Looking Forward, Taking Action: Spring 2014 Newsletter


Baku & Beyond: Going Big Around the World 
President’s Message from Sean Gerrity

American Prairie Reserve isn’t alone in our interest to restore thriving wildlife populations on large-scale landscapes. Last month I spoke to an international audience of 750 in Baku, Azerbaijan on the topic of going big with our conservation dreams. Leyla Aliyeva, who heads up the International Dialogue for Environmental Action (IDEA) in Baku, assembled a diverse and international group of participants to discuss the challenge of meaningful biodiversity work in Azerbaijan, where, to be effective, landscapes and wildlife corridors must span international borders.

New ideas and new models... »
On this same trip, I spent two weeks in the United Arab Emirates meeting with a wide variety of people contemplating both marine and terrestrial efforts to save vast natural areas for future generations. This fall, I will be addressing the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia on this same topic.

Increasingly, societies around the world are looking for new ideas and new models to once again dream big, really big, to conserve wildlife. Thanks to your support, the early success of the APR project is viewed as an intriguing model for societies around the world. As we celebrate the new addition of more than 20,000 acres of habitat this spring, I’m enormously grateful for your support and belief in this big idea for America and beyond.

Montana Wilderness Walk on APR

Burrowing Owls & Bighorns
Montana Wilderness Walk on APR

More than a dozen participants with a Montana Wilderness Walk set up at Buffalo Camp again this May. The adventuresome group enjoyed morning bird walks, a tour of APR with staff biologists, and a hike to nearby Brandon Butte, where they were lucky enough to spot bighorn sheep!  The group also spotted sage grouse, burrowing owls, and bison as they toured Reserve highlights like the Prairie Union School.

Such a great, big idea... »
The event was organized by Montana Wilderness Association (MWA) member Randy Gray, who also serves on our National Council, and his wife Nora, and led by long-time APR team member and photographer Dennis Lingohr and new Reserve Manager Betty Holder. According to the MWA, each walk “is an opportunity to become intimately involved with a landscape, to learn its character and understand why it’s so important to protect our wild places for future generations—and for ourselves.”

On the APR Facebook page Marshall Mayer wrote, “We just returned from the MWA Wilderness Walk at APR. What an amazing place, and such a great, big idea. All the staff and volunteers there have the best jobs in the world. Can’t wait to go back over the years to see how much bigger the bison herd has become.”

Wild WeatherBy The Numbers

6 –  Miles above ground where you’ll find cumulonimbus clouds, the biggest clouds that can hold up to 500,000 tons of water.

15 – Miles away that a person can hear thunder rumble in the distance.

40 – Miles per hour that a thunderstorm can travel.

103 –  Degrees that the temperature has changed in a single day in Montana.

1,800 – Thunderstorms happening at any one time in Earth’s atmosphere.

27,154 – Gallons of water that fall when one inch of rain falls on one acre of land.

2014 Newborn Calf

Canadian Calves Joined by Newborns

The journey of 73 bison calves from Canada’s Elk Island National Park came to a joyful conclusion as they ran across their new home on the Reserve in April. Onlookers included volunteers with the LandMARK program, journalists with National Geographic, and neighbors and school groups from the nearby Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.

This bison homecoming marks the third such transfer of animals from Elk Island. Plains bison were brought from Montana to Elk Island National Park (EINP) in 1907 after the Canadian government purchased some of the last living animals to ensure the survival of the species. Now that the EINP herd has reached its maximum size for available habitat, the park works with organizations around the world to reestablish bison.

Triumph, awe, and relief... »
As with each bison transfer to APR, the day is full of triumph, awe, and relief. The Elk Island bison will blend into the existing herd of 270 animals, and they have already befriended nearly 50 of this year’s newborns. For the next few years, visitors may see this cohort of calves grouped together, hanging out and socializing like shaggy teenagers of the plains. Thank you for restoring this iconic animal and creating their new home in Montana.


Featured Donor: Allan Taylor

A westerner by birth and by choice, Dr. Allan Taylor grew up in western Colorado, at the edge of the Colorado Plateau.  Fascinated since childhood by the West’s flora and fauna (which led him to become an amateur botanist), Dr. Taylor’s passions include a deep and abiding interest in Native American languages and cultures.

Combining an interest in western heritage... »
“When I learned of American Prairie Reserve many years ago,” He says, “it occurred to me that supporting this worthy enterprise was an ideal way to combine all of my interests in our western heritage. I was also attracted by the fact that the Reserve is located in Montana, a state in which I have done many years of fieldwork in my profession as a linguistic anthropologist. I have worked off and on more than forty years on the Fort Belknap Reservation, nestled at the feet of the Little Rocky Mountains near the Reserve. In the decades and centuries to come, people will appreciate that we had the vision to preserve this fragment of the landscape that once dominated much of the continent.”

Dr. Taylor says he’s proud to contribute to the Reserve and looks forward to providing ongoing support for the restoration of Montana’s enchanting prairie ecosystem. A supporter since 2005, he most recently adopted his tenth acre through APR’s Adopt-a-Prairie Acre program in response to the Mars/Myers Challenge. We’re grateful for Dr. Taylor’s dedicated support and enthusiasm for our mission.

Sun Prairie North

Celebrate! 22,000 Acres of Habitat Added

We’re delighted to announce the recent acquisition of approximately 22,000 acres of habitat, now known as Sun Prairie North. This area is located between several other APR regions and is an important step in our goal of habitat connectivity. It is home to a range of animals like pronghorn, mule deer, elk, prairie dogs, white tail deer, and many species of grassland birds. A large portion of Sun Prairie North is also in a sage grouse core habitat area. Conservation of sage grouse habitat is of great concern due to declining populations across the West.

