Yellowstone Park

“Prairie Project” is buying up ranches in NE Montana-

We have been posting about the natural restoration of wildlife to the high plains as its human population reaches a critical point after generations of population decline. I was not aware of the Prairie Project. Of course, the down-in-heels land barons don’t like it, but they sell their holdings because they are not economically viable in this part of the country.

Ranchers wary of group’s effort to create wildlife reserve bigger than Yellowstone. By Tom Lutey. Billings Gazette.

American Prairie Foundation

On the progress of the Prairie Project



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  1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    How about using those bison in the pens north of Gardiner, Montana to populate this new reserve. They are supposed to be genetically pure bison and disease free. Giving them to this place makes more sense than killing them.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Well, of course. That is a very good idea.

    Of course, the Montana Stockgrowers Association will oppose it.

  3. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    That would be great to have an American Serengeti. That area of Montana is so dead economically anyway. I say that if it is bigger than Yellowstone there is plenty of room for two other original inhabitants, some grizzlies and wolves.

  4. JW Avatar

    I agree Larry. Or they could simply let them out of the pen and be wild Yellowstone bison again. But that would be way to easy…

  5. JW Avatar

    What about congress stepping up and using Executive Order to establish a National Park/Monument…

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Most of NE Montana, empty though it is, is private land. So the President doesn’t have anything to work with in terms of creating a National Monument.

  7. Percy Avatar

    wow, some good news for once. I would LOVE to go visit. It’s ridiculous to cry about losing this land to ranching if it takes 50 acres to support one cow! A lot of traditional lifestyles have disappeared as the world changes. Ranching is no more worthy of preserving than slavery in my mind. How is it any more noble than any other occupation in America that doesn’t exist anymore?

  8. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    A lot of traditional lifestyles have disappeared as the world changes.

    The problem in this part of the country is so many people are stuck in the 1800s and haven’t even moved tot eh 20th century let alone the 21st.

  9. JW Avatar

    thanks for the info Ralph, as I’m not too familiar with NE MT. However, land that is purchased could certainly be donated to make a national park if enough land is bought.

  10. monty Avatar

    This proposal is an evolutionary step in the right direction, allow the land to produce what it is capable of. As Wes Jackson (Kansas Land Institute) wrote in his book: Becoming Native To This Place:
    “The calories stored in the meat and hides of the buffalo represented contemporary sunlight, not the ancient fossil variety. The bone and other materials that the Quivirians used to create tools and clothing repesented an acceptable use of nature. Most of the energy we use today is ancient”

  11. JB Avatar

    Larry: For once, you and I agree completely!

  12. izabelam Avatar

    Larry..yes, good point ..instead of sending the bisons to the private estate of Ted Turner.
    BFC has a big issue with it.
    I will send a letter to Stephanie from BFC.

  13. cow Avatar

    Could you people all be so far removed???? You think this lifestyle/culture is going to go away with Eastern Montana? Your all discussing this as if these people! communities! don’t exist. Most these generational families gave up everything they had to settle the land they live on today. Over one hundred years of land stewardship and conservation. I recommend that everyone of you drive to these “as you say” uninhibited, poverty stricken communities and actually visit with these amazing people. Do you all really think their rights as cow/calf producers & farmers should be lost because of some buffalo?? Can’t you go to Yellowstone to view buffalo?? Or many other reserves around the state? It’s a sad day when we disregard any American culture or heritage.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      I’m not sure why you wrote this, but the discussion about Eastern Montana in this “thread” has to do with buying land from willing sellers. If your neighbors think they can do better by selling their land for conservation purposes, that is their property right. Eastern Montana might be economically and culturally better off if some of it is restored to a more natural condition. I am not familiar with Eastern Montana myself, but do hope to visit the area. My roots are in Utah and Idaho.

      No, Yellowstone for bison is not enough. That is putting all your eggs in one pot. What if some calamity sweeps the area? All the genetically pure bison would be gone.

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      I can see where Percy’s comment would irritate you.

