Places We Protect

The Canyonlands Research Center


Aerial view of Canyonlands Research Center in a large valley surrounded by red cliffs under blue sky.
Canyonlands Research Center Aerial Aerial view of the Canyonlands Research Center in Utah. © The Nature Conservancy

Mission Statement

Driving climate science forward and delivering sustainable land management solutions in the heart of Utah’s canyon country.



The Canyonlands Research Center (CRC) is a consortium of conservation organizations, academic institutions, land managers, and state and federal research agencies working together to bring the best available science and different knowledge systems to land management decisions.  

Founded in 2010, the CRC’s mission is to promote a sustainable future on the Colorado Plateau for people and nature through research, inspiration and demonstration of evidence-based solutions to solve some of our most pressing ecological, social and economic issues.  

The CRC was built through collaboration and strategic partnerships, and its success depends on active involvement from The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Geological Survey, Utah State University, the Bureau of Land Management, Canyonlands National Park and the USDA Forest Service. See a full list of CRC partners:



Visitation is intended for research and is only permitted by appointment.

Explore our work in Utah

Strategic Plan 2021-2026

Learn more about the center's vision for the future.

Check out the Plan

A Growing Need

Dryland regions, places like the Colorado Plateau, cover 40% of Earth’s land surface, host a rich variety of unique plants and animals adapted to aridity and support 44% of the world’s cultivated systems and half of all livestock. One-third of people on Earth live in these areas, too, including the poorest and most marginalized in the world—and these communities are bearing the brunt of climate change right now. 

Home to a range of Tribal Nations and many farmers and ranchers, the Colorado Plateau supports a diverse heritage of people connecting to and living off the land. This is also a region that boasts some of America’s most iconic landscapes, including dozens of national parks and monuments, which draw millions of visitors each year. Today, however, the Colorado Plateau is at risk, and the impacts from climate change are already threatening lives and livelihoods. Rising temperatures and drought—combined with increasing recreation and other human impacts—are disrupting ecosystems, threatening water sources and triggering the loss of perennial forage grasses that are the foundation of livestock production.

The next few years are pivotal for the health of the Colorado Plateau and the communities it supports. The CRC is poised to continue addressing the most pressing threats.

Photos from the Center

The Canyonlands Research Center works to increase our understanding of the interactive effects of climate change and land use and to arm decision makers with new information to adapt to challenges such as grazing and recreation impacts, as well as invasive species.

Canyonlands Research Center signage.
Pink wildflowers growing along a log fence.
A researcher in the field crouches down at a raised planting bed inside a greenhouse frame.
A bird perched on a branch at the Canyonlands Research Center.
A researcher walks toward agricultural sprinklers in a grassy field.
A group of cattle in a field looking at the camera.
Closeup of the face of a brown horse looking straight at the camera at the Canyonlands Research Center.
An outdoor research area at the Canyonlands Research Center, with a raised planting bed under the frame of an open greenhouse.
Two researchers conducting cattle research; one inspects cattle in a holding pen, and the other looks at a clipboard on a table.
A sunset shining on a large red rock at Canyonlands Research Center.

Why This Site Was Selected

A consortium of partners selected the CRC’s site, which is headquartered at TNC’s historic Dugout Ranch but encompasses lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the USDA Forest Service. The Dugout, which spans 5,207 private acres and an additional 350,000 acres of adjacent public grazing allotments, is situated at the gateway to Canyonlands National Park and is the largest private inholding in the Bears Ears National Monument, ancestral homelands of many Indigenous peoples including the Ute and Diné. 

