AMERICAN PRAIRIE

aka American Prairie   |   Bozeman, MT   |  www.americanprairie.org

Mission

Our mission is to create the largest nature reserve in the contiguous United States, a refuge for people and wildlife preserved forever as part of America’s heritage.

Ruling year info

2001

President

Ms. Alison Fox

Main address

PO Box 908

Bozeman, MT 59771 USA

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EIN

81-0541893

NTEE code info

Wildlife Preservation/Protection (D30)

Natural Resource Conservation and Protection (C30)

Wildlife Sanctuary/Refuge (D34)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Land Acquisition & Management

Our mission is to create the largest nature reserve in the contiguous United States, a refuge for people and wildlife preserved forever as a part of America’s heritage. Biologists have determined that a prairie would need to be around 5,000 square miles (roughly 3.2 million acres) in order to be a fully functioning ecosystem complete with migration corridors and all native wildlife. By building on existing protected lands, American Prairie can buy a relatively small amount of land and still achieve landscape-scale results. Multi-jurisdictional management of the eventual wildlife complex will be conducted by the various entities with land ownership and wildlife management authority. Using the American Prairie model, a patchwork of ownership transforms into a seamless prairie ecosystem. When these fragmented public and private lands are connected, the prairie will provide a continuous land area collaboratively managed for wildlife and recreation, the largest of its kind in the lower 48.

Population(s) Served

The American Prairie bison herd was established in 2005 with the reintroduction of 16 animals. In grassland ecosystems, large grazing animals such as bison and elk modify the physical environment through grazing, trampling, and fertilizing, creating habitat upon which birds, plants, and insects are highly dependent. Bison wallows become temporary mini-wetlands and the species’ impact on the ecosystem extends well beyond their life as their carcasses become an important food source for carnivores. Since then, the herd has grown to approximately 813 animals, and American Prairie has donated over 400 animals to conservation and tribal herds. The bison herd is one of the greatest opportunities for collaboration. American Prairie employs a Bison Restoration Manager whose primary responsibility is to coordinate management of the herd, and to establish the long-term strategic planning for herd management. Smithsonian is the primary bison research partner and focuses on impacts on land.

Population(s) Served

American Prairie aims to provide people with a rewarding experience by offering rich scientific, educational, cultural, and recreational opportunities. Whether it is to educate on the urgency of protecting imperiled grassland ecosystems through an exhibit, or to provide an inspiring firsthand “boots-on-the-ground” prairie experience, our effort to create memorable visitor experiences rests on the belief that people care most about places they know best. We believe that everyone should be able to enjoy the natural wonder of American Prairie through activities such as hiking, bird watching, horseback riding, camping, bicycling and hunting. As we grow and evolve the visitor experience, we are continually borrowing from what we view as the most effective and innovative examples from around the world. By establishing the prairie as a destination, we aim for visits to become as much of a tradition as trips to mountains, deserts, seashores and forests.

Population(s) Served
Adults

We believe that connecting people with the landscape in meaningful ways is central to our goal of instilling a deeper appreciation of the prairie and its wildlife in the general public. In line with our mission of providing quality visitor access, we seek to offer the Prairie as a living resource for educators, students and researchers. We routinely host educational programs for local students and visiting college groups and have partnered with graduate students to provide research internships. The American Prairie Field school in partnership with the Montana Outdoor Science School (MOSS), offers 6th through 8th grade students the opportunity to spend three days and two nights learning in the field under Montana’s big prairie skies. Classes study a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) curriculum with visits from Smithsonian Institute and American Prairie research scientists. Subjects will include astronomy, plant biology, wildlife ecology, geology and more.

Population(s) Served

American Prairie’s vision is to fully restore the shortgrass prairie ecosystem in an identified region of Montana’s plains, which covers the central and northern part of the state. Successful restoration means the wildlife species that are native to this region are present and fulfilling their natural ecological role. The guiding principle for restoration is that there is an essential value to restoring and conserving biodiversity at all levels (genetic, species, and ecological), including connecting ecosystems and maintaining natural disturbance. The model for the prairie requires collaboration across communities, agencies, and property lines. Biodiversity restoration is no different. Regardless of American Prairie’s role as a driver, collaborator, or supporter, there are several actions are needed across the region over the long term in order to achieve ecosystem-scale restoration, including reducing habitat fragmentation and restoring grazing by native species, as just two examples

Population(s) Served

We work to make a positive contribution to the communities around us by purchasing and hiring locally, building relationships with local groups and leaders, providing educational opportunities, honoring the region’s heritage, and finding ways to contribute to the economic bottom line of ranching neighbors that match our goals. American Prairie has contributed nearly $39 million to the area economy. In the fall of 2021, American Prairie opened the National Discovery Center in Lewistown, Montana. The Center is a rendezvous point for visitors going to the prairie, a place for community building, and an important educational resource. American Prairie’s Wild Sky program is a collaboration between American Prairie and ranchers that are living and operating in key wildlife corridors and within neighboring communities in central Montana. Participating ranchers can commit to wildlife-friendly ranching practices that have been identified as beneficial to conservation, and receive compensation.

