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Prairie

American Prairie Reserve owns and manages 98,000 acres of north central Montana.

I searched online to find out who are the ten largest landowners in Montana. I found who they are, and I also found that altogether they own a total of 2,326,056 acres. Then I did a search to learn what public access these ten landowners permit on their two million plus acres.

I found some public fishing opportunities on the 148,958 acres of Ted Turner’s property, and with one particular hunting outfitter, you can hunt on Turner’s property. However, I found no offerings of public access – hunting or otherwise – on the 2,177,186 acres owned by the other nine property owners, which would also exclude access to any public land within their boundaries.

The American Prairie Reserve is not on the list of the 10 largest Montana landowners. I don’t think they’re even close, and I like APR’s public policy. Over the past few years I have spent many happy hours on APR land. While camped at the APR’s Buffalo Campground – a public campground – I have hiked and looked for spring wild flowers, watched bison and wild birds, studied prairie dogs and burrowing owls, followed the flights of hawks, eagles and nighthawks, and listened to the seasonal songbirds.

Some years, I have also participated in educational events such as the 2011 BioBlitz (open for anyone to participate), or met with friends at the yearly APR open house (free food and drinks), or joined the Montana Native Plant Society in a study of wild plants on APR and adjoining BLM land. This year I look forward to staying at the Buffalo Camp over Memorial Day weekend.

There are many other opportunities APR generously offers that I haven’t participated in, programs such as Artist-in-Residence, National Geographic Student Expeditions, Journey Beyond the Classroom, and the ongoing natural science work at the APR Enrico Education and Science Center.

American Prairie Reserve owns 91,588 acres and does not fence off their land to public access. APR invites the public to access their lands: They are building campgrounds, trails, and yurt camps for public recreation.

I am not a hunter, but if I were, I know the American Prairie Reserve would allow me to hunt on their land, and give me easy access to their adjoining BLM land on which they lease the grazing rights.

Mary Frieze, of Lewistown, is a retired teacher and member of Friends of the Missouri Breaks.

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