Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park
Little Jerusalem A view from the Overlook Trail at Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park in Kansas. © © Mickey Shannon

Land & Water Stories

10 Big Wins in Land Conservation

Our supporters are helping tackle nature’s biggest challenges, one acre at a time.

Across the globe, natural lands are being destroyed at an unprecedented rate. A sobering report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that more than 70 percent of Earth’s ice-free lands have been altered by human activity.

As we degrade nature, climate change becomes more severe. And as climate change worsens, it accelerates the loss of precious lands, waters and wildlife.

That’s why The Nature Conservancy’s work to protect lands and waters is so critical today. We are especially grateful to our supporters who have helped us build a legacy of land conservation for more than 65 years – protecting everything from sprawling wilderness to tiny neighborhood parks.

Tackling these enormous land conservation challenges happens one acre at a time. Here are a few notable successes from this year that wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of our members. 

Fisher's Peak Colorado
Outstanding Wildlife Habitat The terrain is already known to be home to numerous species, including elk, mountain lion, long-tailed weasel and bobcat. © Audrey Wolk/TNC

Fisher’s Peak – Colorado

Saving a Mountainous Wildlife Habitat     (19,200 Acres)

The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land purchased the Crazy French Ranch, a 19,200-acre ranch on Colorado’s southern border. It is home to Fisher’s Peak, a 9,633-foot table-top mountain that towers above the nearby town of Trinidad. Here you’ll find elk, mountain lions, long-tailed weasels and bobcats roaming through the grasslands to the east and foothills and mountains to the west. This dramatic landscape will be transferred to the state and will become Colorado’s next state park, a sanctuary for wildlife that outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy for generations to come.

Cumberland Forest Project
Cumberland Project Map © Mapping Specialists, Ltd.
× Cumberland Forest Project
 Cumberland Forest
Central Appalachian Splendor This new project connects to adjacent Cumberland Gap National Park. The mountainous terrain and connectivity of the area allow for a wide range of species to survive. © Byron Jorjorian

Cumberland Forest – Kentucky, Tennessee & Virginia

Transforming Forest Conservation on a Massive Scale (253,000 Acres)

One of our proudest accomplishments of the year is also one of our largest land deals ever in the Eastern U.S. Larger than Shenandoah and Acadia National Parks combined, this groundbreaking conservation initiative spans three Central Appalachian states helping protect more than 253,000 acres of working forestlands. Even more remarkable is the fact that we are able to safeguard this resilient biodiversity hotspot in such a densely populated area, where pressures on nature are tremendous. By carefully and sustainably managing these working forests, the project aims to improve the forests’ health while providing economic opportunities for local communities. Donor support helped lay the groundwork for this "deal for the centuries," supporting on-the-ground efforts to identify high-priority lands and manage the complex legal and financing work that made this project possible.

Powerful Forests Protecting and restoring natural systems—mostly forests, but also grasslands, wetlands, mangroves, and sea grasses—can help the world make enormous strides in reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Zoar Valley – New York

Fighting Climate Change by Protecting Old Forests (612 Acres)

This newly acquired 612-acre property is a climate powerhouse and a missing piece in a 4,500-acre protected forest. Its mature trees help capture 74,000 tons of carbon pollution from the atmosphere—the equivalent of keeping 16,000 cars off the road for one year. Home to an incredible variety of large, old-growth trees, Zoar Valley forests filter water, keep the air clean, provide homes and migration corridors for plants and animals, and offer amazing opportunities for recreation including canoeing and steelhead fishing.

St. John River, Maine
A History of Conservation The most recent acquisition coincides with the 20th anniversary of The Nature Conservancy's original 185,000-acre acquisition along the St. John River. © Tristan Spinski

Upper St. John River – Maine

Adding More Protected Miles Along an Iconic Wilderness River (3,300 Acres)

The upper St. John River in northwestern Maine flows for 130 miles, growing from a small stream above Baker Lake to a major river before crossing into Canada. For thousands of years, people have plied its remote waters and hunted, fished and camped along its shores. Today, the upper St. John is truly one of the great wilderness canoe rivers in the eastern United States. The Nature Conservancy conserved forests along 13 more miles of the upper St. John River, expanding conservation along the river to more than 72 miles and adding to our 20-year legacy of protection along this natural gem.

Tillinghast Pond Management Area Bat Barn
Tillinghast Pond Beyond the bat barn, this preserve represents the natural beauty of Rhode Island and is ideal for hiking, fishing, canoeing or kayaking. © Tim Mooney
Little Brown Bat
Colony Conservation Little brown bats are one of many species suffering from white-nose syndrome, the deadly fungal disease that has killed more than 6 million bats across the U.S. © Tim Mooney

Tillinghast Pond Management Area Bat Barn – Rhode Island

Swooping in at the Last Minute (10 Acres)

For years, biologists have been studying the colony of little brown bats that spend time around The Nature Conservancy’s Tillinghast Pond Preserve. The bats are particularly fond of a big red barn – private property adjacent to the preserve. Nearly 200 bats can be seen flying in and out of the barn and among the surrounding hayfields. It’s an ideal research site to learn more about one of nature’s unsung heroes. So when the barn went up for sale, we knew we needed to preserve it. With just days to close the deal and a competing offer on the line, the tiny-but-mighty Rhode Island team rallied to save this property, ensuring the bats’ habitat would go undisturbed.

