An overarching goal of American Prairie Reserve is to restore and conserve an abundance of extraordinarily diverse wildlife to Montana's Northern Great Plains, an area with a wildlife history like nowhere else. American Prairie Reserve and surroundings, like other great parks around the globe, will one day be revered by people around the world for providing an exceptional nature experience. The aim is to restore the ecological conditions that are important for a large ecosystem endowed with the diversity of life the region once hosted. Humans are, of course, part of this system.
People are part of the equation
Cattle ranching is a major land-use among private, tribal, and public landowners in the region. American Prairie Reserve uses a tool called the Freese Scale to evaluate how land management decisions impact ecological conditions both on and off the Reserve. Wild Sky’s wildlife-friendly protocols are based on the Freese Scale. Developed by conservation biologist Dr. Curt Freese along with colleagues Dr. Sam Fuhlendorf of Oklahoma State University and Dr. Kyran Kunkel of University of Montana, the scale is a framework that helps biodiversity-focused land managers evaluate their properties and track progress toward creating a fully functioning, prairie ecosystem.
How does it work?
The Freese Scale measures how close we are to full biodiversity-centered management in comparison to lands managed solely for uses such as agriculture or natural resource extraction. The Freese Scale for ranch properties looks at different ecological processes such as hydrology and vegetation, each of which are given a 1-7 rating. Every year, Reserve staff and a variety of partners including Ranch Advisory Partners work together to score land units according to the scale. We record, retain and track how management decisions impact the land and identify areas or processes that need attention.
We hope the Freese Scale will become a common language between American Prairie Reserve, Wild Sky and our partners as we encourage a wildlife-oriented land management approach. Wild Sky's "Pocket Guide to Wildlife-Friendly Ranching" is available here.
Wildlife-friendly camera trap image