Nature reserve buys ranch, grows to more than 700 sq miles

December 20, 2021 GMT

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A privately-owned nature reserve that’s trying to build a Connecticut-sized park where bison and other wildlife can freely roam on the U.S. Northern Plains says it is purchasing a 50-square mile ranch that abuts the Charles M. Russel National Wildlife refuge.

The deal for the 73 Ranch in Central Montana along the Musselshell River expands the size of the American Prairie Reserve to more than 700 square miles. The purchase price was not disclosed, The Billings Gazette reported.

Since 2001, the reserve has been trying to stitch together millions of acres of adjoining public and private lands to create a vast wildlife preserve.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management attempted to buy the 73 ranch in August, in part to provide access to landlocked areas hunters were anxious to reach. The deal fell through after a government-ordered appraisal did not meet the seller’s terms.

ADVERTISEMENT

The reserve has more than 800 bison and has said it plans to increase its herds to thousands of animals in coming decades.

A decision from federal officials is pending on the reserve’s proposal to alter grazing leases for its bison on property it leases north of the Missouri River. The proposal has been strongly opposed by many property owners in the area and Republicans including Gov. Greg Gianforte.