Conservation, Restoration, and the American West
We are not here because we wanted to be a guest ranch. We are here because it is beautiful and because we want to restore this sprawling ranch, its habitats and its wildlife and return it to its original glory. We are here to help connect it to other large ecosystems in a key habitat corridor from Mexico to Canada, and to become part of a Western Wildway for wildlife to roam and thrive. We are here to ensure our land, water, and resources are healthy and productive for many reasons. And we are here to help our conservation partners build bridges between ranchers, conservationists, public land managers, scientists, and others to improve land health in ways that work for everyone. It is because of these things that we are also a guest ranch. We want to share this large western landscape and all it has to offer. The Ranch showcases activities centered on enjoying the land, water, and wildlife. We invite you to come visit, connect with friends and have fun. While you’re here, learn about what we’re doing with this swath of the American West, come to know a little of the complex issues that require an understanding of the big picture, and come to appreciate it as we do.
Many of our guests come from dense urban areas and have never seen the stars like they can out here without light pollution. The more we can share the urgency of working together to help keep large landscapes connected, the better. It’s better for the wildlife that needs freedom to roam and thrive. It’s also better for wider net of people to become everyday advocates for the need for new land practices and policy.
A New Land Ethic
The High Lonesome Ranch vision states we are committed to healthy and productive lands, waters, and resources, but more than that, we are committed to demonstrating how private and public lands can be stewarded for ethical uses and economic vitality. This will be a true land ethic, where the community includes the soil, waters, fauna, and flora, as well as people.
The HLR is a private conservation organization anchored by a national-park-scale ranch. Founded over 20 years ago, HLR’s acreage and mission have grown to address the challenges of managing a landscape for many uses – living alongside nature; conserving wilderness and restoring habitats; ranching for sustainable land, livestock and agriculture; and resourcing for positive environmental and economic returns.
Large national parks are important for protection and preservation of wildlife but they are islands of conservation without connection or integration of human use. Healthy, large-scale habitat corridors are being fragmented or lost. Overuse and poor management of land and streams have caused water tables to drop, once-fertile valleys to dry up, hydrological cycles to change, and diversity to diminish. We are pioneering strategies to reverse these trends – recognizing that the vast majority of US land is in private ownership, especially in the west – and private property owners are a key component to linking conserved public lands.
Here we know that ranching with new best practices actually makes the land healthier. Rigid preservation or simply leaving the land alone exposes it to continued degradation and imbalances, which are not in its best interest. HLR’s restoration plans will return the landscape to its optimal health of over 100 years ago when it was characterized by lush wetlands, riparian vegetation and high groundwater tables. Ranching and farming, when done right, can be not only profitable, but can heal land and people at the same time.
Gathering and Sharing Knowledge
We have also established the High Lonesome Institute for applied conservation science, education, and outreach. Our research is focused on restoration of streams, riparian habitat, aspen groves and rangelands. We focus on improving land and resource management decisions, and on being a venue for dialogue on conservation and sustainable development. Sharing that knowledge, we are creating a forum for the exchange of ideas and practices on stewardship of working landscapes – before they disappear.
Not just another guest ranch
There is still a lot of work to be done. It will be an ongoing process. This is the work that sets us apart from other guest ranches. We want to share our ranch with guests while using it well in a healthy manner, and in a sustainable way. We invite you to visit, enjoy this iconic western landscape, and join us in our respect of it. Become an advocate. Then go tell your friends.