SPLT's mission is to create and protect a network of shortgrass prairie preserves, which ensure a future for all native animals and plants.
Southern Plains Land Trust was founded in 1998 by friends who saw that prairie wildlife were constantly threatened by human disturbances and that native habitat was quickly vanishing. As environmental advocates, they wanted to do something that would have a real and lasting impact. Their solution was to pool their resources and buy land for the express purpose of protecting it for the wildlife. The best opportunities to save existing prairie - then and now - are on the Southern Plains.
This first nature preserve purchased was Fresh Tracks,1,280 acres in Baca County. The name acknowledged the welcomed sight of wildlife tracks on the property. It also signified a new path toward land management on the Southern Plains, one where wildlife has intrinsic value. Since then, the land trust has continued to gain community support and grow.
In 2000, Marianne Rees and Two Marys Nature Preserves were protected with conservation easements, adding 1,300 acres to our network. A conservation easement for Quail Ridge Nature Preserve, 90 acres in Lamar, was accepted in 2003. These easements are legal protections that give the land a chance to heal and recover from livestock grazing, farming and hunting.
In 2013, the land trust experienced an exciting growth spurt with the purchase of Raven's Nest Nature Preserve (2,240 acres). Two years later, Raven's Nest doubled in size and is now 4,800 acres (or 7.5 square miles!). In 2015, we also acquired Heartland Ranch Nature Preserve, the jewel of our prairie network and it has continued to grow.
Today, Heartland Ranch is about 25,000 acres - that's larger than any Colorado State Park and about the size of Boulder! Bison have been returned to the land and our herd is now over 80 individuals. Prairie wildlife, such as pronghorn, prairie dogs, burrowing owls and horned lizards, thrive here. The grasslands and riparian areas are being restored and allowed to heal from years of disturbance caused by cattle and humans. The future for Heartland Ranch Nature Preserve is exciting. Southern Plains Land Trust is under contract to purchase adjacent properties in 2023, bringing the preserve to 45,000 acres!
"I am an ardent supporter of Southern Plains Land Trust and the work it is doing in southeast Colorado. The Southern Plains Land Trust, in the 21st century, is doing everything they can to restore the American Serengeti. It is really one of the most exciting conservation projects in the West, in our own time."
--Dan Flores, author of "American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains."
"By successfully restoring the iconic wildlife and landscapes of the American Great Plains to southeast Colorado, SPLT has become the Southern Plains anchor for the American Serengeti. We are very proud to be an active partner in this visionary effort."
--Jonathan Proctor, Rockies and Plains Program Director, Defenders of Wildlife
"The Southern Plains Land Trust is one of the most efficient and effective non-profits in our region. For decades, this small group of talented individuals has proven that with strategy and hard work, thousands of acres of grassland habitat and countless animals can be protected for today and our future generations. Get involved today. It's awesome how much this group accomplishes."
--Lindsey Sterling Krank, Director of the Prairie Dog Coalition of the Humane Society of the United States