Business Highlight: American Prairie Reserve
What is a Prairie?
Prairies are temperate grasslands, which are home to many different species of animals and plants. These areas are mainly located in the lowlands of North America. In the U.S., prairies can be found in the Great Plains covering 1.5 million square miles of land. This landscape is extremely diverse, ecologically abundant, and provides the necessary nutrients for animals such as cattle, deer, and bison. However, due to industrialization and farming, many prairie lands have been destroyed, thereby reducing the ecological diversity.
The American Prairie Reserve
American Prairie Reserve (APR) is a private, not-for-profit organization that works to restore the prairie ecosystem in North America. Their purpose is to refurbish the grasslands and maintain its unique richness of species. APR recently purchased a 46,000 acre ranch in Montana, the group's 26th property purchase. They now own 399,000 acres of land and have raised more than $100 million, which they use to acquire habitat and maintain the vital grassland biome and preserve the ecological diversity. In addition to increasing population abundance, APR hopes to increase public access to their land. Not only is the reserve meant for wildlife, but the organization has set up areas designated for public recreation. Activities available include camping, biking, hiking, and more. When complete, the wildlife park will be 50% larger than Yellowstone National Park and approximately the size of Connecticut. APR hopes to create the largest nature reserve in the United States in order to benefit both the public and the wildlife.
In order to maintain the wildlife population and increase ecological diversity, APR sets specific hunting plans depending on the population of a species at a given time in an area. If a species is not at or near the goals set by APR, the reserve might close all hunting, only allow hunting on certain days, or restrict species. These guidelines will remain in place until the numbers of that population improve. The company uses the Freese Scale based on ten ecological conditions to evaluate the health of the land. The results of the scale indicate what actions need to be taken in each area.
One of the goals of APR is to provide the public with access to animals in their natural habitat; therefore, some units have certain regulations set in place for the purpose of changing the behavior of the wildlife in that area. Animals that are constantly hunted develop a fear of humans. By setting limited hunting days or only allowing short-range weapons, the wildlife will be trained to not feel threatened by humans. As a result, people will be able to observe the wildlife from a distance and enjoy the natural prairie habitat. This helps APR’s goal of increasing the public’s access and interaction with the area.
Wild Sky Beef
APR created a for-profit beef company called Wild Sky Beef, which sells high quality grass-fed beef. The profits are returned to local ranchers who practice wildlife-friendly ranching. This allows APR to partner with surrounding ranches and spread their mission. Learn more at www.wildskybeef.com.
Something to look forward to
APR hopes to create a long distance hiking trail called the “Hut-to-Hut System.” Huts will be placed along the trail to provide the necessary shelter for travelers. Each hut will include a sleeping area, bathroom, and kitchen area. It will include climate control, insulation, and solar panels (because environment!). This trail will appeal to people of all ages and skills. APR hopes this program will encourage visitors to share their experiences and spread the importance of their work.
Connect with the American Prairie Reserve and learn more at their website here.