Photo by @amytoensing
| Long solstice evenings provide plenty of trampoline time in the Werk family’s backyard in Hays, Montana. The Werks, members of the Aaniiih tribe, live and ranch along the edge of an ambitious conservation project in central Montana. The American Prairie Reserve (APR), an independent, nonprofit organization, is working to create the largest nature reserve in the lower 48 by stitching together 3.5 million acres of private and public lands. APR’s goal is to remove all the cattle and replace them with 10,000 free-roaming bison, and allow this temperate grassland, one of the four left on our planet, to thrive and be forever protected. However, most ranching families that have worked this land for the last 125 years see this as a threat to their way of life. Many Native Americans, like the Werk family, whose ancestors lived on this land for tens of thousands of years before being forcibly pushed off, are wary of outsiders taking over but thankful to see the return of the bison. Says Toby Werk: “We know firsthand what it’s like to be taken off the land and destroyed.” In the February issue, the story “Prairie Divide” looks at this complex conservation project and how it’s impacting the land and the people who live there.