The American Prairie Reserve (APR) is presently engaged in a major publicity effort to advance its acceptance in the Lewistown area by supporting a conference to teach area landowners how to live with wildlife.
The logic behind APR’s training session makes as much sense as teaching fish how to swim; nonetheless, ranchers enjoyed a good laugh about the prospect of being taught something they already know very well - living with wildlife- but the backdrop to this sideshow is the real story that needs to be told.
First, the Living with Wildlife conference was scheduled to coincide with the Lewistown Winter Fair thereby enabling APR to piggy-back on the fair in an effort to gain legitimacy within the agricultural community. Although National Geographic is the purported sponsor for the conference, that organization has a symbiotic relationship with APR and uses television, freelance reporters and photographers to promote APR’s agenda.
Case in point: An article announcing the wildlife conference featured a photo of a local teenage girl on horseback that was provided by a freelance photographer who is a National Geographic Young Explorer.
The father of the pictured teenager leases cattle grazing rights on a large property in Fergus County that is owned by APR. While the particulars of that lease are not known, APR generally requires its leasees to publically support APR’s goals and programs and be willing participants in APR’s WILD SKY beef program.
It should come as no surprise that APR, in my opinion, appears to have leveraged the leasee’s family into publically stating “We are especially thankful for WILD SKY beef sponsoring our girls in their rodeo activities and for the opportunity to lease grass from APR.” Only an outfit like APR would sponsor rodeo activities on the one hand while attempting to eliminate ranching on 3.5 million acres in Montana on the other.
Other grazing leasees with contract oaths are expected to be at the conference to venerate APR as well.
National Geographic and APR should be ashamed for high-jacking local events and coercing grazing leasees and their children into becoming publicity recruits and voices for organizations that are planning to put free-roaming bison and the associated top predators including wolves, mountain lions and bears in our backyard.
Ron Poertner is a retired military member and an advocate for landowner interests in the Missouri Breaks.