Population(s) Served
Adults

We are committed to preserving the elements of national heritage that have colored the area and shaped the story of Montana’s grasslands. American Prairie’s human history endeavors seek to reveal stories of settlement and habitation while honoring the spirit of those who made the northern Great Plains their home, from the Indigenous Peoples who lived on the land for centuries to the pioneers who followed in the footsteps of explorers like Lewis and Clark. Developing strong relationships within Montana’s Indigenous communities is important to us as we work to preserve and honor the land, to rebuild a seamless landscape for people and wildlife, and to tell the intricate story and history of the region. By respecting and learning about and from these communities, we strive to gain a deeper understanding of tribal heritage. In addition to being good over-the-fence neighbors, we seek to develop mutually beneficial collaborations with Montana’s Indigenous communities, working with and along.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

American Prairie Reserve’s bold vision is the creation of a grassland reserve on Montana’s Northern Great Plains that will span more than 3.5 million acres of public and private land when complete (an area roughly the size of Connecticut). By purchasing approximately 500,000 acres of private land, APR will link together more than 3 million acres of adjoining public land to create a seamless landscape capable of supporting a fully-functioning grassland ecosystem. Campers, birdwatchers, photographers, students, and others find a warm welcome on the Reserve, ensuring our children and those who come after have the opportunity to experience a stunning part of our state’s natural heritage.

With less than three percent of temperate grasslands under any form of protection, the region of Montana we work in has been identified as a conservation priority by organizations including The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The IUCN considers the Northern Great Plains one of only four remaining places in the world where large-scale grassland conservation is still possible (the others are the Kazakh, Mongolian, and Patagonian steppes). American Prairie Reserve is working to ensure at least one of these vanishing landscapes is set aside for future generations before the window of opportunity closes forever.

APR intends to acquire and manage approximately 500,000 private acres, which will serve to glue together roughly three million acres of existing public land. Multi-jurisdictional management of the eventual wildlife complex will be conducted by the various entities with land ownership and wildlife management authority including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Montana Department of State Lands, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and American Prairie Reserve. Conservation biologists have determined that a mixed-grass prairie would need to be approximately 5,000 square miles (roughly 3.2 million acres) in size in order to be a fully functioning ecosystem that supports the full complement of native prairie biodiversity and provides room to endure episodic localized natural phenomena like fire, disease and winter ice events. The Reserve currently spans more than 305,000 acres of deeded private land and leased public land.

As a free-standing non-profit, American Prairie Reserve receives the vast majority of its funding from private contributors. About ten percent of our funding comes from private foundations interested in land conservation; about 90% comes from individuals.

Founded in 2001, American Prairie Reserve has a proven track record of success. Our progress to date includes:

• Fundraising: $75 million raised since inception. To date, we have received
contributions from 50 states and 12 countries.
• Land Acquisition: APR owns or leases nearly 300,000 acres of public and
private land. (see map)
• Science and Wildlife: APR is engaged in a range of field studies, projects and management discussions with its science collaborators, including Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and the Bureau of Land Management. Projects include bison reintroduction, noxious weed control, controlled fire regimes, cougar and pronghorn range monitoring, prairie dog restoration, grassland bird surveys, and citizen science wildlife data collection.
• Public Access: The Reserve is open for a variety of uses including hiking, biking, hunting, wildlife viewing and horseback riding. There is a campground and a visitor’s map with suggested sites of interest. APR is in the early stages of installing trails and signage to improve the visitor experience.

APR’s capable staff draws on the best practices of for-profit businesses to manage its nonprofit enterprise. Our staff represent a variety of professional backgrounds and skills. We also have a National Council and Scientific Advisory Council comprised of experts in a variety of fields who provide advice to our project.

Our Board meets five times a year, with two in-person meetings and three phone meetings per year, and provides financial oversight. We have six standing committees (executive committee, audit committee, board building committee, community involvement fund committee, safety committee and compensation committee). Board members must vote to approve our yearly budgets and major spending initiatives.

As a Board and staff, we run our business each and every day following the principles outlined in our six values. In our interactions with one another and with those outside our organization, including our donors, our partners and the community around the Reserve, we do our best to act in accordance with these values. We share them with you here because we believe they are a window into our organization and our culture.

Our values are:
Openness with Respect
Innovation and Optimism
Continuous Improvement
Execution
Sustainable Pace
Teamwork

American Prairie Reserve’s goals are ambitious. To date, we’ve assembled 305,000 acres of public and private land, with the long-term goal of eventually assembling 3.5 million acres. Public access opportunities abound and as the Reserve grows over time, we will continue to add campgrounds, hiking trails, etc. Our bison herd numbers about 450 animals, and our long-term vision is that it will eventually number in the tens of thousands.

Full details of our progress may be found on our website at: http://www.americanprairie.org/projectprogress/.

Financials

AMERICAN PRAIRIE
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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AMERICAN PRAIRIE

Board of directors
as of 04/18/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Mr. George Matelich

Kelso & Co.


Board co-chair

Mr. Gib Myers

Mayfield Fund

Sean Gerrity

American Prairie- Founder

Clyde Aspevig

Juniper Ridge Studios

Susan Matelich

Private Investor, Active Volunteer

Susan Myers

Philanthropist

Keith Anderson

Anderson Global Macro

Tim Kelly

ED of Earth HQ at Global Commons Alliance

Jacqueline Mars

Retired Vice President, Mars, Inc.

Nancy Mueller

Retired Founder/President, Nancy's Specialty Foods

Alan Airth

Alison Fox

CEO, American Prairie

Bill Hilf

CEO, Vulcan

Bob Greenlee

CEO, Tusk Holdings

David Coulter

Special Limited Partner, Warburg Pincus

Jay Abbe

Retired President/COO, JDS Uniphase

Jeffrey Talpins

Founder, CEO, and Chief Investment Officer of Element Capital Management

Jill Bough

Photographer

Karen Petersen Mehra

Active Volunteer

Liliane Haub

Philanthropist

Mara Talpins

Active Volunteer

Shirley Jackson, Ph. D.

President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Steven Cousins

President and CEO of Cousins Allied Strategic Advisors, LLC

Wesley Matelich

CEO, Rx Green Technologies

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 4/18/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

No data

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

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Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data