Elk management in Montana is broken. The most recent elk population counts show a disturbing trend of Montana’s elk herd increasing to crisis levels in many areas of the state. Three quarters of Montana’s hunting districts have an elk population above the sustainable population objective set by the Montana Fish & Game Commission, with over thirty districts at more than double the objective number.
The statewide elk objective is 92,138 animals. The Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks estimates there were 175,000 elk in Montana in 2021. Montana law requires that FWP manage elk populations in a way that reaches sustainable population objectives. For over a decade they’ve failed to meet that statutory requirement, leading to increasing damages borne by landowners.
UPOM has been working for years to get FWP to follow their own laws to manage elk to population objectives. After exhausting our administrative options, we’ve taken the unprecedented step of suing FWP to compel them to change their management practices.
UPOM has partnered with farmers and ranchers in APR’s target area to educate about the risk APR poses to this industry. Please contact Deanna Robbins (406-464-2281) to get your sign, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. A $35 donation per sign would be appreciated to help cover costs. Thank you!
To me it means numerous family ranches, including mine, either selling out or relocating from that area, as trying to run a farm/ranch amidst a growing wildlife reserve becomes too burdensome. It means APR using their non-profit status to raise millions across the globe to buy the private land, often outbidding neighbors who don’t have that tax advantage. It means APR staff calling newly widowed ranchers to offer “sympathy” and chat, when they don’t even understand who’s calling. It means our local communities losing not only farm and ranch families but also the local businesses they support. It means counties and the state losing taxes from ag production (yes, agriculture IS the #1 industry in Montana) that tourism will never replace. It means APR proclaiming to save something that’s not endangered.
But maybe what’s most important is what it doesn’t mean.
APR is not creating anything. APR will simply be changing the ownership of the private land from hard working farmers and ranchers, many whose families have toiled for over 100 years to build lives and businesses that feed their families and help feed the world. If APR gets their way, those farms and ranches will be turned into playgrounds for the world’s elite and curious. That’s it. No new creation, just recreation.
Parker Heinlein’s recent column (“Fewer cowboys? Don’t blame the American Prairie Reserve,” Nov. 1) is a perfect example of the derisive attitude that has turned so many Montanans against the American Prairie Reserve (APR).
How could anyone object, Heinlein wonders, to APR creating an “American Serengeti” in north-central Montana? After all, jobs in cattle country are low paying and antiquated, so why won’t these people just step aside and let the APR take over.
Apparently it will come as a surprise to Heinlein, but there are thousands of Montanans who live in the communities the APR wants to wipe off the map, and they don’t want to be displaced.
If Heinlein bothered to spend any time in eastern Montana, he’d find close-knit, thriving communities, with great schools, hard-working people, and an enviable lifestyle. The people who live in APR’s target zone live there by choice, and they don’t want to be forced out.
And those people shouldn’t have to go anywhere just because a handful of billionaires have designs to create some sort theme park.
Heinlein got one key point wrong that warrants correcting. No one objects to what APR does on the property they own. The objection is to what APR wants to do on other people’s property.
APR’s ultimate objective is to create a free-roaming bison herd, which by definition means that neighboring landowners will be forced to have wild bison on their property as well.
APR also wants preferential treatment for the public grazing permits they control. They have requested to graze public land year-round, which no cattle or sheep operation has the freedom to do. Ranchers have cooperated for years with BLM and CMR to establish best practices for grazing—APR’s plan would ignore those, which could do a great deal of damage to the public’s land.
The APR is an existential threat to communities all over eastern Montana. The success of APR is contingent upon them successfully eradicating hundreds of family farms and ranches. APR cannot achieve their stated goal of a 3.5 million acre wildlife reserve without that happening.
APR has represented this area as virtually vacant. That’s an obvious mistruth to anyone who’s been through Eastern Montana. The economic repercussions of liquidating a significant part of Montana’s agriculture economy will have ripple effects throughout Montana’s economy. APR’s promises of new tourism opportunities ring hollow.
APR is a well funded, well run non-profit NGO which derives nearly all of its support from outside Montana. They have been here for about 15 years, pretending to be new neighbors only wanting to blend in. Recently their gloves have begun to come off, and people are getting a clearer picture of what their success will mean.
That’s sparked a grassroots movement in the communities APR wants to take over and eliminate. Signs with the message “Save the Cowboy, STOP American Prairie Reserve” are now ubiquitous throughout the area. Heinlein struggled to understand what that means, stopping APR. Let’s make it simple so he can understand, our objective is to turn the tables and wipe the APR from the map.