OP-ED: Spin Doctors Fail to Make Case for APR
January 26, 2022
The American Prairie Reserve (APR), aka American Prairie Foundation, aka American Prairie, continues to struggle with its tattered public image and is now engaged in a media flurry to convince wild bison opponents of its many virtues by trotting out spin doctors willing to repeat the gospel according to APR’s playbook.
The most recent spin effort appeared in a 1-15-2022 Lewistown News Argus opinion piece by Gene Walborn who recites a number of economic and public contributions made by APR to confirm its neighborliness being expressed in the region. Never mind that APR stormed into Montana with the consent of no one and arrogantly announced its intent to block up millions of acres of private, state and federal land to create a wild bison reserve the size of Connecticut in the heart of northcentral Montana.
Despite the odious nature of APR’s mission, Walborn implies that APR’s willingness to pay taxes should endear them to the farm and ranch communities and goes on to praise APR’s intent to open its land to the public, allow hunting, advance tourism and graciously lease some of its federal grazing allotments to local ranchers.
It is not surprising that Walborn’s arguments hold no sway with regional landowners who want no part of a wildlife reserve in their backyards and no amount of self-endearment or cajolery by APR spin doctors will convince them otherwise.
There is little reason to share in Walborn’s adoration for APR. For example, APR sub-leases its BLM grazing allotments to local ranchers not out of generosity but because federal allotments are on a use it or lose it basis. APR owns no cattle so they are basically compelled to lease out their unused allotments, or apply for temporary non-use status, in order to retain their grazing privileges.
The caveats that APR prescribes for its grazing leases are simply outrageous. To acquire an APR grazing lease, the applicant is wheedled into expressing public support of various APR programs such as agreeing to participate in wildlife restoration on his/her private property, tolerate apex predators and agree to test methods to reduce cattle/wildlife conflicts, etc. APR essentially high jacks ranchers into supporting their prairie reserve agenda as a condition for grazing opportunities.
Walborn’s claim that APR will open its land for public access is a stretch. The truth is the majority of public lands that APR has operational control of is already open to the public, with a few exceptions of course. On APR’s private holdings, try bike riding on one of their yurt to yurt trails for free or try to enjoy one of APR’s rule laden hunts even on their block management tracts. Expect to pay $300 to bag a bison on APR land if you draw one of their raffle tickets.
Here’s the reality Walborn doesn’t talk about: Should APR succeed in creating a 3.5 million acre wild bison reserve in northcentral Montana, the farm and ranch lands bought up by APR will ultimately be returned to a native setting that existed hundreds of years ago and the existing buildings and infrastructure will be bladed into the ground. The area will become an agricultural waste land and turned into a high end playground for the rich and famous.
Walborn’s commentary on APR’s pleasantries is nothing more than a puff piece likely scripted by APR in an effort to gain public acceptance for one of the biggest privately funded land grabs in Montana history.
Poertner is a retired military member dedicated to promoting landowner interests in the Missouri Breaks region of central Montana.