American Prairie Reserve

American Prairie Reserve (APR) is a private effort dedicated to creating the largest nature reserve in the contiguous United States. Its location in the eastern Montana prairies has world-wide significance, as grasslands are the earth’s most depleted and altered major biotic community.

APR grows by purchasing habitat from willing sellers. These private lands provide access to public, mostly federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, in associated grazing allotments. APR’s vision is to biologically reconnect the existing network of public lands, including the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (CMR), into a large, multi-jurisdictional preserve as part of America’s natural heritage. See more on APR’s goals and activities at

Currently, APR’s deeded land and associated grazing allotments share about 48 miles of perimeter with the western portion of the CMR.

APR works to rebuild wildlife populations, largely by restoring and reconnecting their habitats, including grasslands, river breaks, streams and riparian areas. Their management includes reintroducing (prescribed) fire as a natural ecological process, and removing interior fences that restrict natural movements and habitat selection by bison and pronghorn. All prairie wildlife, from insects to bison, will benefit from APR. Many of these species have become rare or have been extirpated, notably swift fox, bison, prairie dogs, many grassland birds, cougars, pronghorn and black-footed ferrets. However, any controversial decisions regarding reintroduction of wolves or grizzly bears in the region will have to be made by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and/or the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, augmented by the will of the general public.

APR’s intentions for bison are outlined in a Management Plan available on its website. Its long-term goal is to “establish a self-sustaining, ecologically effective population of at least 10,000 bison that is semi-free ranging and subject to the forces of natural selection”. It would be “a population sustaining a variety of consumptive and nonconsumptive values that contributes to cultural, aesthetic, economic and social well-being.”

APR currently has about 830 bison on 4 areas of its land holdings. They are, legally, private livestock. Unlike the majority of today’s bison, they lack any evidence of cattle-gene introgression from past attempts to produce “beefalo”. Importantly, they are free of the disease, brucellosis, which might possibly be transmittable to local cattle, though such transmission has never been verified to occur.

Although they are private livestock, APR “seeks to manage its bison, to the extent practical – as a resource for the common good”.

A goal of the Montana Wild Bison Restoration Coalition is to establish bison on public land and private land where bison are accepted, within and near the CMR National Wildlife Refuge. Aside from the CMR, most of that public land will be BLM land, and most of the private land will be APR holdings (see map above).

APR’s intentions for a large multi-jurisdictional nature reserve with a large bison herd, wide-ranging over a diverse landscape and managed as a public resource for the common good are congruent with the Coalition’s goal. We anticipate beneficial collaboration among APR, the CMR, BLM and the people of Montana to achieve mutual goals for wild, public bison.



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