November/December Newsletter: Momentum Continues into 2013

November/December 2012

A Message from the President

Sean Gerrity

Supporters like you fueled tremendous growth in 2012, setting an exciting precedent for what we can accomplish in the year ahead. Thanks to your contributions, we acquired our largest property to date, grew the bison herd by more than 110 animals, installed our first interpretive signs, and connected the public to the prairie through exciting educational programs and volunteer opportunities. As we look ahead to 2013, I’m filled with anticipation at the many opportunities to build on this year’s growth. Next year, we’ll expand the area of the Reserve that the bison are able to roam by nearly 10,000 acres and take down approximately 30 miles of fence that impedes wildlife movement. With several additional properties available for purchase, we can potentially add tens of thousands of acres to the Reserve with your help. I hope you’ll consider being a part of this conservation legacy by making an annual gift this winter.

American Prairie Reserve Welcomes Tim Kelly to Its Board

Photo by Susan Kelly

American Prairie Reserve (APR) is pleased to welcome Tim Kelly, Former President of the National Geographic Society, to its Board of Directors. Kelly was appointed president of the National Geographic Society in January 2011 and has also served as president and CEO of National Geographic’s Global Media group, president and CEO of Ventures, and president of National Geographic Television. In 1997, Kelly conceived and launched the National Geographic Channel, later developing National Geographic WILD, a sister station devoted to nature and wildlife. Kelly also serves on the Board of Johannesburg-based Great Plains Conservation Trust, which manages more than 1 million acres of iconic African wilderness and operates safari camps that support wildlife habitat and the local people. No stranger to the prairie, Kelly has made several visits to the Reserve, falling in love with our vision of an American Serengeti open to the public’s enjoyment. Please join us in welcoming Tim to our Board.

Your Donations at Work: October Volunteer Safari

Photo by Siri Eliasen/APR

Your support helped us host nine volunteers on American Prairie Reserve in October, who worked over a three-day period to remove seven and a half miles of fence from Reserve lands. Fence removal plays a key role in APR’s overall restoration efforts by opening the landscape to animal movement and visitor access. While enjoying the sights and sounds of fall on the prairie, the volunteers opened a 1,000-acre area of the Reserve to wildlife movement, connecting the previously fenced parcel with 9,000 acres of already open habitat to create a 10,000-acre area that can now be freely navigated.

What Volunteers Say About Their Experience »
For several of the volunteers, the work safari provided a stunning first encounter with the prairie landscape and its wildlife. “The prairie is a world of nuances,” wrote volunteer Andrew Sullivan. “Its majesty doesn’t appear instantly like the Grand Canyon or Tetons; rather, it slowly seeps into your being through its many moods and likenesses.” We still have many more miles of fence to remove next year. If you’re interested in volunteering, give us a call or write to us at

Science Update: Restoring Fire to the Ecosystem

This fall, we conducted our first controlled burn on American Prairie Reserve, restoring fire’s crucial role to a small portion of the ecosystem. Fire is a natural process by which dead vegetation is removed, nutrients are released into the soil and new growth is created. Through controlled burns, we are able to safely restore this process to the landscape and study its effects. A video shows the burn in action:

Read more about the burn »
After months of preparation and waiting for strict weather conditions to be met, the burn took place on a sunny October day with more than twenty APR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) staff in attendance. Starting in the northeast corner of the burn site, USFWS fire specialists burned around the edges, then let a light wind do the rest by pushing the flames up the middle of the burn site and back into the northeast. “Fire is one of many ecological processes that makes a prairie a prairie,” said Senior Reserve Foreman Damien Austin, “and it’s exciting to bring it back while the Reserve is still growing.” The nearly 900-acre controlled burn is the result of a collaboration with USFWS, which provided expertise, personnel and equipment to conduct the burn, and World Wildlife Fund, which was instrumental in project and experimental design, securing funding and arranging for pre- and post-burn scientific monitoring.

APR Named One of Top 10 Ecotourism Sites in the Great Plains

Photo by Dave Shumway

American Prairie Reserve has been named one of the Top 10 Ecotourism Sites in the Great Plains in a recent survey conducted by the University of Nebraska, Lincoln’s, Center for Great Plains Studies. The Reserve joins several notable locations on the Center’s Top 50 Ecotourism Sites Map, such as Badlands National Park, and is one of ten featured sites highlighted in a special section of the map.

What other Montana sites made the list? »
Survey participants included 51 representatives from tourism companies, state agencies, nonprofits and others, who submitted nearly 100 different locations for consideration. The Reserve isn’t the only northeastern Montana location included in the Top 10 – our neighbor, the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, and the adjoining Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument also made the list. Combined with the Reserve, the three sites total more than 1.7 million acres of valuable wildlife habitat open to the public for recreation. With a public campground, several hiking trails and miles of open landscape to explore, visitors to the Reserve have a unique opportunity to see regional wildlife thriving in their native habitat and experience the early phases or one of North America’s most ambitious conservation efforts.

What We’re Reading Now…

The Kingdom of Rarities, by Eric Dinerstein

In The Kingdom of Rarities, American Prairie Reserve National Council member Dr. Eric Dinerstein explores the concept of natural “rarity,” raising important questions about what causes rarity in nature and how biodiversity around the world can be protected during times of large-scale ecological change. In his pursuit of some of the rarest species on Earth, Dinerstein takes the reader on a whirlwind journey to remote locations including New Guinea, the Amazon and the Himalayas. Calling attention to threats to global biodiversity, such as climate change and habitat fragmentation, Dinerstein emphasizes conservation strategies that can be employed to protect both common and rare species throughout the world. To learn more about this topic, and how it relates to our conservation efforts, look for an interview in our next newsletter featuring Dr. Dinerstein and APR President Sean Gerrity discussing rarity on American Prairie Reserve.

By the Numbers: October’s Volunteer Safari

Volunteers on October’s safari worked diligently to open habitat to animals and visitors alike. Here are some interesting statistics about their work:

Photo by Diane Hargreaves

158,400    Feet of barbed wire removed
11,487      Total miles volunteers traveled to reach APR
2,200        Number of fence posts pulled
1,000        Acres of habitat opened
176           Pounds of fence staples removed



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