Scientists from around the world are drawn to the CRC because of its unique research capacity and assets, including: 

  • A location on the edge of the Arizona monsoon climate zone  

  • Strong science, government and local partnerships 

  • More than 20 years of existing climate data 

  • Relict areas, unaltered by humans, which provide invaluable baseline data

  • A wide gradient of elevation, vegetation, soils and land-use histories representative of the Colorado Plateau 

  • Dugout Ranch’s cattle operation as a research tool 

  • Housing and laboratory amenities

We Can’t Fight Climate Change Without You

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How We Got Here

In 1997, TNC worked with the Redd family to purchase the Dugout Ranch, securing a major conservation win and protecting important lands and waters from development. TNC’s purchase of the Dugout also provided a crucial foothold for conservation and research in the heart of the Colorado Plateau. Partners soon realized the need to capitalize on the ranch’s scientific value and achieve a much larger impact. In 2009, TNC purchased the Dugout’s cattle herd for use as a research tool, and in 2010, a suite of partners formally launched the CRC. In 2019, Dugout Ranch celebrated 20 years of conservation! Learn more about the CRC's long history of research and partnerships in our video playlist.

Today the CRC is a valuable platform for climate science, dryland ecology and regional conservation solutions. As climate pressures intensify, the CRC aims to become a catalyst for systemic change in the way we manage and use drylands. CRC partners hope to demonstrate that conservation actions and well-managed grazing can deliver landscape, economic and social resiliency at a broad scale.

Experts on Board

The CRC is advised by leading scientists who bring different perspectives and help the CRC invest in research initiatives that address the most pressing threats and biggest challenges in this time of climate change.

Research & Programs

The CRC works to reach its goals by supporting cutting-edge scientific research, by supporting tomorrow’s conservation leaders and by focusing on a variety of education and outreach programs.

Connecting With The Land

NATURE Program [2:57] Highlights from the 2023 Native American Tribes Upholding Restoration and Education (NATURE) Program

A Bold Experiment

One of the more unique studies being conducted by the center's scientists is to help the desert's "skin": biocrusts. Biocrusts are communities of lichens, mosses and cyanobacteria. Healthy biocrusts reduce erosion, prevent dust storms, increase soil fertility, capture carbon and sustain soil moisture.

Finding Ways to Help Biocrust and People (4:09) A bold experiment is underway to help the desert’s “skin": biocrust.


The CRC is a well-staffed and equipped scientific research facility that is closed to the public and can only be visited by appointment. If you are interested in learning more about the CRC’s site, rates, spatial data, housing availability or permitting advice, please contact CRC Program Manager Kristen Redd.

Contact Kristen
Three people sit at a picnic table under an awning at the pavilion at the Canyonlands Research Center.
A barn at the Canyonlands Research Center, with a large red rock formation in the background.
A tent and camp area at the Canyonlands Research Center, with a fire pit and bench in a dirt clearing.
An awning covers several picnic tables at the Canyonlands Research Center.


Stay Updated

The CRC publishes the Sundial, an annual newsletter sharing on-the-ground research updates and other exciting news. Peruse the past few issues and contact Kristen Redd to subscribe.

Recent Issues

  • The cover of the spring 2023 issue of the Sundial.
    Sundial Spring 2023

    The 2023 issue of The Sundial explores beaver benefits & celebrates the expansion of the NATURE Tribal Leadership Program.

  • The cover of the winter 2021 issue of the Sundial.
    Sundial Winter 2021

    In this issue, the CRC celebrates launching the Tribal Natural Resources Leadership Program, shares a Q&A with Matt Redd and more.

  • The cover of the winter 2020 issue of the Sundial.
    Sundial Winter 2020

    This issue explores how riparian trees are building resilience in desert ecosystems and highlights new research using genetic sequencing.


We extend our sincere thanks to the following donors who have generously contributed to the Dugout Ranch and Canyonlands Research Center during the period of July 1, 2021 – March 31, 2023:


Willard L. Eccles Charitable Foundation


Paul T. Walton Jr. Charitable Foundation


Kristine Crandall
Janet Koike
Richard K. and Shirley S. Hemingway Foundation
Kenneth Sassen
Dan Sulzbach


Bruce H. Etkin
Fanwood Foundation


Happy Days, Moab