- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 16, 2017

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A sprawling central Montana nature reserve has purchased a 46,000-acre (186-square kilometer) ranch bordering a federal refuge as it advances toward its goal of establishing a Connecticut-sized park where bison and other wildlife can roam freely.

The American Prairie Reserve announced Wednesday it had purchased the Two Crow Ranch about an hour north of Lewistown for an undisclosed sum.

The deal brings the amount of land under the group’s control to more than 399,000 acres (1,615 square kilometers). That includes private and leased land to the north and south of the Missouri River.

Cattle grazing will continue at the Two Crow Ranch for at least the 18 months, Reserve President Sean Garrity said. There will be public access for camping, biking, horseback riding and other recreational activities, he said.

The Two Crow Ranch borders the 1.1 million acre Charles M. Russel National Wildlife Refuge, which includes Fort Peck Reservoir.

Since 2001, the Bozeman-based American Prairie Reserve has raised more than $100 million to pursue its goal of stitching together millions of acres of contiguous public and private land to create a vast wildlife preserve.

Some surrounding landowners have raised objections that the reserve is taking land out of food production and altering the rural, agriculture-based economies of surrounding areas of central Montana.

The reserve has roughly 1,000 bison and has said it plans to increase that herd to more than 10,000 animals by late next decade. However, Garrity said it would be “a few years at least” before bison are brought to the Two Crow land.

The reserve plans to offer maps in coming months depicting how the public can access the Two Crow Ranch, Garrity said.


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