David Wolkowsky's Ballast Key
A Conservation Legacy For decades, David Wolkowsky carefully stewarded this private island. He arranged to donate it prior to his passing to protect the island from future development and offer its wealth of natural resources and beauty to conservation purposes. © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

David Wolkowsky's Ballast Key – Florida

Completing the Key West National Wildlife Refuge (14 Acres)

In the tropical turquoise waters off Key West, a newly protected 14-acre island completes a conservation vision set in motion by President Theodore Roosevelt. David Wolkowsky's Ballast Key is the final piece of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1908 as a preserve and breeding ground for nesting wading birds and other wildlife. The island is home to many imperiled and endangered species of native plants and wildlife. Shallow waters that surround the key teem with inhabitants of a healthy coral reef ecosystem including threatened and endangered sea turtles.  

Protect the Little Things Endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles nest primarily on South Padre Island. Each summer, visitors crowd the beachfront to watch hours-old hatchlings journey from sand to surf.

South Padre Island – Texas

Saving Endangered Sea Turtle Habitat (6,200 Acres)

The world’s smallest and most critically endangered sea turtle has another safe place to call home thanks to a new land protection deal along the Texas coastline. In acquiring more than 6,200 acres on South Padre Island, The Nature Conservancy has helped to secure and safeguard part of the largest unprotected stretch of the world’s longest barrier island. This swath of shoreline is an important nesting area for the tiny Kemp’s ridley sea turtle – one of more than 16 wildlife species with federal or state conservation status that rely on this beachfront habitat for survival. This work is part of a larger effort to ensure that post-Deepwater Horizon oil spill, funding continues to be used for important species protection work and the restoration of natural resources.

D. Gary Young Wildlife Sanctuary
Natural and Cultural Significance The easement includes provides a haven for endangered greater sage-grouse. Protecting this place also ensures the preservation of ancient Native American petroglyphs carved by the ancestors of the Ute tribes. © © Stuart Ruckman Photography

D. Gary Young Wildlife Sanctuary – Utah

Preserving a Migratory Super-Highway (11,597 Acres)

In the Uinta Mountain foothills of eastern Utah, you’ll find a quintessentially western scene. Large herds of elk and deer make their way through the sage brush landscape, moving between their summer and winter ranges. Look closely and you may spot a Greater sage-grouse puffing out its distinctive golden chest. This key migratory corridor and 6 miles of the Duchesne River is now part of the largest conservation easement donation in the history of the Utah chapter thanks to a partnership with Young Living Essential Oils. Conserving this landscape will safeguard this special part of the state for generations to come.

Łutsël K’é and TNC have been working in partnership for more than 10 years to advance the Nation’s vision for their traditional homeland in the Northwest Territories.
Powerful Name Thaidene Nëné was the name chosen for this sacred area by the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation. It translates to the "Land of the Ancestors." © Pat Kane

Thaidene Nëné – Canada

Historic Milestone for Indigenous-Led Conservation (6.5 Million Acres)

In August of 2019, the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation, together with Canadian and territorial governments, signed agreements that will permanently protect Thaidene Nëné, the sacred homeland of the Łutsël K’é Dene people. This landmark agreement sets a new precedent for Indigenous-led conservation and creates one of the largest terrestrial protected areas in North America. Together with the adjacent Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary, more than 18 million acres of sweeping sub-arctic boreal forests and tundra will be safeguarded from future development. It’s the culmination of more than a decade of partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation, protecting 6.5 million acres of land important to their livelihoods and deep cultural traditions.

7J Ranch
A Gathering Place The ranch is a linkage between land and water that sustains a vast region. It’s one of the rare bird migration routes through the Mojave Desert that guarantees water. © Chip Carroon

7J Ranch – Nevada

Partnering with Ranchers to Safeguard Nature (900 Acres)

The 900-acre 7J Ranch property contains the headwaters of the Amargosa River, one of the most important hotspots of biodiversity in the country. The Amargosa River is a primarily underground river that emerges to the surface as springs along its path. When it emerges aboveground, it gives rise to oases harboring a remarkable diversity of life, including rare fish, plants, amphibians, and more than 250 species of resident and migratory birds. The Nature Conservancy is partnering with local ranchers to develop a grazing plan and exploring avenues for using the property to contribute to the local economy in Nevada's Oasis Valley. In addition to restoring and conserving wildlife habitat, our vision is for this property to become a center of excellence for science, education, and getting youth into the outdoors, while supporting Nevada's rural way of life.

The Nature Conservancy has been a leader in land conservation for decades, and these are just a small sample of recent successes our donors have helped make possible. As federal conservation programs go underfunded, demands for energy development increase, and climate change transforms our planet, our work to protect the lands and waters that sustain us all becomes even more important. We must do more – faster – and your continued support is essential.