    3. STG Avatar

      I understand your support of these communities. I once taught in a rural school in a ranching/farming community. It was a great community-loved the people and my students. That said, switching from or incorporating bison as part of a ranch/farm operation is an opportunity and a economic niche. There is a demand for grass -feed bison and they are not so hard on the land. What this will take is an adaptable mind-set, a willingness to explore other markets and the ability to assume some risk. Consider the possiblities.

      1. lee rega Avatar
        lee rega

        I believe in protection of the environment, wildlife, land management, organics, etc. I support many organizations. I am an average working class mother from Long Island, New York.

        How does this ideal of a private reserve by the wealthy (Myer Gibs, the treasurer from Solomon Brothers, the incubator of mortgage securitization) serve the public. In particular the poor and working class living on 1% of the land while the wealthy own the largest parcels together with the government who lease the public portion to the wealthy who profit with little return for the public (considering the lost revenue from cattle grazing public lands not to mention mining. Your reserve will do what for the rest of America. Which rich people from Wall Street or private equity and hedge fund donors will live in their private second homes or reitrement homes within this reserve? Do private residences within receive a tax abatement for turning the land over to the trust?

        Most of us will have to wait for the documentaries and national geographic magazine, rather than actually being able to see this wonder.

        Thank you and I would appreciate an answer.

  14. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    “Home” is some pretty powerful stuff, isn’t it? With “home(s) and time comes culture…distinct lefestyles for that area. And eastern Montana as you know it has culture. It developed this culture in less time than, say those in New York in the 1800″s. This is because struggle bonds. Evolution and species development included this little snippet in case their were catastrophic happenings to blood related extended families.

    Thus slaves tramatized on ships for months heading to the new world developed bonding and then culture very fast even though they weren’t related. It is not as functional as blood related but it is a start.

    You, either being a wanna be without culture in your background…and now clinging to THEIR culture….or as part of this life growing up (but I doubt it) see the side you want and NEED to see.

    But those you cling to are selling out and leaving you. Since it is almost emotionally unfathomable for you to blame it on others…those buying up the land of ranchers you wish to be a part of. If you were able to see clearly what your heros are doing you wouldn’t “cry” so much. You would feel dejected and hurt by those not as “loyal” as you but that is what happens in dysfunctional civilizations like ours.

    I ask you to think of those cultures your adopted culture replaced, a culture there 1000’s of years not 100. And then think of those animal cultures (bison, elk, sheep) you and your heroes replaced with totally dysfunctional ones (domestic cattle and sheep). It is so easy to want so badly to elevate ones culture and at thew same time totally hide from view what this “culture” did to rape, exploit and maime all other cultures before your own.

    And what is this “stewardship” and “conservation” you talk about? I think you have become delusional as to what ranchers have saved or in their minds “improved”. You, the greater you, have done nothing but denuded the land. Ya, maybe not as much as those wheat farmers who started your little “culture” and got swept away in the dust, but still you made this Eastern Montana landscape a lot worse.

    So, yes, you will be remembered in history as this little culture…as an extension of others just like yours….that raped the earth over.

    Now does the Prairie Foundation save this planet with their buffalo? Not really, because their buffalo are just as dysfunctional as your cattle. Their buffalo do not have the culture of ancestoral learning … a learning that inables grazers to become herbivores instead of grassivores….to make this a ecological sustainable “match in Heaven”. They get rid of bison bulls, those that could act as mentors to younger males and protectors of the matriarchal components, because they fear “inbreeding”. In other words, the American Prairie Foundation herd and operations managers and science “advisors” don’y have a clue.

    But they don’t have to make the money in a pinch so will not overgraze the land as much.

    I’m sorry you feel so sorry for your adopted “culture” but in the end it is they who are selling you out, ms cow.

