A critical freshwater canyon in the heart of the Laramie Foothills has been protected through a sale of the Lone Tree Ranch to The Nature Conservancy by Winifred and Richard Sheahan.
The 1,408-acre ranch—located within a one hour drive of Cheyenne—was originally part of the Swan Land & Cattle Company, which once owned an area larger than the state of Connecticut in the region. In addition to cattle and game animals, the Sheahan property also provides habitat for key shortgrass prairie species including pronghorn, Swift fox, and a host of grassland birds such as the mountain plover, burrowing owl and Brewer’s sparrow. This region of the state is also home to highly valued conservation habitat for the northern leopard frog, McCown’s longspur, the three-fingered milkvetch and the Ute Ladies’ tresses.
Just to the northeast of the property is the Goshen Hole wetlands; an area of critical importance for the annual migration of ducks, geese and wading birds.
"The only reason we did this was to keep the land like it is,” said Winifred Sheahan in a recent interview. “We're both Wyoming natives and lived in Wyoming all our lives. We always had a connection to Lone Tree Ranch. We sold it in the hopes that someday other people can enjoy it as much as we did. The whole idea is to keep it like it is -- and that's what the Conservancy stands for."
Cheyenne is viewed as the northern anchor for Colorado’s Front Range population explosion. Despite the current economic downturn, places near Cheyenne like Lone Tree Creek—which were once considered rural forever—are seeing significant increases in development threats.
“We are grateful to the Sheahans for their stewardship of this extraordinary resource,” said Brent Lathrop, Southeast Wyoming Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. “This land is part of one of the most important and least protected landscapes in the world."
Although the Conservancy owns the property now, the long-term plan is to return it to private ownership. “We hope to find the right buyer for this land who can continue the cattle ranching traditions of this region while enhancing its value for Wyoming’s native plants and animals,” said Brent Lathrop. The Conservancy purchased the property at the close of last year in a sale initiated by the Sheahans.
The Nature Conservancy will place a voluntary land use agreement, or conservation easement, on the property prior to its sale.
In the meantime, Lathrop says “So many positive opportunities are coming together because of this ranch, and the Sheahans. I look forward to learning from neighbors and residents about the area and exploring ways to keep this country open, ways to benefit the community, ranching and nature.”
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.