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Imagine a vast, remote, and wild landscape neighboring the Grand Canyon and spanning across and around the recently created Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. Human presence is rare here, but life abounds in unexpected places.

At the lowest elevations, spring-fed oases and year-round streams provide refuge for lizards, jackrabbits, and pronghorn antelope living in the midst of the hot, dry desert climate. Higher up at the base of the towering Vermilion Cliffs, hanging gardens are fed by springs seeping from the Navajo sandstone above, providing shade and water to a variety of birds and insects, as well as bighorn sheep and the occasional mountain lion. Higher still, newly reintroduced California condors soar on updrafts rising from ridgelines covered by pinyon-juniper woodlands. At the highest elevation of the Colorado Plateau, the Kaibab Plateau juts into the sky, blanketed with old-growth ponderosa pine forest, quaking aspen, subalpine meadows, and an array of small but lush sinkhole lakes.

Black bears, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and raptors and songbirds of many species are also found here before the plateau is shrouded in deep winter snow. Ranging in elevation from 3,000 to 9,000 feet and covering nearly 850,000 acres, the grazing allotments associated with the Kane and Two Mile Ranches encompass this wondrous landscape. They are home to an ambitious new conservation effort spearheaded by the Grand Canyon Trust and The Conservation Fund, whose efforts we help support. The Grand Canyon Trust and The Conservation Fund purchased the ranches, and the GCT is working with the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and other partners to manage the land with an eye toward maintaining, restoring, and protecting the area’s rich natural heritage and habitat.

Determining the best way to protect and restore wildlife habitat across such a vast, varied, and ecologically valuable area requires a conservation-based, cutting-edge, scientific approach. The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust provided funds for an ecological assessment of the grazing allotments on the ranches. With this funding, the Grand Canyon Trust hired several teams of ecologists to gather important data from the field and begin an extensive volunteer-driven assessment of forest conditions across the plateau.

Assessment results will help inform and guide decision making for the Grand Canyon Trust’s management and restoration program across the ranches and will serve as a set of baseline measurements for evaluating habitat conservation success over time.

In order to expand the scope of HSWLT’s influence and effectiveness for the benefit of wildlife, we frequently share funds, expertise and HSWLT’s humane philosophy with other organizations.  All HSWLT shared efforts are rooted in our commitment to providing wildlife with safe places to live, forever, by assisting other organizations that share our concerns for wildlife and habitat.

 

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