  15. cow Avatar

    Bob Jackson,

    Well bob I’m a fourth generation rancher from central Montana. So guess you were way off on that one!! There is A LOT of work to do with our range land. Anyone who knows anything about range science, “which you don’t” understands the need for better range management. What we need is a very aggressive and applicable program to give these producers technical assistance to help make better grazing land management decisions. What we definitely don’t need is thousands of mis-managed buffalo roaming the plains. Especially if the only way to accomplish this is to buy everyone out!! Which I guess if you have endless amounts of money and have no moral compass that’s just fine. Why not use the people that already live there to be stewards of the land? Raise money to improve awareness, provide them with the tools and education. Who is going to manage this 1,000 acres?? Many folks have the educational background are are already applying sustainable practices. One last little thing and just so you know I’m done with this little internet blog. Just wanted to give the perspective of someone that actually knows what they’re talking about. It’s interesting to me that you would think anyone would look at ag producers as heroes. Something to remember is that we don’t romanticize our lifestyle. People like you do, bleeding hearts of America.

  16. cow Avatar

    One more thing. Offering a struggling ranch family a million dollars over market price for their land is like a big juicy steak in front of a starving man. Get it??

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      Hope you’ll stick around. Bob Jackson raises commercial bison in, I believe, Iowa.

      There might be more to talk about.

  17. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    I agree in providing any and all ranchers with “better and more technical assistance” to help the lands.

    Now are you ready to do so? Like start leaving the horns and balls on cattle.

    Keeping natures percentage of males (about one third of the overall numbers) means the herd grazes coarser vegetation. Males eat coarse stuff and then younger animals have more new growth available for themselves during the critical “creep feeding” period.

    Next, instead of having to constantly baby and nurse along dysfunctional individuals you allow them to form up into extended family units. It will only take you 12-15 years to give you the basics of such a herd…no longer than it takes any rancher wanting to get into the purebred beef industry to establish the herd with characteristics identifiable to him.

    And you don’t have to do it cold turkey either. Each year you keep back, lets say 10% of your heifers for replacement of old stock, correct?? These 10% now are the calves, then heifers and young males from that one cow(s).

    Then the next year the rancher keeps the calf from the same cow to go along with its older brothers and sisters….and viola ….. you have all the functional roles needed for natures functional herds and too boot, ecologically sustainable “management practises in place.

    And forget about all those burdensome interior fences you now have to maintain. With functional herds you get MIG without fences (and little reparian damage). And because grazing close together with older brothers, sisters and mamma is more fun than having to graze alone like scared cattle do now (no bonding) your fourth generation ranch now has none of those “bad” practises of “eating the best and leaving the rest”.

    And if your ranch is big enough to sustain multiples of 300 head extended families you will never have to worry about them packing all together in the winter…or summer. You see they will have different homes (territories) which means it doesn’t matter how big your ranch is. It could be all of Eastern Montana and you would have all the sufficient grazing…along with lots of wildlife…..more grazing that would support a lot more cows than your land supports now with all its supposed enlightened range science practises.
    The only Catch 22 is all that culture of ranch families and interlocking communities you crave would not be there…because it requires very few people to manage herds such as these. All you do is round up the extended families you want to sell in the fall, take everyone of them to market and leave the infrastructure of other families intact to develop further.

    And wouldn’t you know it, you now have duplicated all the management and harvesting practises of all those tribal peoples culture you displaced and destroyed. Yes, you can do it with cattle…maybe not as effeciently as buffalo for a few generations, but still possible.

    Plus, the bonus reward points includes a final meat product, no matter what the age of those butchered, that is a lot tenderer (no chronic stress to raise those ph levels), has all those healthy Omega three’s and matches nicely into every age and activity level of human eating this beef of yours.

    For the very old and young human you serve the very old and young cattle (digestion is more important than nutrient levels for this age group) and for the active age humans you serve the mature active males and females (a body can’t concentrate nutrients until growth stops).

    Now do you want to do this or is the bonding with old time rancher families and all that old time social connection at the sale barns more important than changing to something you say you want and need????

    Your choice,,,but if I’d have to guess I’d say the craving for your own extended family bonding with a dysfunctional ranching community is more important…even if it means the death of this “family” over time. I say be the leader family, be the scout bull, the new satellite, spin off cattle family herd and see what it gets you. how about it????

