Wildlife conservation

For nearly 15 years, Vermejo Park Ranch ownership and management have committed themselves to enhancing and preserving the Ranch’s natural resources. We do more than facilitate bucket list-worthy western vacations, we also dedicate countless hours and resources to preserving our land and its inhabitants.

In partnership on various projects with the Turner Endangered Species Fund, the New Mexico Game and Fish, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Vermejo Park Ranch may well be one of the best models of private land conservation efforts for threatened or imperiled species. Our efforts are truly unparalleled among operational vacation ranches in the U.S.

Businessman and philanthropist Ted Turner has dedicated the last decade of his life to “pioneering a legacy.” Though he always dreamed of owning a true cowboy ranch, Turner’s commitment to Vermejo has made the property so much more. Through his love of nature, he seeks to inspire others to appreciate the beauty and intricacies of our planet. It is his hope that through careful use and consideration, adventure ranch vacations such as those facilitated by Vermejo Park Ranch will become an increasingly common way for Americans to reconnect with the Earth around them.

We invite all of our guests to learn more about the amazing variety of wildlife and flora found here on the ranch. From native trout species to untouched canyon terrain, Vermejo hopes to leave guests with memories other New Mexico ranches simply cannot. Practicing sustainable outdoor recreation, food harvesting, and fishing isn’t a marketing tool here at Vermejo; it’s a way of life.

Animal Protection
Black-Footed Ferrets and Black-Tailed and Gunnison’s Prairie Dogs

In 1998, Vermejo Park Ranch and the Turner Endangered Species Fund partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in an effort to restore the endangered black-footed ferret to the wild. The ferret project began as a pen-based breeding facility and evolved into an experimental release site. Following a ten-year restoration effort, black-footed ferrets were successfully and permanently released into their native New Mexico habitat on Vermejo Park in the fall of 2008.

When Ted Turner’s Vermejo Park, LLC purchased Vermejo Park in 1996, the Ranch had fewer than 500 acres of prairie dog habitat. Black-footed ferrets are obligate predators of prairie dogs and, as such, require large acreages of prairie dogs for both food and shelter. In 1999, Vermejo Park began expanding its prairie dog colonies with the goal of becoming a release site for ferrets. Today, Vermejo Park has over 8,000 acres of habitat occupied by prairie dogs, a keystone species on the short-grass prairie.

Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout Reintroduction

After several years of planning that involved Vermejo Park Ranch, the Turner Endangered Species Fund, New Mexico Game and Fish, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, United States Fish and Wildlife Service and Trout Unlimited, fish barriers were constructed in 2000 in the Costilla Creek watershed, with a goal of returning the indigenous Rio Grande cutthroat trout to the entire watershed. The large, connected sections of high quality cold water streams found on the Ranch provide ideal habitats in cutthroat trout conservation. The Costilla Creek Native RGCT Project on Vermejo Park Ranch is the most ambitious watershed renovation project ever initiated on behalf of any cutthroat trout, encompassing more than 100 miles of stream habitat and 18 lakes. If fully implemented as scheduled by 2020 it will represent a 20% increase in the amount of streams occupied by genetically pure Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout.

Southern Rocky Mountains Gray Wolf

The ecoregion surrounding the southern Rocky Mountains and location of Vermejo makes it an ideal opportunity for restoration of the Southern Rocky Mountains Gray Wolf and an exciting chance to be involved in re-creating the evolutionary potential of wolves. Vermejo is proud to participate in any way in order to return the gray wolf to its rightful place as an important and fascinating part of our nation’s ecological past and future.

PARTNERS: United States Fish & Wildlife Service;  International Union for Conservation of Nature Conservation Breeding Specialist Group;  National Wildlife Federation; Defenders of Wildlife; Wild Earth Guardians; Pueblo Zoo; Cheyenne Mountain Zoo;  Albuquerque Biological Park;  International Wolf Center; Denver Zoo

Ranch Ecology & Conservation
Riparian Restoration

Vermejo Park began a concerted effort in 2008 to develop a holistic riparian restoration plan. The long-term goals for the project are to restore critical and severely impacted watercourse areas in order to improve trout habitats and promote keystone species like beaver.

Floristic Inventory of Vermejo Park Ranch

Ben Legler, a graduate student in the botany program at the University of Wyoming, discovered two new species of plants during a recent inventory of Vermejo Park Ranch. Legler documented 1,094 different plant species, which include nearly 25 percent of all native New Mexican plants. Twenty-six species previously unknown to New Mexico landscapes were discovered, as were two new species: a showy alpine Phlox and a diminutive fern-like plant in the genus Botrychium.

Castle Rock Bison

Vermejo Park Ranch is one of a handful of private ranches that owns genetically unique bison (originating from two founding herds, including Yellowstone Park).  The genetics of the Castle Rock animals are worth protecting and the herd is growing is size.  Vermejo has had only Castle Rock bison on the Ranch since 2011.

Santa Fe Trail Mule Deer Adaptive Management Partnership

Vermejo Park and its neighbors participated in a research project with the New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit from 2002 to 2004 to address decreases in mule deer populations. Vermejo Park allowed access, offered assistance to researchers and then performed habitat improvement projects on several thousand acres. The mule deer population is now on the rebound.

Elk Calf Survival

Beginning in 2009, Vermejo Park and the New Mexico Game and Fish Department began studying causes of elk calf mortality to better manage the Ranch’s elk herd.

Ecological Restoration of Ponderosa Pine

Vermejo Park began a program in 1998 to thin the Ponderosa pine forests back to pre-settlement conditions. To date, approximately 18,000 acres have been treated and several local industries have been developed around the program, which has provided over 80 jobs in the community.

Aspen Restoration

During 2008, several experimental types of forestry treatments were started with the hope of stimulating the regeneration of aspen stands in the upland forests that have been declining for years.

Permanent Plot Vegetation Monitoring Projects

Vermejo began to develop baseline vegetation conditions on the Ranch in 1998. Begun as a forestry program, the project expanded to include the short-grass prairie in 2003. In 2007, Vermejo accelerated its monitoring program to include the entire Ranch. Currently, over 50 permanent vegetation-monitoring plots have been established.

Invasive Species Control

Vermejo Park began a coordinated invasive species control program in 2005. The primary objectives are to eliminate saltcedar, Chinese elm and Russian olive from riparian areas; to control or eradicate (if possible) leafy spurge from the Ponil drainage, and to control invasive species such as Canada thistle, bull thistle, musk thistle, yellow toadflax, knapweeds, hoary cress, and other non-native species.

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