Protecting America’s Prairie and Wildlife by Expanding Heartland Ranch Nature Preserve

American bison herd. Image credit: Courtesy of Lauren McCain for the Southern Plains Land Trust

Protecting America’s Prairie and Wildlife by Expanding Heartland Ranch Nature Preserve

Bioregion Southern Prairie Mixed Grasslands (NA20)
Category Nature Conservation

Our project categories represent one of three core solutions pathways to solving climate change. Energy Transition focuses on renewable energy access and energy efficiency. Nature Conservation includes wildlife habitat protection and ecosystem restoration, as well as Indigenous land rights. Regenerative Agriculture supports farmers, ranchers, and community agriculture.

Realm Northern America

The Project Marketplace is organized by the major terrestrial realms divided into 14 biogeographical regions – N. America, Subarctic America, C. America, S. America, Afrotropics, Indomalaya, Australasia, Oceania, Antarctica, and the Palearctic realm, which coincides with Eurasia and is divided into Subarctic, Western, Central, Eastern, and Southern regions.

Status active

Seed indicates an early stage project that needs some level of support to develop into a larger funding proposal. Active indicates any project that needs core programmatic funding. Urgent indicates a short-term project initiated in response to a natural disaster or other impending risk.

Funding Level $$$

$$$ indicates a project between $250,000-$1 million.

Partner Quick Response Fund for Nature

One Earth’s Project Marketplace funds on-the-ground climate solutions that are key to solving the climate crisis through three pillars of collective action — renewable energy, nature conservation, and regenerative agriculture.

Temperate grasslands are among the most endangered ecosystems in the world, and once unsustainable agricultural projects plow them, these habitats are impossible to restore. Intact shortgrass prairies are a stable carbon sink, so their protection is vital for the planet’s climate health and native flora and fauna.

Image credit: Courtesy of the Southern Plains Land Trust

Through this land acquisition project, the Southern Plains Land Trust (SPLT) powered by the Quick Response Fund for Nature (QRFN), will expand the Heartland Ranch Nature Preserve in Bent County in southeastern Colorado from 24,774 acres to 42,661 acres. Alongside advancing shortgrass prairie preservation broadly, increasing Heartland Ranch’s extent to this landscape scale is vital for protecting and conserving local biodiversity.

SPLT manages Heartland Ranch for biodiversity by protecting and restoring native species and natural processes, working closely with scientists, conservation organizations, and government agencies. Restoration practices include removing fences, artificial structures, and trash piles, turning off and removing power lines to reduce electrocution hazards, grazing management, controlling non-native plants, reforesting prairie streams, and protecting keystone species, such as bison and prairie dogs.

Black-footed ferret in prairie dog burrow. Image credit: Courtesy of Nicole J. Rosmarino for the Southern Plains Land Trust

Goals within the preserve include:

  • Expanding the current breeding herd of 19 bison.
  • Reintroducing black-footed ferrets, perhaps as soon as 2022.
  • Increasing the extent of prairie dog colonies, which currently cover 1,262 acres, to 1,500 acres by 2024.
  • Rewilding elk to the region.
  • Bringing back the rare lesser prairie chicken, if possible.

Image credit: Courtesy of the Southern Plains Land Trust

The social implications of the land purchase are significant. SPLT is women-led and firmly rooted in southeast Colorado. Most staff live near the preserves and routinely team up with local schools and nonprofits to educate and spread awareness about the region's importance.

Provide a major gift

Your contribution will help ensure the long term success of this important project. Gifts can be made as a tribute to a friend or family member and are tax-deductible for U.S. residents. Please contact us!