Non-Profit Seeks to Create One of America’s Largest Nature Reserves in Montana

by Sean Griffin
(Photo by: Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

CBS’ 60 Minutes recently held an interview with a nonprofit whose goal is to create a 3.2 million acre natural reserve in Montana.

The nonprofit, called American Prairie, aims to “[conserve] the disappearing shortgrass prairie ecosystem by piecing together 3.2 million acres of Montana’s Northern Plains,” according to its website.

The nonprofit has a goal that 60 Minutes notes is as vast as the prairie itself. American Prairie wants to create the largest nature preserve in the contiguous United States. It would be 3.2 million acres of intact grassland in north-central Montana.

The project also hopes to restore bison populations in the prairie regions. The buffalo used to rule the plains states, but their numbers have been decimated over the last century.

60 Minutes’ official Twitter account posted a video clip with an interview segment. They describe the region where the reserve would be as “one of the most remote areas of the U.S.” You can view the clip and see some of the Montana prairie lands that would become part of the reserve.

According to the report, American Prairie currently employs over fifty people. Their jobs are wide-ranging, as well: they have fundraisers and buffalo ranchers on their payroll.

The organization formed over twenty years ago to confront a problem they saw with the National Park System. While glaciers to beaches to deserts and mountains were protected as parks, no parks were dedicated toward preserving the prairies.

Nonprofit Wants to Preserve Bison Populations in Montana and Beyond

They decided to build not a new national park but instead a massive, privately-operated nature reserve on the great plains, in Montana specifically. The nature reserve would be open to the public, and would also help restore buffalo populations.

“Buying up ranches? Looks like they are competing against the Duttons of Yellowstone fame,” one user joked in response to the video clip, referencing the hit television series.

Other nonprofits dedicate their efforts to preserving the prairie and the endangered bison populations in the country.

One organization doing this is the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC). They remain the only group working both in the field and in the policy arenas to stop the harassment and slaughter of America’s last wild buffalo. 

According to their website, their primary goal is to create permanent year-round protection for bison and the ecosystem they depend on, “including respect for the migratory needs of this long-exploited and clearly endangered species.”

According to an August 2018 estimate, Yellowstone National Park houses over 4,500 bison. Parks officials warn visitors to stay at least 75 feet away from all large animals.

A male bull bison weighs up to 2,000 pounds. The animal’s top speed can reach over thirty miles per hour.