Whether you’ve been visiting protected lands for years or you’ve only recently come to explore national parks, state forests, preserves and reserves for the safer outdoor value they’ve brought to a travel-strapped time, you’re more likely to have visited the great outdoors this year than in any other recent year. You’re also more likely to have purchased more alcohol than usual this year, according to record sales and consumption across the country. If you’re a fan of both of these two top American trends, you’re in luck: You can now help create and protect the largest nature reserve in the contiguous United States with little more than bourbon and a blanket.
Where is this giant reserve?
Rather than securing a single swath of land to preserve, the American Prairie Reserve is a Montana-based non-profit that purchases and permanently secures gaps of private land between existing public lands, stitching together a borderless quilt of protected prairie in northern Montana. While already enormous and growing, APR’s ultimate goal is to preserve 3.2 million acres (that’s 5,000 square miles) by snapping up about 500,000 acres that would connect already protected public lands for a truly wild, border-free experience. CEO Alison Fox says American Prairie Reserve’s goals are as much for you as they are for the land and its wildlife:
“At the heart of American Prairie Reserve is the belief that the public, just like prairie wildlife, should be able to enjoy the land with ease and without fences or ‘No Trespassing’ signs. From birdwatchers and hikers to photographers and hunters, by foot, bike, horse, car or camper, entry is free and big skies are guaranteed.
Each year, the Reserve hosts visitors from Montana and across the country who come to hunt, hike, bike, paddle, stargaze and experience the unique prairie grasslands and wildlife found in North Central and Northeast Montana. Cell service is spotty here, and visitors are drawn to the Reserve as a vast, remote and wild destination. The Reserve has a truly rugged quality and a sense of uninterrupted nature.”
What about the whiskey?
Following a local Mormon monopoly on the spirit in the 19th century, there had been no legal distilleries in Utah since 1870, when the last of Brigham Young’s 37 distilleries halted production, until High West Distillery was founded in Park City in 2006. Today, High West has expanded to four locations and distilling has become popular across the state, but the pioneering brand remains the top choice for both the area’s discerning visitors and for whiskey sippers across the nation, regularly racking up awards and accolades and even snagging the title of Distiller of the Year from Whisky Advocate, surely turning a few Kentucky heads westward.
For visitors to the area, High West is more than just the first distillery to get a license since statehood. Taking après ski to the next level, High West Head of Hospitality, Elizabeth Flaherty, explains that High West Saloon, just steps from the chairlift of Quittin’ Time run, “is the world’s first ski-in, ski-out gastro-distillery,” and “features locally-sourced food and whiskey made straight from the traditional 250-gallon copper pot still. With two bars, an intimate restaurant, a chemistry lab, stainless steel mash cookers and fermenting barrels, the full operation is located inside in an old livery stable dubbed ‘The National Garage’ and the adjacent historic Ellsworth J. Beggs house, built in 1907 and found on the National Register of Historic Places.” As Flaherty points out, achieving all of this was no easy feat in a state with some of the nation’s strictest liquor laws, but it was important for High West not just to embrace the town’s serious ski culture, but enhance it.
High West Distillery may be two states and more than 700 miles away from American Prairie Reserve, but the two have been connected at heart for years. Fox explains:
“Since 2012, American Prairie Reserve has partnered with High West on American Prairie Bourbon. High West is passionate about the American West’s culture, heritage and natural beauty, and wants to raise awareness of what they have referred to as ‘one of the most fantastic projects of our time.’ Thus, they created American Prairie Bourbon, a premium blend of bourbons, and committed to donating ten percent of their after-tax profits from the sale of each bottle to American Prairie Reserve. The first edition of the whiskey featured Greater Sage Grouse on the label to raise awareness of the increasingly rare bird and the Reserve’s role in grassland conservation. The current edition of the whiskey showcases pronghorn, the uniquely North American creature known for speed and its distinctive headgear. The artwork for the label was provided by Montana artist Diane Whitehead, and the back of the bottle celebrates American Prairie Reserve and the importance of open spaces for pronghorn and others to roam. American Prairie Reserve is proud to work with a conservation-minded company and enjoys sharing the bourbon on the Reserve and at events.”
And what about the blanket?
High West Distillery and Coalatree have teamed up to offer a limited-edition, multi-function Kachula Adventure Blanket with a major charitable component: $30 from each sale is donated to American Prairie Reserve. Of the collaboration, Flaherty explains:
“We at High West could not be prouder to have recently partnered with Utah-based Coalatree, an eco-minded outdoor gear and apparel company. It was very important for us to collaborate with a brand that was as deeply connected to protecting and preserving our environment as we were. Coalatree prides itself on creating sustainable and organically produced products and, because of that, we felt they were a perfect match to assist us in our American Prairie Reserve give-back initiative.”
And of the blanket itself, she raves:
“Whether you’re road-tripping, exploring a mountainside, picnicking in a park or relaxing at home, the High West X Coalatree Kachula Adventure Blanket, made from 100% recycled materials and easily convertible into a travel pillow or poncho, is ready for adventure. It’s your go-to blanket for any camping trip, festival, picnic, family adventure or international vacation. The blanket stuffs into itself for use as a pillow, has a snap-attached hood to convert it to an emergency poncho, and is packable, water-resistant and durable. Use the reinforced snaps to easily connect multiple blankets together or convert to a light sleeping bag. Stuff it into the stash pocket for an easy throw pillow for hammocks and airplanes. Durable zippers and a carabiner loop make it easy to use.”
Adding even more incentive to snag one of these limited edition pieces, the first 100 people to buy a Kachula and post an Instagram shot featuring the blanket, a bottle of American Prairie Bourbon and the tags designated below will trigger an additional $5 donation from High West to American Prairie Reserve and will have their photo woven into a digital quilt, just as the Coalatree blankets can be quilted (okay, snapped) together, and as American Prairie Reserve is quilting together public and private lands for future generations of wildlife, whiskey drinkers and wide-eyed travelers.
So what were the three ways to support the reserve through whiskey?
Here’s a summary:
- Buy the whiskey! Ten percent of after-tax profits from sales of American Prairie Bourbon from High West Distillery go to American Prairie Reserve.
- Buy the blanket! $30 from each blanket sale go to American Prairie Reserve.
- Post a picture with the blanket and the whiskey! High West will donate $5 to American Prairie Reserve for each consumer Instagram post (up to 100) featuring the blanket and bottle and including the following tags: @DrinkHighWest, @Coalatree and #WhiskeyWherever.