GRASSLANDS RESERVE BUYS 150,000-ACRE MONTANA RANCH

GRASSLANDS RESERVE BUYS 150,000-ACRE MONTANA RANCH
(August 2012)

MALTA, Mont. | A conservation group said Tuesday it has bought a 150,000-acre Montana ranch in a major step toward its vision of a national park-caliber prairie wildlife preserve that has stoked fears of change in the heart of cattle country.

Steve Page with Page Whitham Land and Cattle confirmed that the family-owned South Ranch near Glasgow had been sold for an undisclosed sum to the American Prairie Reserve. The Bozeman-based group aims to create a multi-million-acre grasslands wildlife complex around northeast Montana’s C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.

Scientists familiar with the reserve describe it as an unprecedented initiative to restore an often-overlooked ecosystem that supports hundreds of species of birds, mammals, plants and insects. The South Ranch purchase more than doubles the amount of land under the reserve’s control. It includes both private land and public land with long-term leases.

Yet some local ranchers see the group’s plans as an assault on their way of life as families that stuck with the cattle business through generations of blizzard and drought are bought out.

Those critics lump the reserve’s goals with a contentious federal proposal to convert a vast swath of eastern Montana into a new national monument — an idea that continues to reverberate more than two years after U.S. Interior Sec. Ken Salazar repudiated it. READ MORE/WORD DOC