    And to let you know a bit more I am part of Utah State’s (in conjunction with three other western range science universities) BEHAVE initiative. And to get that little bit of bonding familiarity with you “old style” rancher wild west settler types I have ridden and packed horse in the mountains of Wyo and Montana (its called Yellowstone) for 30 seasons…more than 60-70,000 miles worth. In fact it is probably more miles than any of your old time rancher buddy ole palls ever put on a horse. But I admit my thoughts are a bit different than any cowboy or range science advocate out there.

    So are you an old cow or heifer at heart? I labelled you a heifer in the introduction because I am hoping your thoughts have the spring of life to them.

  18. cow Avatar

    That didn’t make any sense. And thanks for the poor education of a cow/calf operation. Once again Bob we don’t crave anything. I’m sensing some insecurities here.. and your little broke-back story about packing blew my mind. So, we aren’t going anywhere, simply because were good business men/women. Not because of how COWBOY we are or however your dumbass would word it. I’m not worried about Eastern Montana vanishing, what concerns me is the thought process of people such as yourself. Something I will briefly touch on is the BEEF industry. How much power would you say we hold as producers?? Pretty much 0%. Our markets are driven by anything and everything from greed to political corruption. Packers and feedlot owners are the sole reason for the more more more push of our production. Which obviously places more pressure on 1.) THE RANCHER 2.) COWS 3.) RANGE LAND. And yes it’s a PRODUCTION. We are getting ran into the ground on many different levels. So what’s the alternative? Because our government won’t in-act Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) we can get a premium on our well managed herds. Instead our meat is thrown onto a giant conveyor belt right along with Canada,Mexico,New Zea land, Australia. Forget regulations! That’s healthy right? So what are we doing to change this, for the good of the American people? We are working hard to open up our own independent markets. Opening packing plants across Montana. For the sole purpose of raising 100% grass fed, straight from the gate to the plate. Less demand, local markets, less impact. This could happen all over the United States. You know there’s them “settler” “wild-west types” all over the nation right?? No more traveling 2,500 miles just to stand in shit and eat corn!! We hate this! You think we buy meat from the store?? Never! We take them straight off the land. Back to your brilliant idea.. Lets just take all the fences out.. Give me a break. How does that help? The main issue should be, how are we going to feed healthy beef to our children? That’s the concern!! Not, how do we give back more power to the factory farms. Or at least it should be, because your little operation theory isn’t catching on any time soon. One last thing. Our calves are purchased from feedlots in Nebraska or Oklahoma. STRIKE ONE: Our calves are traveling nearly 2,500 miles packed into semis! STRIKE TWO: Feedlots, corn, anyone need me to elaborate? STRIKE THREE: Packers, by the time they get here.. there is no difference between the grass-fed well managed cow than from the sickly cow from the border of Texas. So there is a call for change coming from rural Montana. By the way aren’t you supposed to be the open minded, educated one here?? You’ve stereotyped me the entire time, and exposed your gay tendencies with packing trips to the mountains of Montana & Wyoming. Can you here me slow clapping from here?? KNOW ONE CARES.

    1. Elk275 Avatar

      Very well said “cow”. I agree with you 100%.

      Also, Bob Jackson was spot on about Wyoming outfitters, over flowing toilets, to many horses, and dudes that read to many outdoor magazines — I agree with him this time. This is taken from one who has been both a guide and client. Then his comment about outfitters extends to all outfitters, adventure travel companies, photographers and affiliates, but that is a different subject

  19. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    I guess I’ll have to stick with your ‘handle”. I’m sorry. I gave you more leeway for change…change you evidently don’t want…just typical in house “experts” who say what they think you should do and then you endorse on the ground only to the extent you don’t cause short term bottom line loss. Then you collect the welfare money they give you…for the likes of ripping out sage brush and putting stock tanks on public ground…to “improve” the range…so you can put even more dysfunctional cows on it.

    What a collaborative team you have in place. All the while at the coffee shops your “bulls” quietly diss the govt boys who give you the money to keep exploiting the land.

    And as far as not being in control of your product why do you stay in that system? No creative thought…or is it the desire to stay staus quo with all those cultured neighbors?

