Creating a Private Yellowstone: Environmental Entrepreneurship in Action

A model for how to voluntarily rewild North America.



In my article, "Where the Private Buffalo Roam and the Private Antelope Play," I reported earlier this year on the efforts of the American Prairie Reserve to to create a private-public wildlife domain the size of Connecticut in eastern Montana. The idea is to basically recreate the wild landscape that Lewis and Clark would have seen including herds of bison and antelope. Eventually the reserve would also be home to free-roaming grizzly bears, mountain lions, and wolves. Of course, neighbors have to agree to tolerate living with willdlife.

In today's New York Times, Pete Geddes, the managing director of the reserve, explains in an op-ed, "The Yellowstone of the Future," how enviropreneurs are offering incentives to private ranchers to manage their land in wildlife friendly ways:

Increasing wildlife populations is a sociological problem. Ranchers are asked to bear some of the costs without seeing benefits and hence view wildlife as a threat to their economic security. To change this dynamic, we've started a for-profit beef company selling a brand called Wild Sky, a business that fits well with the state's ranching culture — and culture is an important variable often overlooked by conservationists.


Here's how it works. Wild Sky ranchers agree to modify their operations in accordance with our conservation goals by, for example, not tilling native prairie or killing prairie dogs. In return Wild Sky pays them a premium when they sell their cattle. Much like a frequent-flier program, ranchers choosing to do more receive higher payments. For example, we install camera traps on ranchers' land and offer payment for photos of species we wish to restore, like mountain lions and bears.

This business is only a year old and yet has been profitable since August, selling about 50,000 pounds of beef per month across the country. And Wild Sky is not our only for-profit venture. For several years the High West Distillery, headquartered in Park City, Utah, has produced American Prairie Bourbon, giving 10 percent of the profits on this label to our nonprofit. The hybrid conservation model allows this sort of experimentation to augment traditional fund-raising. …

Around the world, "environmental entrepreneurs," as we call ourselves, are creating alternatives to the traditional models of nature protection — filling a void left by governments either unwilling or unable to act. Our role is a vital, but often underappreciated, piece of the conservation puzzle, and it can be used as a model to protect the world's natural legacy.

With the advent of peak farmland, more and more land will be available for returning to nature. The American Prairie Reserve is offering a possible model for how to get folks to agree to rewilding much of North America.

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  1. Polluting the nobility of conservation with dirty profit. No matter how good it tastes, that beef is tainted!

    1. It’s not a market failure when the market fails to give you what you want, that’s the market saying “No”. Money is a hell of an incentive to find a way to make the market say “Yes”. But with some people it’s not enough that you can pay people to give you what you want, you must force them to want to give you what you want, no matter how much it costs to force them. Suggesting that what they really want is to use force on other people.

    2. Even before there is “dirty profit” there is captive cattle instead of bucolic buffalo.

    3. Not to mention it is all GMO beef because of breeding practices.

  2. High West makes damn good bourbon/rye.

    1. It’s not bourbon if it’s made in Utah.

      1. It is. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States.

        1. Indeed. Unlike the frogs, we don’t require that booze be made in a specific region in order to have the name.

          Having said that, the vast majority of “artisanal” booze is distilled in the big bourbon factories, and finished somewhere else.

          1. That’s not bourbon, it’s sparkling whiskey!

            1. I laughed.

              Thanks…after all these nut punches today, I needed a laugh.

          2. Unlike the frogs, we don’t require that booze be made in a specific region in order to have the name.

            Well, maybe not THAT booze but for sure Tennessee Whiskey. By state law and NAFTA.

          3. Tell that to Kentucky.

            Kentucky has a list of specifics that must be met before you can legally label your product Kentucky Bourbon.

            It is pretty special actually.

            1. That list of specifics is the same as bourbon made anywhere else. You just can’t slap “Kentucky” on your bottle unless it’s distilled in Kentucky.

    2. Much of what they do, including the label referenced in the article, is sourced from other distilleries, but High West does some creative blending of their sourced barrels. And yes, it’s quite good.

  3. And what happens when the wolves bears and bison ‘wander’ onto the land of others? Who will pay for the damage and will the other landowners be able to kill these beast if they are doing damage or are a threat to people? These animals ,I believe,may be considered ‘endangered’.by law.

