Friday, 9 October 2015

Buffalo return to Montana’s Great Plains - a victory for environmentalists but a blow to ranchers

A battle for hearts and minds in ‘America’s Serengeti’
Friday 2 October 2015 18:47 BST

Halfway to the distant horizon, a herd of several hundred buffalo graze in the long grasses of the Great Plains. High above the rolling terrain, a big hawk wheels and swoops. Four elk bucks – a stag party, if you will – bounce away through the soft, swaying yellow sage. This swathe of protected prairie in northern Montana more closely resembles the national parks of Africa than it does nearby Yellowstone. Little wonder, then, that it has been nicknamed “America’s Serengeti”.

When explorers Meriweather Lewis and William Clark first passed this spot in 1805, they wrote in their journals of hillsides “black with buffalo”. But over the subsequent 75 years, Montana’s buffalo – also known as the American Bison – were hunted out of existence. In 2005, the non-profit conservation group American Prairie Reserve (APR) reintroduced 16 of the stately beasts to the landscape. A decade later, the herd has grown to 600. By the time its reserve is complete, APR expects to see 10,000 bison roaming a wildlife area approximately the size of Connecticut.

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