The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Colorado recently completed a purchase of 11,040 acres of the Silver Mountain Ranch. They plan to conserve the property and its wildlife, while ensuring that ranching may continue.
Located west of Walsenburg and just off Highway 160, the Silver Mountain Ranch boasts a range of habitats from shortgrass prairie to pinyon-juniper woodlands and mixed conifer forest, spanning elevations from 6,700 to 10,000 feet. It is home to a tremendous variety of large mammals including elk, mule deer, mountain lion, black bear and bighorn sheep and supports the habitat used by Canada Lynx. It is also home to a variety of migratory birds, raptors, small mammals and butterflies.
“This ranch is very unique in that it harbors large mammal species along with numerous other native wildlife species because of diversity of habitat types the landscape offers,” said Mike Trujillo, Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s area wildlife manager for the Pueblo region. “The ranch also provides critical wintering areas for many wildlife species.”
“This property serves as an important component of conserved public and private lands that provide habitat for wildlife to thrive,” said JJ Autry, southeast Colorado project director for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado. “Ranching has fulfilled part of the role that historic bison herds once played in this geography and this continued use of the land has helped preserve the landscape. Protecting this property will allow native species to not only remain a vibrant part of the connected landscape, but to flourish.”
The Nature Conservancy plans to place a conservation easement on the property, while continuing the current bison and cattle ranching operation with a local manager. TNC will eventually sell the ranch back into private conservation-minded ownership that will keep the property intact and available for wildlife and agriculture into perpetuity.
Silver Mountain Ranch also offers exciting opportunities for community engagement, restoration and sustainable ranch management. TNC plans to implement science-based solutions to advance grazing and other management practices that meet the needs of ranchers and help sustain native plants and animals. TNC will also work with partners to explore restoration activities, including potential grassland, shrubland and forest health projects, and opportunities to learn and engage with the community through the work of our local ranch manager.
“The potential for this ranch is truly inspiring,” said Galen Guerrero-Murphy, land conservation program manager for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado. “It offers the opportunity to protect a broader linkage for wildlife between the southern Rocky Mountains, foothills and prairie. The beautiful property and varied landscape support the resilience of nature and people, especially vital in the face of changing climates.”