Conservation group purchases grasslands in Montana

A conservation group is buying up grassland in Montana, USA, with the intention of returning it to its natural state.

Tourists and conservationists have long been attracted to eastern Montana’s prairie, and have often been at odds with cattle ranchers for whom the area’s nature and conservation is of secondary importance to their business interests.

The grasslands, which have been such a hit with eco tourists, were often marred by thousands of miles of fences that were erected to fence in cattle. Philanthropists and conservationists are now pulling down the fences and returning the grasslands to their natural state.

The fences break up the habitat for native wildlife and hamper their movement across the varying grassland regions. When the fences are taken away, new corridors are opened up for the migration of wildlife.

Some areas in eastern Montana’s cattle country, the American Prairie Reserve, are being converted into a wildlife sanctuary. The area, once owned and operated by private cattle ranchers, have the potential to develop into natural reserves that could be larger than Connecticut, and even provide competition for some the greatest national parks in the West.

On Tuesday of this week, a Bozeman-based group purchased the 150,000-acre South Ranch and plans to develop the grassland as a natural reserve. When the deal closes, it will double the amount of public and private property under the reserve’s control, just north of the CM Russell National Wildlife Refuge, which is also close to the Canadian border.

Scientists said that the move would support an ecosystem that includes hundreds of species of birds, mammals, plants and insects. Organisers said that they were aiming for a free flow of wildlife made up of pronghorn antelope, predators and up to 10,000 bison, across three million acres or more of public and private land.