Location: Catron County
Eco-Region: Arizona-New Mexico Mountains
Conservation Values: Agriculture, Scenic Open Space, Wildlife Habitat
Type of Project: Purchased Conservation Easement
Date Completed: July, 2011
The New Mexico Land Conservancy and the New Mexico State Forestry Division in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service succeeded in the permanent protection of nearly 5,000 acres of land on the southern and eastern flanks of Alegres Mountain in northern Catron County. Partial funding for these conservation easements was provided through the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department and the USDA’s Farm and Ranchland Protection Program.
The landowners of the property, the Shortes family, were very concerned about the impending development and subdivision of larger ranches that have become a growing trend in northern Catron County in the last few years, peaking during the height of the real estate market a few years ago. “My family wanted to do something to preserve the legacy provided to us by my granddad, V.M. Shortes. He found the Pie Town ranch in 1971, and loved the history, the rugged beauty, the pristine nature of the place. The area has suffered from the influx of subdivisions, and has threatened the sacredness that first entranced my grandfather,” said Zeke Shortes. Mr. Shortes went on to say, “A conservation easement will forever preserve the legacy and respect both my grandfather’s wishes while allowing us to provide an unspoiled landscape for my family to enjoy for generations to come.”
The completion of the latest conservation easement marks the second conservation effort that the Shortes family has undertaken on their family ranch. In 2010, the New Mexico Land Conservancy, the New Mexico State Forestry Division and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service partnered with the Shortes family to protect nearly 3,000 acres of their ranch. Michael Scisco, Conservation Director for the New Mexico Land Conservancy, commends the Shortes family for committing to such a large scale conservation effort. “The conservation of larger ranches has multiple benefits not only to the wildlife and scenic character of special landscapes around New Mexico, but also provides sustainability and security to agricultural operations by keeping land and water available for farming and ranching,” said Mr. Scisco.
The New Mexico State Forestry Division and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service were great partners and critical to the completion of this collaborative conservation effort.
“This conservation easement really shows the value of partnerships in land conservation” said Tony Delfin, New Mexico State Forester. “The state money used for this project leveraged a larger federal contribution and a generous donation of easement value by the landowners. Together with the administrative capabilities of the non-profit land trust we have successfully protected the forest values of wildlife habitat, watershed and scenic views on a large part of Alegres Mountain.”
“The Farm and Ranchland Protection Program was set-up to protect the nation’s important farm and ranch lands, and NRCS’s team here in New Mexico is proud of this project which so well realizes that national goal,” said Seth Fiedler, Resource Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The ranch includes important rangeland for productive cattle operations, but also contains mature high elevation forests with unique stands of mature piñon pine and alligator juniper with pockets of Douglas fir in canyon bottoms and Ponderosa pine at higher altitudes. Elevations top out at just under 10,000 feet and the ranch includes some portions of the continental divide. The ranch also contains excellent wildlife habitat for large game species and provides open landscapes for animals to move unimpeded by development or other deterrents. The recently completed conservation easement adds to over 6,000 acres of current protected private land around Alegres Mountain, bringing the total to well over 8,000 acres in the immediate area. Through the generosity of the Shortes family and the valuable public-private partnership between the New Mexico Land Conservancy, the New Mexico State Forestry Division and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, this conservation easement will forever help protect the agricultural, wildlife habitat and scenic open space values of this very unique and important landscape in northern Catron County.