The Johnson Ranch in southeastern New Mexico has been purchased by The Nature Conservancy. The 9,170 acre property contains critical habitat for 25 Species of Greatest Conservation Need—as identified in the state’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (also known as Wildlife Action Plan)—including the lesser prairie-chicken.
The strategic land acquisition is adjacent to the Conservancy’s 18,500 acre Milnesand Preserve and near 25,000-plus acres of Southern Shortgrass Prairie habitat protected by the Department of Game and Fish in Roosevelt and Lea counties. The preserve and newly acquired ranch are both leased for grazing by local ranchers at stocking rates which protect lesser prairie chicken habitat.
This deal was made possible by a diverse group of partners and funders. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation provided $600,000 to help implement the Johnson Ranch project, as part of its commitment to on-the-ground wildlife conservation projects that New Mexico and four other western states identified as priorities in their Wildlife Action Plans. The State of New Mexico also saw significant value in this transaction by allocating $399,000 through the state Legislature.
“Leadership was shown by Governor Richardson and the state legislature by providing funding for this strategic land protection project” said Joanna Prukop, secretary of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. “These activities protect both wildlife habitat and the energy and agricultural economy of southeastern New Mexico."
Once present in large numbers, the lesser prairie chicken population has dropped significantly. Since 1900, these iconic and beautiful prairie birds have plummeted in number mainly due to rapidly diminishing habitat. The situation facing the lesser prairie chicken has earned it consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The purchase of the Johnson Ranch is the latest action to provide protected habitat for the species.
“This is a significant step forward in our efforts to protect this incredibly charismatic bird species,” said Terry Sullivan, director of The Nature Conservancy in New Mexico. “We are pleased to be working with such a broad coalition of partners on this acquisition, and we are proud of the engagement and support of the local community on the lesser prairie chicken conservation project.”
The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people's lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and the prevention of child maltreatment, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke's properties.
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.