Huge win for nature in New Mexico

The accredited New Mexico Land Conservancy recently completed one of the nation’s largest conservation easements.

By Kirsten Ferguson September 22

The accredited New Mexico Land Conservancy recently completed one of the nation’s largest conservation easements. Owned by media mogul Ted Turner, the 315,000-acre Armendaris Ranch in southern New Mexico stretches along the Rio Grande from the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge to the southern end of Elephant Butte Lake.

The ranch protection project is the largest ever completed by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program, the military buffer program that conserves land near military sites. The ranch includes a large part of the western buffer of the White Sands Missile Range and was highly desirable for protection by the U.S. Army, which administers the 2 million-acre missile range.

Part of the Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion, the land contains significant natural and cultural resources. The entire Fra Cristobal Mountain Range is part of this vast landscape, which is home to approximately 230 desert bighorn sheep. Large lava fields include the Jornada caves, which serve as a migratory haven for more than 1 million bats of various species.

The deal was nearly five years in the making and is the biggest yet for the land conservancy, which will monitor the easements and issue annual reports to the Army.

“The permanent protection of this land presented a unique and timely convergence of interests between the various partners involved,” says Scott Wilber, the Conservancy’s executive director. “This is truly a win-win-win project for wildlife, the people of New Mexico and our national security.”