by E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As Appearing in The Daily Sentinel
A talented Oregon blogger named Andy Kerr recently posted an eloquent piece called “Where the Buffalo Roam,” extoling the virtues of the “American Prairie Reserve,” a giant conservation project underway in Montana. He mentions the folk song, “Home on the Range,” with an interesting observation. It recalls a nostalgic view of ranching life on the prairie, yet does not mention cattle. Indeed, the only three animals in the song’s lyrics are buffalo, deer, and antelope.
Because it’s a very old song, the implication is that we always knew the prairie was better when occupied only by buffalo (as if there were ever such a time). The political agenda is obvious enough, though the writer’s reputation also precedes him — he is a fairly well-known environmental industry activist who has filed numerous lawsuits seeking various restrictions on public land uses.
Nevertheless, there is much to admire about the process creating the reserve in Montana. The goal is to consolidate 5,000 square miles (3.5 million acres) of ranchlands into one contiguous grassland, without fences, as habitat where American Bison thrive — where the deer and the antelope play. It is near the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge and the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, yet creating a reserve that large also requires buying hundreds of thousands of acres of private ranchlands, along with their public land grazing permits. About 90,000 acres have already been purchased, linked with another 300,000 acres of grazing permits.