By Deanna Robbins, Laura Boyce, and Coke Knox
“Save the Cowboy, Stop American Prairie Reserve” has been an attempt to educate the public on the American Prairie Reserve (APR), their specific plans, and how these plans will affect the families, businesses, and communities of the APR’s target area. County and the state coffers will also be affected, when taxable agricultural production is removed and replaced with non-productive scenery.
The APR is a non-profit organization funded largely by a handful of out-of-state billionaires. APR’s goal is to remove production agriculture—cattle, crops, and the people who tend to them—from 3.5 million acres in the Missouri River Breaks of north central Montana, creating the largest nature reserve in North America. This wildlife experiment would establish over 10,000 free roaming bison along with apex predators like grizzly bears and wolves, fashioning a takeover of over 3 million acres of federal land.
American Prairie Reserve is targeting this area primarily because the native prairie is 90 percent intact, thanks to generations of ranchers who have been taking care of this land, making a living off it. APR feels it’s an ideal template for their experiment to see if 3.5 million acres is enough land mass to run an unmanaged buffalo herd. Yellowstone Park has proven this to be a real challenge and a huge management problem for both park officials and neighboring ranches and communities.
The Knox family of Denton raises wheat across the fence from the historic PN ranch, which the APR recently purchased. The PN is currently being leased to a cattle rancher, so all is well for now. But if the APR meets their goal of 10,000 free roaming bison, it will affect the Knoxes significantly.
Their 42-inch exterior fence will not slow a bison down, as they can effortlessly jump five feet. The Knox family’s wheat will become their lunch.
The two Knox sons and their wives run cattle up the creek, and those cattle will be more than just “up the creek” when they are infiltrated by unvaccinated bovines (APR bison). The APR’s comeback is their promise to reimburse ranchers for damages, as yet untested. But the Knoxes and the other ranches of this area don’t want their money; they want healthy, brucellosis-free cattle and standing wheat to harvest on this land their families have managed for over a century.
Over 500 colorful “Save the Cowboy” banners have been purchased and displayed by supporters across the state. Bumper stickers with the same message adorn vehicles, and informational pamphlets and a Facebook page have all worked to get the message out. We hope also to reach the donors, who may not understand exactly what they‘re supporting. Our goal is to protect our agriculture-based economy, our culture, and our environment for generations to come.