In the 1980s, studying the falling population of the High Plains and the depletion of the Ogallala aquifer, slowly being drained for irrigation, planner Frank Popper and Deborah Popper suggested turning much of the area in the "Buffalo Commons," a combination of national park and giant ranch featuring the land's biggest herbivore.
Something like that is happening in southeastern Montana. Financing comes from the American Prairie Foundation, a Bozeman, Montana-based land trust, and the World Wildlife Fund.
In addition, several Indian tribes have begun tribal cooperative bison ranches on the Northern Plains. Some federal land-management agencies are participating too.
When the Poppers first proposed their idea, they were met violent disagreement and even threats against their lives. They toured the Plains back in the 1980s, speaking in towns like McCook, Nebraska, with armed state troopers in the audience in case of trouble. Anne Matthews' book Where the Buffalo Roam describes that era.
But now, piece by piece, something somewhat like what they proposed is being assembled.