Opinion: APR’s Ranch Buying Spree Has Negative Impact on Montana Taxpayers

by Colter Brown

By Chuck Denowh – Executive Director of United Property Owners of Montana (UPOM)

The ink is dry on another historic cattle ranch in the Upper Missouri River Breaks consumed by the non-profit organization American Prairie Reserve (APR).  With a deal to acquire the 73 Ranch, another piece of Montana’s history and leading industry has been gobbled up by the billionaires that fund APR, at the expense of Montana taxpayers.

Non-profits claiming to be conservationists rob taxpayers in a couple of different ways.  Donations to APR to purchase ranch property come with lucrative tax deductions.  With their privileged tax status, every dollar APR receives leaves our government coffers with less than they otherwise would have.

APR operates as a charity and pays no income tax.  After the land is purchased with the tax-exempt funds, all income generated by APR is tax exempt at both the state and federal levels.

There’s a reason non-profit conservation organizations have exploded in this state in the last decade.  It’s a very, very profitable scheme.  And most taxpayers would be surprised to learn that they’re subsidizing it.

Perhaps the most hypocritical aspect of APR is that they are conducting business not so differently than the average rancher, yet they’ve packaged themselves as a charity.  They graze their land with domestic bison, lease out the grazing they can’t use for a nice profit, and operate a game farm where they charge people to shoot animals from their herd.  They also make a nice profit on their posh glamping accommodations that can cost thousands of dollars per night.

What’s galling is that there is nothing charitable about APR’s activity.  There’s no justification to give them a special tax status that allows them to be subsidized by Montana taxpayers while being exempt from income tax.

The ranch land they’ve been purchasing is already being conserved.  They’re taking ranch land out of production and in so doing hurting local economies, and shortchanging taxpayers to boot.

Why is APR in Montana instead of one of our neighboring states?  Because those states had the foresight to protect their agriculture against such land grabs!

American Prairie Reserve doesn’t hide that the grand scheme of idling 3.5 million acres and creating the largest wildlife refuge in the lower 48 is their goal.  In Montana ag land fuels the $2.4 billion dollar industry that leads our state economy.  APR is already having a negative impact on the local communities near the ranch land they’ve taken out of production, and that will only compound as they gobble up more land.

It’s time Montana woke up and passed a law to stop non-profits from using their tax-exempt status to purchase agricultural land, before our leading industry and countless communities and families are destroyed.



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Jack Shinkle

What other Ranches in Montana has this non profit bought?

LaJette Haynie

The Two Crow, 50,000 acres right beside the 73 and a bunch in Phillips County

Anna Morris

You can read about their plan at savethecowboy.net

Barry Bergan

Come on Montana legislators let’s fix this !


If you want to know how this is going to affect the local communities just look at what happened when CRP came in to existence. Grain elevators , equipment dealers, repair shops, and farm supply stores shut down in many of the smaller towns. Many jobs were lost and communities emptied out. The big difference is the tax exempt status. Public services will be hit harder this time.

Harold Johnson

Somehow, it appears we need to change some laws so they pay their fair share….

Paul Azure

I agree with Harold. The APR needs to be taxed.

Kathleen Novikoff

This APR needs to be stopped

Paul Azure

Why isn’t the MTFWP buying up this property for future hunting for Montanans.

Mike Dahlquist

I completely agree with that thought, being a lifetime resident of Mt. and avid hunter along with many of my 7 other family members. The answer is pretty simple, and that is the fricken APR would outbid anything & anyone that puts up a competing bid. Sickening to me.

Bryan Virginia

No money.

Norm Nunnally

The NO money comes as trickle down from increasing NON-Profits converting taxable lands into non-taxed windfalls for Corporate stock-holders. Any County needs $$$ to operate, when one of the $ gets removed from the taxable base, then that $ is divided up and proportionally divvied up onto the remaining taxable base parcels.

Bobby Wise

The BLM had a chance to buy it first but backed out.

Tyler Houston

RMEF tried to buy the 73 Ranch and turn it over to the BLM. A problem with the appraisal and the BLM said it was too expensive even though the majority of funds were from RMEF. The original owners wanted it sold to RMEF and turned to public land. Unfortunately the deal fell through because the feds didn’t want to cough up a bit more money and the rest is history.

Roxi Burrows

Can’t believe this information on them has been out there for years and they are STILL getting all the land.😥


They’ll do whatever they have to do to get the places bought. Dirty tactics are part of their game.


It’s because it is misinformation. They pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes. This article is a huge mischaracterization. Read this response: https://www.montanaoutdoor.com/2022/01/opinion-american-prairie-does-more-than-pay-taxes/

Dale Mansfield

Quite frankly the whole “Non-profit” scam needs to be revisited on a national basis. The program has morphed into the biggest tax-evasion scam in history.


The Montana Livestock Industry will say anything to promote their money making agenda

Dolores Shettel

Not sure who owned the 73 Ranch but they sold out to APR.mane contact your governor , he’s all about land grab .

Mike Arzy

At a time when I am finding lease pasture for my cows becoming harder and harder to get, mostly because it’s becoming “prime real estate”, competition with people who can afford to buy what I can’t is a huge problem!
I’m afraid to increase my herd because the area is so volitile. For instance, last year, I secured pasture on 6 sections along with the land owner’s cows. This fall the owner said he sold it to a developer who is selling it in 80 acre tracts.
I feel like this is tough, but kinda like it is what it is. And I will figure a way to survive it. But when you add an endless supply of free money and tax incentives into the equation, that is NOT right!
My thoughts and prayers are with you folks! And I hope your state legislature will fix the land grab so we can keep feeding America!


IMHO, those European billionaires do not belong here, period! Go start a huge “conservation” area in your own countries, and leave our ranchers alone!

Kenneth Wright

We need to address this problem now!

Greg Gardner

where are our Senators, Daines and Tester , on this issue?

Bonnie Olson

Wake up Montana!

Gregg Hunter

Wouldn’t these land purchases also increase the current land owners taxes as well since most of this property is purchased at higher than appraised prices? Therefore putting more burden on current land owners. This has got to stop for the good of our local farmers, ranchers and local economies.

Geri Gordy

Cattle ranchers are the ones who should have been stopped 100 yrs ago. American Prairie intends to produce a public access plan in the next year to spell out recreational uses, including hunting, on deeded acres, and to open the 9,300 acres of state and federal public lands that were previously inaccessible. While the 73 is being evaluated, American Prairie is proud to offer much of its deeded and leased acres for use by the public for recreation opportunities including hunting, camping, fishing, birding, hiking, cycling and more. That includes more than 69,000 acres of deeded lands enrolled in the Block Management hunter access program managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP). APR paid fair market value for the property and will pay property taxes that support local communities as done with all APR properties.

Stevenson Michael G

This article is full of misinformation and fear mongering. The APR are good neighbors, give them a chance.
The truth is they pay plenty of taxes, don’t pay over market value for land, donate much to community projects, restore and conserve land, invite public hunting and recreation, and will eventually produce market bison.
Consider the alternatives. Would you rather this land go into corporate ownership or turned into private millionaire hunting reserves or bought up by developers and subdivided?


Preach it!

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