    1. Just imagine the worst possible outcome of that situation and then stretch your imagination to make it even worse. That’s how the government will handle it.

    2. And what happens today when they wander in from protected federal lands? Nothing… This argument goes nowhere because the presence of wildlife isn’t actionable in the same way that you can’t be held liable for not exterminating mosquitoes.

      1. You know what we call deer and turkey that wander though our back yard? Dinner. Here in Ohio rattle snakes are protected .If you find one on your land you kill it,bury it and tell no one,I mean,let it be .

        1. Sounds good to me – at that point your beef (ha) is with the ESA, not these guys

      2. A similar article was posted here a year or so ago.

        It actually offered remedies for participating ranchers for that sort of eventuality that were wuite reasonale IIRC.

        They would have to to get real working ranchers to sign up. Maybe not the Ted Turner and Jane Fonda kind but the actual working, for profit ranches.

        1. Since the re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone NP there has been private groups that pay ranchers for their losses to wolves. Despite the high level of distrust the system has been working well enough for neither side to abandon it.

          Wolves are easy. Their predation is obvious.

          The trouble is with bison and it is because of the governments regulations concerning burcellosis and the endangered species act. I have much more belief that private owners can work something out rather than the Feds and states.

    3. By default, the animal is responsible. If some human being wants to do it, he can take over responsibility for an animal, but then he’s got to suffer the punishment instead, or else keep the animal in hand. The stupidity is when folks insist on an unbearable middle ground wherin no one is responsible for the animal’s lawlessness AND victims are forbid from taking action against the beast to keep it from doing injury to itself and others.

  4. I love this romanticism of this one small snapshot of nature that we hold up as “the way it was meant to be” that we are determined to spend so much money to recreate.

    Also, how over-inflated are beef prices when a company can pay ranchers to be less operationally efficient and still turn a profit?

    1. People are increasingly too stupid to live.

      1. I for one am willing to donate to a mission of sending all of the greenie luddites off to Antarctica to live ‘the way it was meant to be’ so that they can’t damage the planet anymore. They all should just volunteer to go, right?

    2. Pretty sure they’re selling it under their own brand, which lets them sell at a premium to people who like the idea of he reserve – ultimate market based activism and it’s awesome. Don’t like the idea? Don’t buy the beef. No state action means I’d be willing to buy in if only to support this model of environmental activism over coercive government action

      1. Sure, I just read this pitch and it says to me, “Pay us more so we can be less good at what we do!”

        Also, I think this whole thing is just a free-market version of the average state-run enviro-debacle. A lot of good feelz for not a lot of actual good.

        1. That’s fine that you think that way – at least in this case you’re not forced to buy into it like you would if it were a state actor trying to accomplish the same supposedly misguided goals

          1. Sure, they have found themselves a niche and have found their market, more power to them. I mean, who doesn’t love attaching buzzwords to their products?

        2. Good is measured in different ways in the free market. Including feelz.

        3. They are selling the positional good of telling your friends how sustainable your meat is. Good work if you can get it but not exactly adding to national wealth.

          1. Sure, but Hipsters need to be served in the market as well.

          2. Try sustaining a beef ranch when the land’s overrun with wolfs, bears, and prairie dogs.

            1. that’s their business if they want to try – might be naive of them but I won’t assume that I know better than them so as to prevent them from doing this under color of law. We can hold this up as a good example of how state action in terms of reserves is unnecessary – The alternative of Federal ownership has the same problems and we’re all forced to pay for it, unlike this overpriced beef

      2. Sounds like they may be gearing up to do some tourism on the private lands too, what with the emphasis on making it look ‘like it did when Lewis and Clark passed through.’

  5. I have no idea if this is true. If it is even half true, it is the teaching moment of the century.


    Every member of the reason staff should have to host a Syrian refugee family as a condition of employment.

  6. I, for one, don’t see much advantage in restoring a desolate plain to a more desolate plain. Exactly where is the benefit here?

    1. Gaia will bless us with a bountiful harvest!

      1. I’ll take 2 of those beefaloes you got there.

        1. Delicious choice sir. And, if you lure them to your campfire at night, you can shave them while they sleep to make a winter hat.

  7. In return Wild Sky pays them a premium when they sell their cattle.

    And Wild Sky turns a profit how, exactly?

