Landmark is ASC’s groundbreaking project to provide “boots on the ground” support for the American Prairie Reserve management team. Wildlife survey crews consist of skilled outdoors men and women who live and work on Montana’s northern Great Plains, collecting data that informs APR’s conservation management decisions.

By Leah Mabee

As I lie in my sleeping bag, a cacophony of snorts, grunts and growls filters into my consciousness.  I sit up quickly, straining to listen through the thin, opaque nylon of my tent.  

Scratch, scratch, scratch.  Gurr, pff.  


I hear him rubbing his itchy skin against the wooden post near my tent.  Knowing I’m on a tent platform and that the bison cannot see me gives me some small sense of safety.


Buffalo Camp is aptly named. (Photo by Mike Quist Kautz)

Then he moves, casting a dark shadow against the sunlit side of my tent.  I watch as he walks around the platform and disappears again into shadow.

Rip, rrip, rip.  

Okay, he’s just eating grass.

Then silence.


Approximately 400 bison live on the Sun Prairie Parcel of American Prairie Reserve. (Photo by Briana Seapy)

I zip open my tent first, then my bright orange rain fly, and cautiously stick my head out. Nothing at first glance.  Then I look behind my tent. The whole herd is in the middle of Buffalo Camp, grazing and scratching themselves furiously against the picnic tables and wooden posts.

One by one, my fellow crew members wake and open their tents to the sight. We sit in the chill of the morning air, captured by the sight of bulls, cows, yearlings and ruddy calves flicking their tails, and rolling in the dirt.

Over the course of a half hour, the herd ambles down the road, past our RV and over the ridge. I can’t say that I minded being late to work at all.


Originally from Yankton, South Dakota, Leah Mabee spent June and July of 2014 as an  ASC Landmark crew member on the American Prairie Reserve. Leah’s
love for the outdoors was fostered through family vacations to the Black Hills of South Dakota, and canoeing and portaging in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. She has a degree in Biology Health Professions from Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa.

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