The most dramatic feature of eastern Montana’s prairie is a sea of grass fading into a blue sky that stretches from horizon to horizon.
But, for more than a century, what’s given the land definition have been fences — thousands of miles of barbed wire slicing across the prairie and pulled taut to keep in cattle.Now on tens of thousands of acres of former ranchland those fences are being pulled down by a private conservation group funded by deep-pocketed philanthropists.
In the heart of Montana’s cattle country, the American Prairie Reserve is assembling a wildlife preserve that could be larger than Connecticut and rival the West’s great national parks.
On Tuesday, the Bozeman-based group announced its biggest step yet toward that goal with the purchase of the 150,000-acre South Ranch from families with a century-long tie to the land.
The deal more than doubles the amount of public and private property under the reserve’s control just north of the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, about 60 miles from the Canadian border.