Phillips County News - One Nation, Under God

By Parker Heinlein
Outdoors columnist 

Don't blame the APR


November 14, 2018

In my travels around the county this fall it’s been hard to miss the new signs: “Save the cowboy, stop American Prairie Reserve.”

Apparently there’s some concern that the non-profit group hoping to create an American Serengeti in north central Montana is threatening a revered, low-paying lifestyle.

The new signs were put up by United Property Owners of Montana, a group that says it supports private property rights, yet disapproves of what APR does on its own property.

It’s an issue of bison vs. cows. APR want to create a free-roaming bison herd in southern Phillips and Valley counties. Folks up here like cows. They view bison as a threat.

They are also suspicious of outsiders, especially wealthy folk from somewhere else who talk about saving the very land that local ranchers have worked for generations.

“Save from what?” they ask, “Us?”

So instead of looking for common ground, most folks up here simply want the APR stopped, whatever that would mean.

It’s a typical attitude these days. You’re with us or you’re the spawn of the devil. No one crosses the aisle. No one makes compromises.

The APR, with its main offices in Bozeman, has little local presence in Malta, and who could blame them? In a bit of misguided this-will-show-themship, some locals even refuse to do business with the APR, forcing the well-funded group to spend its money elsewhere.

In an interview with the Phillips County News, even the local state representative said he hoped to stop the APR.

Again, whatever that means.

They’re not doing anything illegal. They simply have a different vision for the land than do the few folks who still live out there, and there aren’t many.

Ranching is an exclusive occupation, almost impossible to break into unless you were born, or married into it. Running a ranch also takes fewer hired hands than it did in the past, consequently there are fewer cowboys

Don’t blame the APR.

I doubt they’ll be going anywhere soon, so talk of stopping them is foolish. Talk of working with them would be refreshing, but too many folks up here still have their backs up.

Maybe some day.

In the meantime it’s the same old story. Newcomers move in and don’t do things the way we’ve always done them. Worse yet, they don’t need our help.

We don’t like that.

We’ll stop them.

We’re cowboys.

Parker Heinlein is at


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