If we have to rethink national parks to get more of them, should we? Some say yes.
If you thought the American National Park system was working just fine, thank you very much, think again.
And if you automatically want to curl your lip at the mention of Big Money, well, think again ... again.
Why? Because people with deep pockets are reassessing America’s lost wilderness areas and making some unusual plans to bring them back. In the coming centuries, global stewardship might require we think a little differently about The Wild With A Capital W, and the American Prairie Reserve is throwing that idea in sharp relief.
What Is the American Prairie Reserve?
The American Prairie Reserve is a wildlife sanctuary funded by private money.
In an effort to return cattle country to its ancient roots as waving prairie, a private organization is busily buying up ranches and transforming them into unfenced acreage on which buffalo roam.
The goal is 3.2 million acres in northeastern Montana, with the organization combining adjacent public lands with the ranches it manages to acquire.
Already, according to NPR, “these parcels complete a network of land larger than Yellowstone National Park, the second-largest national park in the Lower 48 states.”
Conservationist Sean Gerrity, captain of the American Prairie Reserve vessel, dreams of one day aggregating the largest wild area in the United States, giving a home to more than just bison. If Gerrity gets his way, then elk, deer, wolves, birds, bears and more will have a new home on the range.
The land would also be open to the public for fishing, hunting, hiking and outdoor recreation.
Not everyone is into the idea, however.
Who’s Not Buying It?
It is perhaps no surprise that those most vociferously against this wilderness reimagining are the same people who have stewarded the land as ranchers for generations.
What might come as more of a surprise, however, is how well they’ve done so. We might rail against cattle ranching, erosion, methane production and so forth. But there’s a strong argument that the ranchers who’ve controlled this land for hundreds of years have done fairly well by it.
There are examples of land that’s been overgrazed or plowed into oblivion, but for the most part, that’s not the case. Cattle ranchers have preserved these stretches of prairie quite decently overall.
Yet there’s potentially an even stronger argument that this is ... well, too bad. These aren’t our words, of course, but the limitations of the environment place extra pressure on ideas such as this one. As one of the last remaining areas in the United States that can even accommodate a project of this size (and one of the last in the world), Montana is a must, in Gerrity’s mind – and in the minds of many of his supporters.
Ecogardens, for one, will be watching to see how this plays out. It could be we have a model for future stewardship here, and we can use as many of those as we can get.
If you’d like to learn more about stewardship and your potential role in the Earth’s salvation, we would love to speak with you today, so feel free to get in touch!