    Not following. How does WS pay above current market value? Or do they expect customers to value beef more (IOW pay more) if it’s raised on an “environmentally friendly” ranch than they do for what they are buying now?

    1. They are probably planning to charge a premium. Who knows? If the cows are raised differently, they could well taste different. I think grass-raised beef tastes different than lot-finished beef, and I’ll pay more for the former.

      1. So, RC, and I understand there is some personal preference here, but if grass fed beef is a better value (tastes better) why would the industry pay extra to have beef finished with corn?

        Grass fed is a fad.

        1. Corn fed deer sure taste better than deer feasting on pine needles. That’s just my opinion.

          1. That is a fact,and I like my beef fattened up some. Ducks and geese that eat corn are much better too.I don’t shoot or eat diving ducks that eat fish.Tried one,didn’t like it.

        2. Because corn is cheaper. And because grass-fed tastes gamier, which many people do like, but it’s more of an acquired taste than corn-fed.

          1. Corn is not cheaper. If it was, they’d feed corn all the time.

        3. It is a mystery, since the lotfatted cattles involve many additional costs other than just the corn. There is one major difference, being that a much larger quantity of beef can be produced in less time using the modern method. Maybe at some point the augment in volume overcomes the costs.

          And, I don’t know why it should be neither, but the best beef is from cattle that was ranged on good pasturelands and very briefly plyed with corn just before killing (much less extensively than the typical commercial method). Especially curious since with deer it’s about the opposite. The best venison is from animals that’s got fat as fuck gorging on grain for weeks and which preferably have never had to go and make it in the mountains. Then there’s sheep, the best sheep is an old mutton that’s been living off sagebrush for years (Which used to be, if you lived in the right areas, also the cheapest).

    2. Yes… It’s right there on their webpage – and its working

      1. Well, if they can get it, by all means, go for it.

        I think it’s a horrible business model. I wouldn’t pay a premium for it as the meat will be no different than I can buy for cheaper. And we have plenty of wild open spaces already. There is no net value.

    3. If WS is making a profit (which the article states), then they’re obviously doing some accounting magic since that’s the only way companies charging premiums for products make it.

      1. *cough* whole foods *cough*

  8. All of this romanticizing about returning to nature and all is retarded. People died of disease, exposure, and being eaten by wild beasts typically before they reached their 30th birthday back then. There’s nothing romantic about that. Real life is not like a Hollywood film, you dummies.

    1. H: Creating more open space for wildlife to flourish is a result of modernization. Nature is returning, not people.

      1. Grrrr. Nature is returning to nature, not people.

        1. That post was pretty much not related to the article, Ron. I was off on a bit of a tangent there. But still, you see this move towards people living on top of each other in 300 sq ft apartments with soaring real estate prices. Most of the USA is already just empty space. I’m not sure how much more open space I want.

          1. Hopefully at least 3 million more acres…

            Although, can we at least give a slow-clap to capitalism for leaving us so out of substantial problems that we can burn calories on nonsense like this?

            1. First world problems, gotta love em.

    2. A cousin’s friend is one of those who lies to think he was born a century too late. He could carry his guns then don’t you know ? He likes to carry his guns on his hip at outdooor parties we go to. When someone tells him that everybody else had their guns as well his eyes fog over.

      I hae known some people like that as well. Once I was on a river trip with one when the outboard quit. After paddling for 3 minutes he was bitching about Johnson outboards being shit. Which is wrong but none the less.

      I listened to him a while and then pointed out the obvious that in his favorite century there were no outboards and he would have to paddle all the time. He still didn’t get it and continued his rant.

      Some people have their delusions and can’t be persuaded out of them. I imagine we are all that way to some extent I just hope I’m not as obvious as the , I wish I had been born a century ago” people.

      We had hurricane Ike here about 10 years ago. I don’t ever want to go without A/C and hot water again.

  9. Wait, does this mean I can hunt buffalo from a train? Ok, I’m softening on this idea…

  10. I’m not sure what cattle farmer would willing let large apex predators on their ranch ‘roaming ‘ free.Also bison can carry disease to cattle. Then ,of course ,there’s the neighbors like I said up thread. Some animals are to dangerous to be introduced into populated of farmed areas.

    1. Bison gain more weight faster and do less damage to the pasture they are on than cows. Yet few people raise Bison. Why? Because Bison are huge and virtually impossible to control and unbelievably dangerous animals.

