2021 Fort Belknap Indian Community and American Prairie Reserve

© Kylie Paul/Defenders of Wildlife

From their lands in northern Montana, the Fort Belknap Indian Community of the Nakoda (Assiniboine) and Aaniiih (Gros Ventre) Nations are leaders in restoring prairie wildlife to the Northern Great Plains for the benefit of the human and non-human communities that rely on this imperiled landscape. They regard local wildlife as family, and have successfully returned populations of plains buffalo, black-footed ferrets, and swift foxes to the Northern Great Plains, which had been decimated by forces ranging from Western colonization and conversion of valuable habitat to agriculture.

American Prairie Reserve is creating a multimillion-acre nature reserve in Montana. It will be the largest of its kind in the contiguous United States–a refuge for people and wildlife preserved forever as part of America's heritage. The organization connects swaths of fragmented public lands through the purchase of private lands. Today, American Prairie Reserve manages ~420,000 acres of prairie habitat that knits together a complex of public lands, including the 1.1-million-acre Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. Combined, the land pieces together more than 1.5 million acres of the 3.2 million-acre prairie ecosystem goal, which will be an area large enough to support the prairie's native species and the ecological processes upon which they depend.

© Dennis Lingohr