“The prairie is the native home of all of America’s large mammal species, bison being the most iconic, but also elk and mountain lions, wolves, and grizzly bears.”
— Rae Wynn-Grant ’10 M.E.Sc.
“The prairie is the native home of all of America’s large mammal species, bison being the most iconic, but also elk and mountain lions, wolves, and grizzly bears,” said Wynn-Grant. “As white settlers came through from east to west, they exterminated wildlife and native peoples in the grasslands and drove them into the mountains.”
The APR wants to see those animals roaming the prairie again. Funded by donations, the 18-year-old nonprofit is restoring Montana’s northern prairie, buying private land to stitch together vast tracts of fragmented protected lands. It is building the reserve around the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, 1.1 million acres near the Saskatchewan border. The organization’s consulting biologists estimate that a thriving ecosystem with room for migration will require 3.2 million acres. (By comparison, the state of Connecticut comprises 3.5 million acres.)
“APR is taking old cattle ranches and restoring them,” said Wynn-Grant, whose work with the group is funded by a National Geographic Society fellowship. “They start with grass: They get rid of crappy annual grass that cows graze on and they reseed with native grass species. The grasses just take off. With the native grasses back, the insects come back, and with the insects, the birds.”