The Nature Conservancy has purchased the 33,000-acre Maverick Ranch located south of La Junta in southeast Colorado with the intention of selling the property to a local rancher or producer. A conservation easement will be placed on the property shortly after the sale. Conservation easements are voluntary, legally binding agreements that limit certain types of uses or prevent development on a piece of property now and in the future, protecting agricultural and ecological values.
Colorado’s shortgrass prairie has some of the most significant stretches of native grasslands in North America that supports a vibrant ranching community alongside native plants and animals. “This is one of the largest and most intact prairie lands in the region,” says Matt Moorhead, Southeast Colorado program director for the Conservancy. “The rangelands and natural areas of southeast Colorado are in good condition, thanks to generations of careful land management by private land owners and ranchers in this area.”
The Maverick Ranch’s 33,000-acres include pinon-juniper woodlands, foothills shrublands and grasslands. Its dramatic canyons serve as key wildlife corridors for many mammals including mule deer and elk. Maintaining large intact ranches will help declining grasslands birds such as the long-billed curlew and Cassin’s sparrow as well as the Texas horned lizard, plains leopard frog and black-throated gray warbler.
The Nature Conservancy does not intend to own and manage the Maverick Ranch for the long-term. Rather, the group plans on returning it to private ownership, ideally by working with local producers who will buy the ranch and manage it both for its natural and agricultural values. The Nature Conservancy will retain a conservation easement to prevent development and help the buyers achieve an economically viable agricultural operation.
“Agriculture is the lifeblood of this area,” adds Moorhead. “We hope this project will help strengthen the local agricultural sector and maintain the ranching tradition of caring for Colorado’s land, water and wildlife resources.”
The Nature Conservancy has worked for years with landowners in southeast Colorado to conserve this significant and productive area while sustaining livelihoods. In addition to working with landowners on conservation easements to ensure important prairie lands stay intact, the group also partners on projects to control weeds and identify economic development opportunities that rely on and support native grasslands.
“Working with the people who live, work and raise their families here, we’re helping to conserve an intact land and provide the tools to manage and sustain it for a lasting future for people, community and the natural world,” remarks Moorhead.
The Nature Conservancy is a private landowner. Public access to the Maverick Ranch will be by permission only while the Conservancy owns the property. If local groups would like to access the land for education purposes, please call Matt Moorhead at 720-974-7042.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
The Nature Conservancy in Colorado