    Last year I sold $110,000 worth of bison meat. No middle men, no cuts by any packer or retailer. And all these sales were mostly in other states …. since I live in a very rural and old aged community (in fact our county has the oldest population of any other in the country…and that includes retirement city Florida).
    You could do the same if you switched to extended family cattle and marketed the meat from them yourself. And as a front line cow-calf producer you could raise them the way that is best for the cattle…and your operation, not some feedlot or packer who insists on uniform and consistent…which really interprets into an exercise in compromise. you even can keep a barren cow if you can imagine that and make more money by keeping her than taking her to the sale barn. You see she takes care of the offspring so mother can get in better shape to have better chance of reproducing the next year…but I guess that “doesn’t make any sense”, does it. Makes the head tilt a bit sideways, right?

    Your supposed progressive herd management is so Dark Ages and you don’t even have a clue. It isn’t even management “one step removed” in assessment. All you can see is immediate cause and effect. Get rid of a dry cow cause she eats without producing. Ya the “greater you” is, are, real swift if I must say so.

    The reason consumers buy from us is the ethical way we raise them. Vegans, vegetarians… you name it …they want to eat meat the way we manage our herds. They also believe in the “cause” something your system of raising animals will never have.

    And lastly that Broke Back movie really did bust the rancher image didn’t it. Bet you squirmed in your seat didn’t you.

    All this “stuff’ even happens in the wild west outfitter camps. One year an outfitter I knew rode to my cabin early morning and just before the hunts. Had some pancakes with me, leaned across the table and said, “You know Bob, this is going to be quite the year. We have 3 gals hired as guides and a queer for the cook”.

    I’d ride over to their camp and sure enough this cook was fixing double baked potaoes!!!! The horrors of all this image stuff all coming down around you canner cow.

  20. cow Avatar

    No comment on the beef industry? Just complaints of our management?? Didn’t I just explain that it’s all connected. Good for you for selling bison to new markets! Seriously. The only problem with that is.. does your bison make it to public schools to feed our kids? Not so much, bottom of the barrel does. So I guess if we were all concerned about selling a small amount at a higher premium, great!! We can all have retirement plans! But… what about the rest of Nation?? This is a BIG PICTURE view I’m desperately trying to convey. From the most rural locations to around Sacramento, better quality, better management. Not.. they don’t know what they’re doing!!! They’re so ignorant.. Lets take their land and do it better! Lets all come together to better manage our resources.. key word together. Ok.. now I’m done. Good talk Bob. Take Care

  21. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I think “cow’s” way of thinking explains why I got active with the Western Watersheds Project.

    After quite a while, I figured it wasn’t possible to sit down, talk and come to a voluntary agreement to try something different, but grazing practices could be changed anyway using “other tools.”

  22. bill Avatar

    One big problem i have, i live here, i own the land and because of a bunch of narrow minded people like the bunch of you, i am basically being forced off my land by big interest (you) for the benefit of society. that goes right along with communist and socialist thought process. north eastern montana does have population, social and economic viability. people like you believe that if we leave, you will still buy your food at the store as it will still be there. after all mexico will stil butcher a cancer eyed cow for you to eat, right? but dont worry, we who do live here have tolerated bigger threats than you.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      How are you being forced off your land? Is someone taking possession of it without paying you?

      1. Salle Avatar

        I think he’s referring to being forced off the public lands which belong to all of us. It would appear, based on his claim, that he feels that the public lands are his, personally, and that the rest of the public, by not living where he does, forfeit their part of this possession by caveat of location which validates his belief that if we are not actually living on that public land and he lives near it then he, by default, is the “owner”. That would be my best guess as to what he might mean, however misguided or misinformed he might be.

    2. william huard Avatar
      william huard

      Ya mean like the federal guvmint Bill? and all those darn varmints like bears, coyotes, wolves, and eagles? You are accusing the process of being socialist- What the hell do you think public land grazing is?

  23. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Northeast Montana, where he’s apparently from, doesn’t have much public land.

    From what I gather the Prairie Foundation is buying private land from willing sellers.