      1. First time I ever saw one up close, I was like 5 years old. Glad it was on the other side of a fence, but that thing scared the fuck out of me and gave me nightmares. It’s head looked like it was 10x my size.

      2. Folks I knew invested in these monstrous toys for them, specially designed for that purpose by some company, and very expensive. They’d wrestle around with that crap now and then and otherwise seemed relatively mellow. Mellower than mountain cows, for sure.

        1. Actually bison (and elk) both carry burcellosis at similiar rates and both spend winters in and around cattle. But there has never been an actual transmission in the field since it is difficult to transmit. So from an animal health impact the two wild species are a wash. Elk however are a very significant source of income for ranchers in MT and WY. Ranchers will sell access to their land, guide, etc for hunters. So having big Rocky Mtn Elk in large numbers is a benefit even if they damage fences etc. Bison, being a Federal endangered species have no market and hence no upside for a rancher. Fed and state regulations concerning burcellosis are the tool used to keep bison out and elk available. (Both taste great compared to cow.)

    2. Apparently enough to create a large reserve in Montana. These ranchers have done the math and decided it works out in their favour – it’s not my business to rob them of that agency

      1. As long as this beast stay on their land and do not .wander’ onto the property of those who do not want them,it’s fine. If they can’t control them and they do damage they should be held liable,and this company should also.

        1. So if mosquitoes bred in the natural lakes on my land give people malaria, am I liable? Migratory birds with diseases? Venomous snakes in the south? Animals have their own agency – my failure to eradicate the ones that you don’t like does not create liability for me

  11. Good thing this whole transgendered rights thing hasn’t turned into a club the left can use to further take away our freedom.


    1. I’ve pretty much accepted that everything the left does is for the sole intention of increasing the power of the state to the detriment of the individual. They don’t really try to hide it anymore.

      1. Of course. The left doesn’t give two shits about trannies. Trial lawyers, OTOH….

    2. “New York City has warned landlords, employers and businesses they could be running afoul of the law by purposely calling a transgender woman “him” or “Mr.” when she prefers a female title and pronoun, or by barring her from using a women’s restroom.”

      And I bet that when anyone objects the reply would be, “why are you so obsessed with who uses which bathroom, huh?”

      Because the ones threatening legal penalties to businesses which assign people to the “wrong” bathroom…that’s not obsessive at all!

      1. So the 1st amendment means nothing if your a land lord?

        1. OK, I did *not* see that remark coming. And I’m not fully sure what it means.

          1. I assume it means that a person can apply whatever pronoun to another that they wish without fear of legal reprisal.

            1. Oh, sorry, I was being paranoid and thought he was imputing such sentiments to *me.*

              Wow, I was being really self-absorbed there.

              1. So, *I’m* sorry that *I* misunderstood the remark to be about *me* – *I* am usually not that egocentric, *I* don’t know what came over *me.*

                me me me me me

    3. “”This is an extremely positive development for transgender New Yorkers who face enormous rates of discrimination, unemployment and difficulty accessing things like health care that people take for granted.”

      “New York City has warned landlords, employers and businesses they could be running afoul of the law by purposely calling a transgender woman “him” or “Mr.” when she prefers a female title and pronoun, or by barring her from using a women’s restroom.”

      Oh no! Not enough people are hiring transgender people! What should we do? Oh, I know, let’s pass laws that essentially turn trannies into walking lawsuits! Surely, that will incentivize employers to hire them in droves and usher in an egalitarian utopia!

      1. transgender New Yorkers face enormous rates of discrimination, unemployment and difficulty accessing things like health care

        Crazy thought here, but if those things were such severe problems, wouldn’t you stop being outwardly expressive of your transgender identity? I mean, sure it must suck to be a man who’s really a woman in a man’s body, but wouldn’t you grin and bear it so that you can get a job and see a doctor?

        1. I’m not trying to diminish anybody’s struggles, but if you’re saying that the solution to your struggles is to create struggles for other people, then I’m gonna suggest you toughen up, buttercup.

  12. OT – Eugene Volokh thinks
    that political debate is full of many “unsupported accusations of hypocrisy [which], as with all unsupported accusations that the other side is consciously dishonest or morally corrupt, are also destructive of helpful public debate.”

