Wild Sky Beef Seeks to Unite Conservation Efforts and Ranching Families
Wild Sky Beef, a for-profit beef company started by the American Prairie Reserve, provides financial incentives to ranchers who make their lands hospitable to wildlife.
Wild Sky Beef started in 2014 with the mission to support wildlife-friendly ranching and wildlife conservation. The program provides financial incentives to those ranchers who make their lands increasingly hospitable to wildlife. Wild Sky sells premium grass-fed beef and sends the profits back to those ranchers in and around the project area who are willing to make changes in their management practices which benefit wildlife. They also work with the ranchers in this program to prevent conflicts (including predation).
Wild Sky Beef was born out of the understanding that in order for the American Prairie Reserve to build the largest nature reserve in the continental United States right in the heart northeastern Montana’s cattle country, wildlife need to be able to move in and out of the project area as they migrate between the reserve and Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. However, that is not going to happen if reserve ranching neighbors view wildlife exclusively as cutting into the margins they need to feed their families.
Wild Sky seeks to partner with ranching families near the American Prairie Reserve to decide how they can increase the wildlife-friendly nature of their operation. This may include conducting a controlled burn, increasing certain wildlife populations, or looking at alternative fencing options.
If ranchers join the program as a Wild Sky Rancher and work with wildlife biologists to make their operations wildlife-friendly, they have the potential to earn a premium per pound on their live weight cattle in November. Additionally, ranchers become eligible for additional cash bonuses for displaying proof of predators on their land.
Wild Sky Beef is sold coast to coast in stores such as Meijer, Harvest Foods, Jensen Meat Company and most recently Rosauers – located in many parts of Montana. Wild Sky Beef jerky is also available on Amazon.com.
Is there a market for wildlife-friendly beef? Well, in 2015, Wild Sky sold 50,000 pounds of beef and had $3.3 million in sales proving that the interest and support of their cause does exist throughout the United States.
Many ranchers have been highly skeptical of the American Prairie Reserve as it continues to increase its land holdings in the heart of Montana. However, representatives of the APR insist that the APR is not anti-rancher in the least. “We operate on a willing buyer/willing seller model, meaning that we’re not pressuring people to sell to us. If you and future generations of your family want to keep ranching right in the middle of our project area for hundreds of years, we want you to stay. We’re anticipating people staying. That’s part of why we started Wild Sky — so that our various goals can coexist.”
The American Prairie Reserve, located in North Central Montana, seeks to create and manage a prairie-based wildlife reserve that, when combined with public lands already devoted to wildlife, will protect a unique natural habitat, provide lasting economic benefits and improve public access to and enjoyment of the prairie landscape. APR currently owns and/or leases more than 305,000 acres of deeded and public land. Additionally, the ranches APR has purchased have historically held grazing privileges on more than 63,000 acres in the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.
For more information on Wild Sky Beef or becoming a partner please visit their website at www.wildskybeef.org.