The conservation of the larger Walker Ranch is critical to the endangered black-footed ferret.
The Nature Conservancy has just completed the placement of one new conservation easement and assisted our partners with a second new conservation easement in Colorado’s eastern plains. These easements protect over 20,000 acres of amazing prairie grasslands, while supporting the ranching heritage that our region is known for.
This deal is significant because in Colorado, approximately 48 percent of native grasslands have been lost. Grasslands support more than twice as many species of conservation concern than any other habitat type, yet they are the least protected and most threatened.
May Ranch Preserved
The Nature Conservancy collaborated with The Conservation Fund and Colorado Cattleman’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) to conserve the 16,480-acre May Ranch. Located in Prowers County, Colorado, it is one of the largest, contiguous ranches in the area that has not been converted to cropland agriculture.
The May Ranch contains significant riparian, wetland and open water habitats. The ranch’s numerous water features harbor rare plants, such as extensive populations of the rare showy prairie gentian. It's also home to migratory birds, including the elusive black rail and the long-billed curlew, and to the plains leopard frog.
The property’s shortgrass prairie and sandsage shrub-steppe provide habitat for several declining grassland birds, including Cassin’s sparrows, lark sparrows, lark buntings, and grasshopper sparrows. The property also supports several black-tailed prairie dog towns and burrowing owls, and it may provide the only significant potential habitat link for the imperiled lesser prairie chicken for areas to the north and south.
Conserving a Legacy
Dallas and Brenda May are the owners of the May Ranch and have been involved in the management of the property for more than 30 years. The family’s passion for the land started with Dallas’s father and was renewed when he passed away 10 years ago. With new purpose, Dallas and his family began searching for solutions to ensure that this land would remain the same for future generations, something his father had spent his life working toward. They began looking into conservation easements, and in 2015 officially moved forward with conserving the ranch.
“To be able to place a perpetual easement on our ranch that will assure that the same environmental conditions that exist today will be here forever, yes I do mean forever, is unbelievable,” said Dallas
At a time when their ranch and much of the surrounding area is being targeted for development of solar farms and shortgrass prairie is frequently converted to cropland, conservation of the May Ranch is vital for the entire shortgrass prairie ecosystem.
“I cannot thank The Nature Conservancy enough for everything you have done,” added Dallas.
Crystal Canyon: A Home for Endangered Species
The Conservancy worked with partners and ranch owner Gary Walker to place an almost 4,000-acre conservation easement on Crystal Canyon. Crystal Canyon is a portion of the Walker Ranch, approximately four miles south of Fort Carson and directly adjacent to residential subdivisions of Pueblo West.
This easement adds to over 29,900 acres that are already protected on the ranch, which now includes more than 45 square miles of native habitat and historic family ranchland conserved for future generations.
Made up of shortgrass prairie and shrublands, the new conservation easement is home to many species including the ferruginous hawk, scaled quail, burrowing owl and Cassin’s sparrow. The property also supports mule deer and pronghorn.
The conservation of the larger Walker Ranch is critical to the endangered black-footed ferret. Prior to the Walkers buying Crystal Canyon, a developer owned the property and received approval to construct more than 500 homes. The conservation easement, funded in part by Great Outdoors Colorado, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, the Gates Family Foundation, and other generous donors, now ensures that not even one home will be built on the property.