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The American Prairie Reserve (APR), a private, nonprofit organization, is working to create the largest nature reserve in the lower 48 by stitching together 3.5 million acres of private and public lands in north-central Montana. APR’s goal is to remove all the cattle and replace them with 10,000 free roaming bison and allow this temperate grassland, one of the four left on our planet, to thrive and be forever protected. However, most ranching families see this as a threat to their way of life – some have been working this land for over 125 years. For tens of thousands of years Native Americans controlled this landscape until they were forcibly removed and relocated to reservations. The Werk family, who belong to the Aaniiih tribe and live on the border of the conservation project in the Belknap Indian Reservation, are thankful to see the return of the bison but also share their neighbors’ concerns. Says Toby Werk, “We know firsthand what it’s like to be taken off the land and destroyed.”

This ambitious conservation project offers a glimpse into some of the complex and challenging issues around modern day conservation as human populations increase and wild spaces become more scarce. 


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