History & Values

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

Why Create American Prairie?

American Prairie represents a unique effort to assemble a multi-million-acre nature reserve that conserves the species-rich grasslands of Montana’s legendary Great Plains for the enjoyment of future generations. When complete, American Prairie will span more than three million acres of private and public land, showcasing the iconic landscape that once dominated central North America and helped shape our national character.

An Unprecedented Opportunity

Grasslands are losing. Temperate grasslands are the least protected biome on Earth, with only four places left in the world – including the prairies of Montana – that are viable options for landscape-scale conservation.

A new approach is necessary. Unlike early park-building efforts that relied on the federal government, American Prairie uses a public-private partnership model that stitches together fragmented public lands through the purchase of private lands all thanks to donors from all walks of life.

A Boundless Nature Experience

Wildlife needs more room. Biologists determined that a prairie would need to be about 5,000 square miles, roughly 3.2 million acres, in size in order to be a fully functioning ecosystem, complete with migration corridors and all native wildlife.

We need to stretch our legs and minds. Actively spending time in nature is good for our bodies, brains, and emotional well being, and the public should be able to enjoy the land with ease and without fences or “No Trespassing” signs.

An Enduring Legacy

Biodiversity builds resiliency. Research has shown that areas with high amounts of native biodiversity, including plants, insects, and animals, are more likely to endure the harsh conditions of climate change.

Our natural heritage shapes who we are. By preserving this iconic landscape, future generations will have lasting access to the wildlife and wonder that helped shape the indomitable American Spirit.

Our Values

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 prairie, 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.

Openness with Respect

This means exercising the courage and skills to be open with each other, but in such a way as to demonstrate respect for the other’s implicit desire to add value. It means actively engaging in truthful dialogues that improve organizational effectiveness without shying away from conflict or difficult conversations. We foster a culture in which people feel acknowledged and respected for raising concerns, yet take responsibility to present solutions.

Innovation and Optimism

This means we exhibit a strong belief that we can get this project done and are willing to use whatever works provided it is in keeping with our mission, values, and visionary goals. We are not wedded to traditional approaches but strive to learn from other industries, taking the best ideas and effectively applying them to our efforts.

Continuous Improvement

Our goal is to always be looking for ways to make things smoother, faster, easier, more effective and of higher quality. We believe every process American Prairie uses has endless room for improvement. We are convinced that everyone in the organization has valuable ideas for ways to improve our processes.


This means that we are strongly oriented to getting the things done that we say we are going to do. We are deliberate in our commitments and choose our goals carefully with an eye towards accomplishment. We reward performance of individuals who succeed in linking their efforts to the realization of the organization’s goals.

Sustainable Pace

This means that we focus on productivity instead of accumulated hours. We are committed to taking care of each other and value each other’s and our own non-work life.


This means that when appropriate and when it will lead to smoother, faster and better execution, we act collaboratively to accomplish results. We take initiative to understand and support the roles of others within and beyond our own functional teams. We proactively contribute, and act, on ideas to improve cross team collaboration and enthusiastically support the efforts of others to do the same. We work to understand the goals of others, and effectively communicate our own, and make consistent efforts to help each other achieve them. We take the initiative to highlight situations where cross team collaboration is not working, for whatever reason, and bring it to the attention of the right people in the organization, and contribute to finding good solutions.

Our History

Since the 19th century, a variety of efforts have been undertaken to ensure that America’s Great Plains remains intact for future generations.

In 1999, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) published Ecoregional Planning in the Northern Great Plains Steppe, which, for the first time, pinpointed specific, critical areas of the Northern Great Plains that were the most viable for conserving the existing diversity of plants and animals. The region just north of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Montana was identified as a top priority for grassland conservation, owing to the relatively pristine condition of the land and the diversity of wildlife species in the area.

Shortly after TNC published its findings, World Wildlife Fund decided to initiate a conservation effort in the Montana Glaciated Plains, one of the key areas identified by TNC. They determined that an independent entity, capable of focusing all of its time and resources on the preservation of Montana’s Northern Great Plains, would be the best vehicle through which to initiate a large-scale conservation effort. In June 2001, The Prairie Foundation was officially formed as an independent non-profit organization, later named American Prairie Foundation, then American Prairie Reserve, and now known as American Prairie. World Wildlife Fund’s Northern Great Plains Program was an active and valued science contributor to American Prairie during its first decade. Specifically, WWF provided on-the-ground scientific support conducting inventories (plants, streams, birds and wildlife) and wildlife migration studies, monitoring and protecting prairie dogs, reintroducing bison, restoring streams and riparian areas.

Today, American Prairie is a freestanding Montana-based nonprofit that started to assemble land in 2004. Our main focus is to purchase and permanently hold title to private lands that glue together a vast mosaic of existing public lands so that the region is managed thoughtfully and collaboratively with state and federal agencies for wildlife conservation and public access.

The idea of preserving a unique area of the prairie to be enjoyed forever has been worked on diligently, and in a variety of ways, for well over one hundred years. At American Prairie, we view our work as continuing the legacy of a long line of talented people and committed organizations as well as honoring a landscape that has helped shaped the vitality and character of our country.