Since the 19th century, a variety of efforts have been undertaken to ensure that America’s Great Plains remains intact for future generations.
In 1999, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) published Ecoregional Planning in the Northern Great Plains Steppe, which, for the first time, pinpointed specific, critical areas of the Northern Great Plains that were the most viable for conserving the existing diversity of plants and animals. The region just north of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Montana was identified as a top priority for grassland conservation, owing to the relatively pristine condition of the land and the diversity of wildlife species in the area.
Shortly after TNC published its findings, World Wildlife Fund decided to initiate a conservation effort in the Montana Glaciated Plains, one of the key areas identified by TNC. They determined that an independent entity, capable of focusing all of its time and resources on the preservation of Montana's Northern Great Plains, would be the best vehicle through which to initiate a large-scale conservation effort. In June 2001, The Prairie Foundation was officially formed as an independent non-profit organization, later named American Prairie Foundation, then American Prairie Reserve, and now known as American Prairie. World Wildlife Fund's Northern Great Plains Program was an active and valued science contributor to American Prairie during its first decade. Specifically, WWF provided on-the-ground scientific support conducting inventories (plants, streams, birds and wildlife) and wildlife migration studies, monitoring and protecting prairie dogs, reintroducing bison, restoring streams and riparian areas.
Today, American Prairie is a freestanding Montana-based nonprofit that started to assemble land in 2004. Our main focus is to purchase and permanently hold title to private lands that glue together a vast mosaic of existing public lands so that the region is managed thoughtfully and collaboratively with state and federal agencies for wildlife conservation and public access.
The idea of preserving a unique area of the American prairie, to be enjoyed forever and by all walks of life, has been worked on diligently, and in a variety of ways, for well over one hundred years. At American Prairie, we view our work as continuing the legacy of a long line of talented people and committed organizations as well as honoring a landscape that has helped shaped the vitality and character of our country.