A Bozeman based group formerly known as the American Prairie Reserve, now known as the less eyebrow raising American Prairie, has recently secured grazing rights and fencing removal permission for more than 800 bison to roam a mix of public and private lands in Montana. The group’s long range plan is to secure 5,000 square miles, a swath including the C.M Russell National Wildlife Refuge that would act as a nature preserve for bison.
Local ranchers are concerned that this plan will displace them, put their cattle at risk of disease and ultimately end their agriculture based lifestyles. I for one am concerned about the loss of hunting, recreational opportunities and true conservation work that loom from not only American Prairie’s master plan to parse together such a massive tract of land but the federal government’s approval of it.
In the past American Prairie has expressed a willingness to allow public access for hunting. However, it comes with a massive BUT… They have also publicly stated that hunting would not be granted in perpetuity and while they fully retain that right on the massive amount of acreage they have gobbled up, they do not have that right on the “leased” public lands they plan to pasture their bison on. That is, unless I’m missing something. That is a problem and should raise questions as to exactly what the endgame for American Prairie is.
Hunters should be very suspicious of the motives of American Prairie. Taking the word preserve out of the name hints at deception. A look at their list of Collaborations reveals an alarming lack of hunting-related partnerships with true conservation groups such as RMEF, Ducks Unlimited, TRCP and others.
While I applaud the overall vision of American Prairie I question the alienation of hunters in the group’s plan. Afterall, Trophy Hunting IS conservation and hunters remain the greatest stewards of wildlands and wildlife, why not get us involved?