  24. Salle Avatar

    Hmmm, too bad he feels that way. Perhaps, then, he is referring to the fact that many are willing sellers against his desire and he feels he’ll have to sell too, or maybe his land is surrounded by the properties being sold. Would be nice if he could articulate as you asked.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Seemed more like he just wanted to call names.

      1. pointswest Avatar

        I think what we are hearing from the people in these small communities is anger over the social order changing. They grew up within a local culture with its local social order and worked hard to gain a high status within that order and do not like seeing the social order within that culture vanishing or even changing.

        I have notice that some of the most hostile people in Ashton towards pro-wolfers or pro-grizzlies are the ones who were star football players on the local high school team that went on to become successful farmers. They are the alpha males of Ashton and they worked hard to get to where they are and they do not want to see the local culture transformed so that their status as the toughest hombres west of the Pecos is diminished in anyway.

        It sounds to me that this is what we are hearing here…frustration over the change in local culture and the resulting loss in status. These men were top dogs among the local yokels but the people interested in the Prairie Foundation are not so impressed by them and do not express the deference to them they feel they have earned. I’m sure it is not easy for them.

        There is always alchohol.

      2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


        I think you nailed what is going on here.

  25. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Back after having the internet down for 6 days.

    It could be “Bill” is close to APF’s privately bought ranch lands. But those private lands are interlaced with a fair amount of public lands. CMRussel lands have cows on them. APF objectives are to buy up some private lands which have a large amount of public lands leased with those ranches.

    Then if the public entities allow bison grazing soon there could be millions of acres allowed for bison grazing.

    “Bills” way of life will be gone, not so much with his own land having cows but the human social structure he is “used to”. I put quotes around “used to” because he surely thinks his way of life is superior to others.

    But what is happening around him is no different than what has happened to all rural life. Here in Iowa most all the towns that “sold food”, as Bill laments will be gone, do not have “food” anymore. This is because the farms got larger and the numbers of farmers went down. When I was a little tike farms averaged 80 acres now probably 750-1000. Of course 50 years before me it was 40 acres. Having a town every 6 miles might have worked when a horse could travel the 12 miles to and from with supplies but not now.

    So why is it ok for these “other” communities to die in Bills mind , but not his? And how were his neighbors able to hang on while those in Iowa couldn’t? Because of public lands used as private, that is why.

    If I was to suggest anything I’d tell Bill to get down on his knees and wash the feet and then suck the toes of every govt. person out there. Then grovel before them and wimper, “Thank you for letting me use your land for free for all the years you did”. I had it so much better sucking on your teat for all those years than all those farmers in Iowa who had to be a man about it and say “change happens”.

    But of course being on the dole for all those years made Bill have no respect for those those who gave him that food. Thus we have a Bill who has a superior attitude over others that is now bitter instead of being grateful for what was given to him. Don’t worry before it is over “Bill” will be willing to suck even chew splattered toes of those govt “servants” just so he can maintain his habit for even the next “fix”.

  26. Elk275 Avatar

    ++that goes right along with communist and socialist thought process. north eastern montana does have population, social and economic viability.++

    Northeastern Montana in the 1920’s and 30’s had a open Communist Party which most of the ranchers were members. Montana pass several bills dealing with the communist. I remember Dr. K Ross Toole talking about this in his “Montana and the West” Class. There is a new book out about Communism and Northeast Montana, it was one of those things that I saw and read about but soon forgot.

    1. pointswest Avatar

      Just a little perspective here…Stalin killed 5 million peasants while collectivizing the farms in Russia. Millions more were put into Gulag system or work camps. Stalin’s policies, in a very barbaric sense, were a success. A decade later, Stalin successfully defended the Soviet Union from Hitler who had every intention of exterminating the entire 250 million strong Soviet population as sub-humans.

      1. pointswest Avatar

        Communism: any form of government that benifits someone else.

    2. STG Avatar

      Excellent historical comment!

  27. Mary Fitzpatrick Rey Avatar

    Is the Am Prairie Foundation a non profit, if so, I would you tax i.d. number and additonal information, thank you Mary Rey

    1. Mary Fitzpatrick Rey Avatar




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Ralph Maughan