Twenty years ago, on December 10, 1997, the Conservancy worked with the Redd family to protect the Dugout Ranch from development. Our purchase of this spectacular landscape, spanning 5,207 private acres, with an additional 335,030 acres of adjacent public lands in the heart of the Colorado Plateau, remains one of the Utah Chapter’s most significant accomplishments.
As New York Times reporter, Jon Christensen, wrote in 1997, the ranch’s protection “…took a combination of true grit, sophisticated tax and estate planning and the donations of more than a thousand people from around the country who did not want to see Dugout—and other places like it—fall into the hands of developers.”
Aerial view of Dugout Ranch. © Ted Wood
AN ECOLOGICAL JEWEL
Adjacent to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, the Dugout’s private land and public grazing allotments encompass desert valleys and aweinspiring redrock cliffs. The property supports 42 miles of streamside habitat, rare plants and a wealth of wildlife. Dugout also boasts “relict areas” that have never been grazed or disturbed by humans.
“The day we closed, I was humbled by what we were accomplishing,” says Dave Livermore, the Conservancy’s Utah State Director. “Utahns saw the importance of saving this incredibly special place.”
A BEACON OF CONSERVATION SCIENCE
In the last two decades, a lot has changed at the Dugout. Out on the range, there are still cowboys and cattle herds, but today you’ll also find scientists, weather instruments and experimental vegetation plots. The ranch house and barns remain, but canvas-walled tents and a field lab now mark the home of the Canyonlands Research Center—a ground-breaking climate change and land use collaborative.
Heidi and Matt Redd. © Ted Wood
THE RANCH TODAY
While cowgirl Heidi Redd is still a larger-than-life presence and crucial ambassador, her son, Matt, now manages the ranch. Together with his wife, Kristen, Matt is helping to usher in a new era of science and ranching.
Amid this evolution, hope is also found in what remains unchanged. There are no subdivisions or ranchettes. As development, energy sprawl and water scarcity escalate in Utah, and politics swirl around public lands, the Dugout Ranch is intact and thriving. The heart and soul of this place—the natural values and human history—are all still here. Dugout “at 20’’ is an anniversary worth celebrating.