Heartland Ranch: Bigger than Boulder

Heartland Ranch Nature Preserve:

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SPLT’s Bigger than Boulder Campaign

The Southern Plains Land Trust (SPLT) is striving to create an 18,000-acre (nearly 30-square-mile) wildlife preserve in southeastern Colorado. This is an area bigger than the City of Boulder, Colorado. We’ve already acquired 11,000 acres and need your help to purchase an adjacent 7,000 acres. This property, called “Heartland Ranch,” is located in Bent County, in southeastern Colorado, an area with the best remaining intact shortgrass prairie habitat in the state.

Heartland Ranch contains outstanding biodiversity values. It has rolling grassland terrain, at least 6 prairie dog colonies that occupy about 750 acres, dramatic rock-covered mesas, lush canyons, juniper woodlands, multiple perennial springs, and several miles of ephemeral streams (West Mud Creek and Little Angry Creek) that feed into the Arkansas River. A herd of 85 bison resides on the property, as does a variety of wildlife, which find refuge in the varied habitats. Vertebrate wildlife on the property include elk (a rarity in the shortgrass prairie), mule deer, pronghorn, badger, coyote, bobcat, swift fox, black-tailed prairie dog, black-tailed jackrabbit, desert cottontail, ferruginous hawk, Swainson’s hawk, American kestrel, Great Plains skink, lesser earless lizard, fence lizard, Western ornate box turtle, prairie rattler, coachwhip, and others.

The stream areas provide crucial habitat for area wildlife, and we have sandpipers, ducks, herons, and plains leopard frogs using springs and creeks on the property. There are springs on the property which flow all year long. In the spring and summer of 2015, the many seasonal creeks and ponds filled up with summer rains, providing excellent wildlife habitat. The leopard frog populations, in particular, were among the most populous we’ve ever seen. Burrowing owls also had a banner year, benefiting from the protected prairie dog populations. In addition to abundant and diverse animals, Colorado Green Gentian (Frasera coloradensis), is found on this property. This rare plant is found only in southeastern Colorado. SPLT’s goal is to permanently protect the tremendous natural conservation values of this area, providing safe refuge to all native wildlife, as well as to give back to local communities through educational programs about the rich natural and human history of this land.

See highlights from our 2017 BioBlitz on Heartland.

Donate to help to create this extensive preserve. (Photo by Rich Reading)