Although much of the land along the giant crevasse of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon has been protected, huge parcels of land here are still vulnerable to subdivision, development and drought. That was the case with the privately owned Kane and Two Mile ranches, The Conservation Fund’s largest land conservation project.


The North Rim Ranches are an expansive inholding that connects three national monuments, two national recreation areas and eight wilderness areas. The ranches span just over 1,200 acres and control grazing permits across nearly 900,000 acres of adjacent federal lands. The properties share a 100-mile boundary with the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park and much of the ranch is made up of the sky island of the Kaibab Plateau, which is home to the highest density of old growth ponderosa pines in the Southwest. It also plays a significant part in the reintroduction efforts for the endangered California condor in Arizona.

Beginning in 2005, we partnered with the Grand Canyon Trust to purchase the Kane and Two Mile ranches, both within view of Arizona’s famed Vermilion Cliffs. Together with the trust, we created North Rim Ranch LLC to own and run the ranches and hired a third-generation rancher to oversee the operation.

But there’s more: decades of grazing operations had taken their toll on the area’s most sensitive lands. We brought together neighboring ranchers, public agencies and tribal officials to develop a management plan for the property. The goal is to reduce grazing pressures on sensitive lands, restore critical wildlife habitat and maintain part of the land as a traditional cattle ranch. The groups also convened a science advisory council to assess the grazing allotments associated with the ranches, which will help land managers conserve and protect the fragile landscape.

Since operations began on the North Rim Ranches, they have reduced grazing pressures on the fragile landscapes by decreasing cattle by half and instituting a rotational grazing pattern, giving pastures at least a year off for every year they are grazed. The North Rim Ranches have also opened research operations on the property, studying how to combat invasive species, climate change in the region, and much more. Along with these scientific pursuits have come educational opportunities for local students to visit the ranches, with students from Kindergarten to college learning about the ecological plane of these grand landscapes.

Funding to support the effort was provided by the Richard King Mellon FoundationGordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through its partnership with Walmart and the Acres for America program.


The land conservation successes along the North Rim are great examples of how saving land isn’t always about simply buying it and setting it aside; successful conservation often requires bringing multiple groups together to determine long-term preservation goals. We knew that for conservation to last here, we needed to preserve not only the region’s wildlife habitat and striking scenery, but also its rich ranching heritage.