    1. Yeah, well I’ve read his crap before, and he’s a pompous, hypocritical prig.

      1. One more thing he is, is right.

        Most of the so-called “hypocrisy” people yak about in public debate simply means having different political views than the accuser.

        1. And pompousness and prig-ousity are subjective value judgments, but on what issues has he shown hypocrisy?

  13. http://www.slate.com/blogs/out…..paces.html

    Nothing like a good lesbian rape story.

    1. There’s better sites than Slate to see lesbian rape ,uh,or,so I heard.

    2. So the moral of the story is that CIS women should feel perfectly comfortable with having transsexuals who identify as women in their restrooms with them because lesbians are rapists. Perfect logic.

      1. One fun thing of being a trans activist is that you get to talk about lesbian rape. Conservatives, though, not so much – it would be bigotry for them to mention such “myths.”

        1. So all the unpopular kids then

  14. I grew up listening to some of the settlers describing the long struggle to reduce the native population of large carnivores and how really unpleasant things were before they got those animals under control. With that in mind, this story sounds fucking nuts. If I had some kind of ranch out there, you couldn’t pay me enough to live with the struggle having an abundance of large predators around constantly huffing around my cowshed. This deal would only work if the ranchers involved are a bunch of ignorant tyrones that don’t have any idea how unpleasant it will get.

    Similarly, prairie dogs can be a pretty severe nuisance in themselves (And, from my recollections, they’re pretty much ineradicable. The very best a fellow can do is keep them from taking over everything.).

    Elk, by the way, are like the opposite of all these. Elk is the rancher’s friend. Other than fucking up flags and things that is fun for them to tear apart, they reliably improve conditions, without doing nearly the damage that beeves and the smaller deer will wreak all over hell.

    But try to raise elk in Montana. You’ll go to jail, and your animals will be attacked by Biblethumping sheriff’s deputies and beaten to death with clubs.

    1. Deer are the evil spawn of satan if you’re a homeowner with a yard and garden near to where there are an abundance of them.

    2. … are elk condemned in the bible?

      1. No, it was submission to the state as an ordained instrument of the will of God that was being pushed. I remember the deputies handing out little fliers with snippets of bible verse and exposition saying why we ought to pretty much treat the government and its agents as God’s personal representatives on earth.

        1. What they want is a police state, whatever they have to say to get it.

    3. Elk is the rancher’s friend.

      I guess that’s why Montana extended its elk season, in certain areas, at the rancher’s request 2.5 months this year?

      Elk are brutal on ranchland.

  15. Meth, is there anything it can’t do?


    1. Improve dental health?

    2. heh.
      “Masturbating man beats off fifteen police officers.”
      “That right there is some serious hand to gland combat!”

      1. It is amazing that people uncritically believe such horseshit.

  16. I kind of want to work for them. I don’t even care what, just put me outside in Montana.

    1. If you want to be in the great Montana outdoors, all you have to do is join one of the state’s many militia groups.


    2. Just make sure you have a gun big enough to kill a bear.

      1. Or bear spray. But I’m fine with the gun, too.

        1. What about a gun that fires exploding vials of bear spray?

            1. I worked in Gallatin County for three years and loved my time in Montana. Great hunting, fishing, skiing and two microbrews in town (at the time). Hiking in Grizz country kept you humble. The way to survive was to realize you were number 2 on the food chain- and act like it. (That included guns and/or bear spray.)

      2. How about a 105mm howitzer?

      3. Or an RPG-7

  17. “Elephant seal crossing the road, causes North Bay traffic mess”
    “Barclay said the seal’s motives for entering the highway were unclear.”

    What’s the matter with these people?

    1. Barclay said the seal’s motives for entering the highway were unclear.

      What he means is they haven’t found a way to blame this on evil people violating sacred gaia. Yet.

      1. Trump! Global Warming! Population Explosion! Rethuglicans!

      2. Oh, and just for John:
        Gay Marriage!

  18. If you want to create a private Yellowstone, you’ll have to find another piece of real estate sitting on top of a super volcano that will wipe out two thirds of the country when it blows.

    That’s what you’ve got with the original Yellowstone.

    1. You are probably over estimating the damage, but Yellowstone having another caldera forming eruption will put a crimp in the SJW with people across North America working hard to survive for multiple years.

  19. Sounds like a pretty solid plan to me dude. Wow.


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