Sand Ranch/Area of Critical Environmental Concern
Lesser Prairie-Chicken. Photo by Kevin Rolle/Flickr
Throughout the Southwest and Midwest, the lesser prairie-chicken’s population size and geographic range have dramatically diminished due to the widespread conversion of native prairie grasslands to agricultural uses, leaving Southeast New Mexico as one of the bird’s most important undisturbed habitats.
Back in May 2008, following an extensive public planning process, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) about 35 miles east of Roswell to provide much-needed habitat for the Lesser Prairie-chicken as well as the Sand Dune Lizard. To conserve this high value habitat, the BLM requested The Conservation Fund’s assistance in acquiring key lands in and around the special area.
Our most recent success in the region was back in March 2012 when we purchased 42,000 acres of federal and state grazing permits and leases, as well as 2,500 acres of private land, on a New Mexico property called Sand Ranch. Some of the highest conservation priority areas, the recently conserved lands are recognized as one of the greatest strongholds for the Lesser Prairie-chicken and some of the most accessible places in the state to view the prairie chicken in its native habitat. It is also a significant location for some of the largest known populations of Sand Dune Lizards.
By leveraging private funds and additional support from Concho Resources and the Richard King Mellon Foundation, we were able to purchase Sand Ranch for the BLM. With this and previous projects, we’ve conserved most of the land within BLM’s nearly 58,000-acre Area of Critical Environmental Concern for the species.