With this addition, the Reserve now spans more than 300,000 acres! The Reserve team will soon begin to identify opportunities for biodiversity restoration such as restoring native vegetation and removing or changing fences to meet wildlife friendly standards and ease pronghorn migration. To learn how we assess biodiversity in grasslands, please visit the Reports section of the website to read about the Freese Scale.

See Sun Prairie North on the Map »
newsletter all copy

Landmark Crew

LANDMARK Adventure Scientists: Notes from the Prairie

Through APR’s new collaboration with Adventurers & Scientists for Conservation, enthusiastic groups of LandMARK volunteers have been collecting data and living on the Reserve since February. The volunteers walk transects across the prairie keeping track of wildlife sightings on tablet devices and maintaining remote camera traps. In addition to helping inform management decisions, the experiences of adventure scientists also remind us of the uniqueness and power of the prairie landscape.

In their own words »
Katie Birch: The morning chorus of birds at sunrise; long days of walking resolutely through sage brush and river washes, eyes peeled for wildlife; talking with wise companions; and unimpeded views of the sunset at Buffalo Camp were among the highlights of my days on the American Prairie Reserve, each one of them filled with adventure and beauty… To be working on such an important project makes you think differently about nearly everything.  The scope of this project dwarfs me as an individual. Wandering through the layers upon layers of grassy ravines and meandering river bottoms makes you realize how much there is to hide in a landscape.  But if you look hard enough, you will be surprised by what you find. While we found lots of wildlife, the most important thing I found was adventure with a bigger purpose. 

Matt Howe:  Near the end of our walk, as we approached Reserve Headquarters, we saw a few brown specks in the distance. This usually means bison, or bushes pretending to be bison. Either way, it was a lead. As we grew closer, the specks got clearer and the prairie opened up to reveal one of the largest single groups I’d seen so far in my few weeks on the Reserve. Almost 90 bison were sunbathing around a pond. Calves everywhere… The texture of the prairie is so vast and uncertain that the coulees, valleys, and creek beds around here can hide anything.  Sometimes, the thing you find on the other side might not even be the thing you’re looking for, if you’re looking for anything at all (which we always are).  But it can take you by surprise, take your breath away, and take you back to the stillness of the world that you lose sight of from time to time. That’s one of the things that I’ve grown to love during my time on the prairie as part of the Landmark project.

Tony Mancuso: In total, I spent forty days living on the American Prairie Reserve. The place has evoked such an emotional response from me that it is hard to place my feelings down on a piece of paper. In my eyes, this is why the work of the American Prairie Reserve is so important. To restore and preserve a wild, native landscape is to invest in the future of our culture. People need a place that will challenge them to rise to the occasion; that will teach them how to swim through the sink-or-swim moments. To preserve the Prairie is to preserve ourselves.    

Spring Wildflower

Climate Change on the Prairie: Your Questions Answered

Q:  What happens to a large conserved landscape in a time of climate change?

See the Answer »
A: Climate change reinforces the need for large-scale conservation because vast areas will be needed to help plants and wildlife survive and find refuge in a changing environment. In creating the Reserve, we’re doing what biologists say is needed in the face of this threat. Scientists predict that the northern plains will experience hotter temperatures, drier conditions, and highly localized weather events. Animals like pronghorn, bison and sage grouse will move to areas of sufficient rainfall, which may change year-to-year, and habitat connectivity will be increasingly important. Plants are already shifting their ranges in response to changes in seasonality and temperature. In addition to size, ecosystems with high native diversity will likely be more resilient to change, making restoration of non-native areas an important part of our work in coming years. The Reserve will also provide opportunity to study wildlife, weather, water and other climate change issues, earning its reputation as a living laboratory for researchers and classrooms.

Dig Deeper: The 2014 U.S. climate assessment report is now available at nca2014.globalchange.gov.

Wild Again: The Struggle to Save The Black-Footed Ferret by David Jachowski
What We’re Reading

If you get a chance to spotlight for endangered black-footed ferrets with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist Randy Matchett – take it. If you never get the chance, this book will put you at the front line of the gritty work it takes to save endangered species.

Looking down the barrels of semi-automatic rifles... »
The author’s introduction to prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets started with a summer job with Matchett. So began a complicated, frustrating, but ultimately rewarding 10-year journey that Jachowski recounts in vivid detail. The reader rejoices with Jachowski and his colleagues when they find ferrets, despairs with them when they don’t.  We travel from Montana to Mexico looking for them, monitoring them, hoping they will thrive.  Along the way we endure scorching days, frigid nights, uncomfortable beds, and vehicle breakdowns. We even find ourselves looking down the barrels of semi-automatic rifles pointed at us by Mexican federales.  But we also experience sublime landscapes and the wonder of wild places.

This is not a fairy tale. Unlike bison, whose recovery is inhibited by society’s intolerance for large herds, black-footed ferrets face additional obstacles like repeated outbreaks of sylvatic plague in prairie dog colonies. It will be a longer road to recovery for black-footed ferrets, and we at American Prairie Reserve are working to provide prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets a landscape where they can thrive. But it cannot be done without the valiant efforts of the David Jachowski’s of the world.

– Review by APR Managing Director Dick Dolan 



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