Southern Plains Land Trust

Colorado has already lost about 50% of its short-grass prairie. Wildlife populations on the plains are threatened because they are running out of space. Our solution is to buy and protect native prairie. We help heal the land and give prairie wildlife the space it needs to survive and thrive.

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Land Acquisition

Class

Environment 

Beneficiaries

General Public
Outdoor Recreationists
Wildlife Enthusiasts
Animals

Description

Southern Plains Land Trust was founded on the principle that one of the best ways to protect prairie wildlife is to simply buy the land that provides habitat for these animals. Our mission is to create and protect a network of shortgrass prairie preserves, which ensure a future for all native animals and plants. Our main program focus seeks to do just this, through the purchase of land or the acquisition of conservation easements.

We give priority to properties that are adjacent or near to our existing nature preserves and have high quality native grasslands (or the potential for the land to heal and return to native prairie). We will also consider properties that are close to key public lands or part of conservation initiatives on private land. One of the best areas in our state to preserve shortgrass prairie before it is lost is in southeast counties, like Bent and Baca.

We have an incredibly exciting opportunity in front of us - purchasing another 17,887 acres for Heartland Ranch Nature Preserve in April 2022. This will grow Heartland Ranch to almost 43,000 acres! It will create much needed space for our bison herd as it grows and critical habitat for countless wild animals. Every gift of $500 helps purchase an acre of shortgrass prairie. Please join us and be a part of recreating the American Serengeti.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

Measures of program success include:
1 - the number of acreage in our preserve network. We have protected over 32,000 acres. We own over 30,000 acres and hold conservation easements on an additional 2,000 acres.
2 - new landowners and conservation buyers are approaching SPLT to participate in our land acquisition efforts.
3 - native flora and fauna communities are intact and rebounding from past land uses.

Land Management & Restoration

Class

Environment 

Beneficiaries

General Public
Outdoor Recreationists
Wildlife Enthusiasts

Description

Southern Plains Land Trust manages its preserves for native flora and fauna. In 2017, we began a stream restoration effort on Raven's Nest Nature Preserve. Collaborating with Colorado Open Lands, Defenders of Wildlife, and the National Park Service, we planted 2,000 willows and cottonwoods on Rule Creek, which flows into the Arkansas River. In 2018, we joined with these organizations and our neighbors to plant over 1,000 willows and hundreds of cottonwoods at multiple locations on our Heartland Ranch preserve. In 2019, we partnered with Ducks Unlimited to create a plan for riparian restoration on our two largest preserves, Raven's Nest and Heartland Ranch.

While the pandemic prevented us from hosting volunteer work parties in 2020, our efforts to continue restoration plantings were implemented by staff. In 2020, we planted over 400 cottonwoods in partnership with Defenders of Wildlife. COVID-19 has made it challenging to keep up with the ongoing management needs on our preserves. To address this, staff is spending more time in the field making fences wildlife friendly and monitoring properties. We are vigilant to prevent trespassing from livestock or hunters. Invasive weeds also threaten a healthy ecosystem and we work to remove them (avoiding the use of chemicals) whenever possible.

An exciting new restoration effort at SPLT is our collaboration with neighbors of Heartland Ranch to modify or remove fences across 90,000 acres to make the landscape more accessible to pronghorn and other wildlife. This effort is funded through RESTORE Colorado. This year, we have modified or replaced 15 miles of necesary periphery fencing to be wildlife friendly, and allow the safe passage of pronghorn across property lines. Another 10 miles of fencing has been removed completely.

In 2021, SPLT partnered with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado and Defenders of Wildlfie. We hosted two volunteer projects that focused on stream restoration. Staf also planted hundreds of cottonwood and coyote willow saplings along drainages to improve wildlife habitat. We are now seeing the fruits of our labor, as saplings planted over the last few years are now established and growing into mature trees.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

To be successful, SPLT's lands would contain healthy populations of native flora and fauna. Adverse impacts from non-native organisms would be negligible. Harmful land uses would effectively be curtailed in order to allow natural processes to establish, to the maximum extent practical. In other words, SPLT's preserves would be flourishing with prairie life.

Education & Outreach

Class

Environment 

Beneficiaries

Adults
Children and Youth (infants - 19 years)
General Public
Outdoor Recreationists
Wildlife Enthusiasts

Description

Southern Plains Land Trust welcomes local elementary students to Raven's Nest Nature Preserve each spring to learn about prairie ecology and visit the restored historic one-room Penrose School. This year 5th graders from Las Animas Elementary School spent a day on the prairie learning about wildlife and plant adaptations.

Each year, the land trust also reaches out to local communities through outreach events, such as, Pedal the Plains, VegFest, Colorado Native Plant Society events, and Prairie Dog Day festivities. Given the pandemic, many of these outreach events were canceled or virtual in 2021. However, we hosted two restoration projects with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado at our wildlife refuges. We also participated in the Planet-based Living Festival in Boulder.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

If successful in our education and outreach, we will increasingly see members of the public visiting and appreciating prairie land in the Southern Plains. This larger constituency will help diversify the economy in the region and be a force for greater wildlife and biodiversity protection.

Key aspects of this profile information have been reviewed by Community First Foundation staff. Each organization is exclusively responsible for the content that appears on the profile page. Community First Foundation offers general guidance as to the purpose of each area but does not require or encourage charities to include anything in particular in each section.