Encapsulating the varied landscapes and rich biodiversity of the Colorado Plateau
On September 28, 2005, the Grand Canyon Trust and Conservation Fund jointly purchased the 850,000 acre Kane and Two Mile ranch allotments. Sharing a 110 mile border with the northern edge of Grand Canyon National Park, the ranches extend over most of the Kaibab Plateau from Kanab Creek to the west and down the rolling eastern monocline as the Plateau transitions into the Marble Platform. The ranches continue east across the House Rock Valley to Lees Ferry and northward across the entire Paria Plateau and into Paria Canyon, virtually touching the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument at its northernmost extent. This spectacular and strikingly diverse landscape spans a 6,000 foot elevation gradient, and includes a wide diversity of ecological life zones, from dense evergreen forests and lush river oases to slickrock badlands and arid desert grasslands.
The Kane and Two Mile ranches provide a showcase of biological diversity that typifies the Colorado Plateau region. The Kaibab Plateau has the largest remaining stands of old growth ponderosa pine in the Southwest, harbors the greatest concentration of Northern Goshawks in the Southwest, and is the only place in the world where the endemic Kaibab squirrel can be found. North Canyon, cutting across the Saddle Mountain Wilderness and dropping to the Colorado River, has the purest known strain of endangered Apache trout. Desert bighorn sheep and American pronghorn roam throughout the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, which lies almost entirely within the boundaries of the ranches, and is home to over 20 raptor species, including the recently re-established California condor.
Despite the diversity of species, habitats, and ecosystems that remain relatively intact across this geographically isolated landscape, livestock overgrazing, water development, old-growth logging, fire suppression and other land use practices have degraded large tracts of the Kane and Two Mile ranches, and these areas are in need of restoration. With the purchase of the ranches, the Trust and the Conservation Fund have committed to work with the land management agencies to bring collaborative approaches and rigorous science to help guide ecologically sustainable management of the landscape as a whole.
While the Conservation Fund was instrumental in purchasing the ranches, the Trust is responsible for managing them. In doing so, we are building collaborative relationships with the Bureau of Land Management, the U. S. Forest Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and many others. Through these relationships and many on-the-ground partnerships, we are working to adaptively manage livestock using the best available science to inform a conservation agenda that includes ranching. In a broader context, we are working to restore and maintain the deeply embedded ecological, cultural, and scenic values of the ranches landscape through cooperative research, monitoring, and on-the-ground restoration work. Our approach incorporates strong science, active collaboration, and strong public involvement, and offers significant promise for improving environmental conditions across this expansive, beautiful, and inspiring landscape.