September/October Newsletter: Join Us in a Toast – 150,000 Acres of New Habitat and APR Bourbon

September/October 2012

A Message from the President

Sean Gerrity

Photo: Dennis Lingohr

Thanks to your support, American Prairie Reserve is growing faster than ever before. In August, we more than doubled the size of the Reserve. This acquisition was covered by media outlets across the country and reached thousands of readers. The new property offers visitors the chance to experience a variety of scenery, from stunning breaks lining the Missouri River to rolling grasslands bordered by ponderosa pines. From a vision shared by only a handful of people in 2001, APR has grown to become one of the most successful conservation projects in America today, but our work has only just begun. As we continue to assemble America’s Serengeti, you can play a vital role by making a year-end gift, volunteering on the Reserve or sharing the good news of our recent expansion with friends and family.

Your Donations at Work: American Prairie Reserve’s Size Doubles

Your contributions more than doubled the size of American Prairie Reserve this summer, with the purchase of our largest property to date. The new property, which spans 150,000 acres of deeded and leased public land, brings the total acreage associated with APR up to approximately 274,000 acres. Like many ranches in the region, the property holds historic grazing leases on adjoining public lands and is comprised of more than 18,000 acres of private land connected to approximately 131,000 acres of federal and state land leases. This property has many attractive attributes, including a 16-mile shared border with the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. A wide variety of wildlife species, including bighorn sheep, roam the property’s diverse terrain. This is our first acquisition in Montana’s Valley County and marks a major step forward for the Reserve and its future growth.

Buy High West Bourbon and Help Build American Prairie Reserve

Enjoy a toast to the Reserve’s recent growth and help support our efforts with High West Distillery’s new American Prairie Reserve Bourbon. More than 100 guests packed High West’s historic distillery in Park City, Utah, on July 23rd to celebrate the launch of the new whiskey, which is a blend of six-year and ten-year premium bourbons. Through this unique collaboration, High West is donating ten percent of after-tax profits to APR and will feature a series of different prairie wildlife on the front label, starting with the greater sage grouse. The bourbon makes an interesting conversation piece for gatherings and is available in New York, California, Montana and several other states as well as Alberta. Ask your favorite liquor store to carry this conservation-oriented product today

Science Update: Prairie Dog & Burrowing Owl Surveys

World Wildlife Fund biologists Kristy Bly and Jessica Alexander mapped prairie dog colonies on American Prairie Reserve (APR) this summer using GPS equipment to determine their size and boundaries. Forty-nine different prairie dog colonies, totaling 968 acres, were surveyed on the Reserve. Kristy and Jessica documented a seven percent increase in total colony acreage since 2011, when an outbreak of sylvatic plague eliminated 13 APR colonies.

Photo: Diane Hargreaves

Looking for Burrowing Owls... »
 In a related study, APR intern Lindsey Wimberg and volunteer Mike Clark worked with National Geographic Student Expeditions participants to survey burrowing owls nesting in APR prairie dog towns. Armed with binoculars, Lindsey, Mike and the students sat quietly a few hundred yards from two burrowing owl nests and counted seven owls in total: four adults and three juveniles. The growth of prairie dog colonies directly benefits these owls, which live in prairie dog burrows, as well as many other species, highlighting the importance of restoring a fully-functioning ecosystem on the Reserve.


Wildlife Species: Sandhill Crane

Photo: Dennis Lingohr

Recognized by its red forehead and white cheeks, the sandhill crane flies with legs and neck extended, giving a loud trumpeting call that resembles a rolling “r” sound. Mated pairs often engage in “unison calling,” delighting onlookers with elaborately synchronized duets. The sandhill crane has one of the longest fossil records of any living bird, with fossils dating as far back as 2.5 million years. Although native to North America, sandhill cranes are occasionally spotted as far away as Europe. American Prairie Reserve provides habitat for these curious birds, offering visitors the chance to glimpse a bit of ancient life still thriving on Montana’s plains.

Interns Make an Impact on American Prairie Reserve


This summer, American Prairie Reserve was proud to host interns Michelle Berry of Stanford University and Lindsey Wimberg of the University of Denver. Michelle conducted a detailed study and literature review of early 19th century wildlife populations in the Reserve region thanks to funding by the Bill Lane Center for the American West. Basing her research on primary sources like Lewis and Clark’s journals and countless interviews with wildlife experts and historians, Michelle’s study will help paint a richer picture of the wildlife abundance that once characterized the region.




As our Visitation Intern, Lindsey managed camp for National Geographic Student Expeditions and helped coordinate several group visits. Reflecting on her time at the Reserve, Lindsey was struck by the vastness of the landscape: “my experience on the prairie really helped me appreciate the raw beauty a clear landscape has to offer.” Interns like Lindsey and Michelle enrich the project with their skills and enthusiasm and we look forward to welcoming a new group of interns to the Reserve next summer.


What We’re Reading Now…

Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, by Theodore Roosevelt

From the introductory note to the addendum, Roosevelt’s colorful memoirs of hunting trips on the Northern Great Plains are arguably the first and foremost guide for sportsmen visiting the region. 

Read the guest review from Dennis Johnson »
In this accessible book, Roosevelt’s detailed observations of the habits and characteristics of the region’s wildlife provide both a history lesson and relevant insights for modern hunters on the northern plains and Badlands. Although written in 1885, Roosevelt’s stories would match those told around any modern campfire, making this an ideal book for sportsmen to pack along while hunting in the Reserve area this fall.

– Guest Review by Dennis Johnson

By the Numbers: How Big is 150,000 Acres?

APR’s recent acquisition spans 150,000 acres of public and private land. How does it stack up against the acreage of well-known American places?

Photo: Polly Cavill

149,760    City of Chicago
146,597    Utah’s Zion National Park
112,618    California’s Redwood National Park
14,528      Manhattan Island



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