American Prairie is pleased to announce the acquisition of three new properties that are rich in wildlife and waterfowl, and provide important habitat connectivity to its existing Wild Horse and White Rock units.
The recently acquired properties total 2,003 deeded acres, and grows American Prairie’s shared fence line with Fort Belknap Indian Community by more than two miles. The acquisitions also provide the conservation organization with more land along Highway 191 in Phillips County. These properties are located in an area of critical importance for prairie dog populations, as well as a priority area for conservation of several grassland bird species, mountain plover, sage grouse and prairie ungulates such as mule deer and pronghorn.
“Not only are these properties critical as sections of land that connect vital habitat, they also support the Big Warm Creek system – an important stream and riparian area,” said Alison Fox, CEO of American Prairie.
The 2,003 acres contain a diverse landscape of wetlands, grasslands, and gumbo soils. It is not uncommon to see large populations of mule and white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope, upland game birds, waterfowl, and prairie dogs.
One of the parcels was generously gifted to American Prairie and had been owned by the same Minnesota family for close to 100 years. Ed “Andy” Kaufman’s grandparents, Andrew J. and Clifford Kate Kaufman, purchased the property after World War II, and under the family’s stewardship it has remained untouched by development.
“My grandfather grew up on a small farm in southern Minnesota and worked in a grain elevator,” said Kaufman. “He was entrepreneurial and ambitious, and eventually got into farm real estate, which is how he acquired this property in Phillips County, Montana around 1945.” Kaufman said working with American Prairie has been a very positive experience.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision at all to donate this property. We wanted to share our good fortune in some small way, and knowing that the land will be preserved in its natural state for the future was very appealing to my sisters and me,” Kaufman said.
The portion of land donated by Kaufman’s family is unique in the numerous prairie potholes it has which provide critical habitat for shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl, and amphibians. The property is bordered on three sides by American Prairie’s Wild Horse unit and Fort Belknap on the remaining side. Its inclusion will increase the size of Wild Horse and the conservation organization’s shared fence line with Aaniiih and Nakoda tribal lands.
“We look forward to continue partnering with our Aaniiih Nakoda neighbors, many of whom share the vision of a full-functioning prairie ecosystem,” said Fox.
For decades, American Prairie has been honored to build relationships and establish mutually beneficial collaborations with the community at Fort Belknap. Shared work has included wildlife and bison restoration, tourism and economic development partnerships, and the sharing and preserving of cultural heritage. More information on American Prairie’s relationships with Montana’s Indigenous communities can be found at https://americanprairie.org/project/indigenous-communities/.
These three latest acquisitions bring American Prairie’s total deeded and leased property to more than 462,000 acres.
American Prairie intends to share public access details in the months ahead to spell out recreational uses on these new deeded acres. As it has done in the past, the organization needs to first take time to familiarize itself with the properties.