Dear Supporters –
Lately, my mind has been heavy with the weight of the unprecedented and difficult times we are facing across the nation and the world. My personal hope is that from these challenges comes positive change.
It is in that spirit of hope that I’d like to share a brief update on the progress we have made toward accomplishing our vision for a complete prairie ecosystem, benefiting people from all walks of life.
We take our jobs of stewarding the resources entrusted to us very seriously, and we are truly grateful for every dollar you contribute. Thanks to your support, we have been able to continue our work and remain focused on our goals.
Our Response to the Pandemic
Like so many people around the world, we have had to adjust our daily operations. In the early days of the pandemic, we made swift decisions to protect the health and safety of our staff, supporters, and friends. Those decisions included moving to a remote office environment, cancelling events, and temporarily closing visitor facilities.
Protocol has evolved with public health recommendations and we will continue to adjust as needed. The current status* is as follows:
- Employees are being encouraged to work remote when possible, and are required to follow a comprehensive policy that includes social distancing requirements and sanitation procedures.
- Our offices and shared facilities remain closed to nonessential visitors, unless prior approval is granted.
- The 2020 Ken Burns American Heritage Prize Presentation event and the inaugural American Legacy event were both postponed and are planned to take place in 2021.
- The 2020 Memorial Day Open House event on the prairie was cancelled. Community events will be limited or cancelled for the remainder of the year.
- Visitor facilities are re-opening using a phased approach. In the current phase, huts are available on weekends only to allow for vacancy windows between groups; campgrounds are open with limited services to RVs only because shared spaces, such as restrooms, remain closed. Additional information and more details are available in the visit section of our website.
- Science collaborators are completing a 14-day quarantine from staff and facilities upon arrival to American Prairie. Other collaborators, partners, and media guests are being considered on a case-by-case basis, but all visits are self-contained and are required to operate independently from staff.
- Hosted trips and tours are not being scheduled at this time.
* This information is accurate as of June 1, 2020 and is subject to change. We will do our best to incorporate updates on our website or provide links to the most current source of information.
It has become increasingly clear that we cannot continue to operate in a “business as usual mindset.” Our top priorities are to ensure organizational stability, to continue building a steady base of philanthropic support, and to remain focused on our short- and long-term goals. In light of economic uncertainty, we made the prudent decision to reduce our annual operating budget. Following direction provided by the Executive Team, our staff quickly and thoughtfully re-forecasted departmental budgets with organizational priorities in mind.
We remain optimistic and are confident that our solid strategies, capable staff, and loyal supporters will carry this mission forward.
Points of Pride
As we continue to evolve our operations, we rely on our values to guide our decision-making. American Prairie is an organization that believes in continuous improvement, teamwork, and innovation with optimism. We have always looked for ways to grow relationships and provide opportunities for the public to benefit from the work we are doing. Now, though, we lean into our values and will look within the organization to identify how we can be better and do better for each other and for our planet.
It is your generosity that continues to spur exciting progress in all program areas, and we have a lot to be proud of right now!
Wildlife Update – Red Dogs and Collaborations:
- The first bison calves of 2020 have been born and we anticipate around 120 calves this year. They join pronghorn fawns, prairie dog pups, and returning migrating birds as beautiful signs of the natural cycle of life on the prairie.
- As part of the latest bison handling in January, American Prairie collaborated with partners at the National Geographic Society and Smithsonian Conservation Biology institute to deploy new technology developed for wildlife management and research. Read more here.
Program News – An Education Opportunity for Students:
- We are in the first stages of launching the American Prairie Field School – a new education program for middle school students, developed in collaboration with the Montana Outdoor Science School. The program’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum will teach students about the complexity and value of the prairie ecosystem.
Construction Progress – Lewis & Clark Hut and the National Discovery Center:
- The new Lewis & Clark Hut is nearing completion and will be open this summer. It will be the third hut in the Myers Hut System, joining the Founders Hut and the John and Margaret Craighead Hut.
- The planning, design, and building of the National Discovery Center in Lewistown, Montana remains on schedule. A local contractor has been hired, final exhibit and architectural designs are in review, and initial renovation work has begun on the historic Power Mercantile building. We are looking forward to sharing more details about this project soon!
In closing, I thank you – our supporters. American Prairie continues to make steady progress even in the midst of these uncertain times, and it is all thanks to supporters like you. I am certain that we can continue to rely on you as we grow together, and I hope you will consider joining us for a visit to the prairie when travel and health guidelines allow. I also hope you have confidence that your dollars and your voice are helping to protect this important ecosystem at a time when the preservation of wildlife habitats and species is as important as it has ever been.