SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO, November 7, 2017 – Audubon New Mexico today announced a new innovative conservation program to benefit grassland birds, ranchers and the rich biodiversity of the state by signing its first New Mexico ranch, Ranney Ranch. Audubon’s Conservation Ranching Program will result in widespread habitat enhancement in North America’s most imperiled ecosystem, grasslands. This program is made possible with a Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Audubon, a leader in innovative conservation solutions, has developed a new market-based approach to restore and enhance imperiled grasslands throughout the American West for the benefit of grassland birds, ranching families and the communities that depend on them. The Audubon Conservation Ranching program links consumers to beef produced on ranches that provide good grassland bird habitat. When consumers buy beef certified under the Audubon program, they’re boosting habitat for birds and also supporting healthier soils, cleaner streams, and more pollinators for plants in their state. Beef from Ranney Ranch can be purchased online from Skarsgard Farms, the first participating retailer in New Mexico.

Grasslands are among the most altered and imperiled ecosystems in the world—and one of the least protected. These critical ecosystems are dwindling at an alarming rate. With the decline of grassland habitats comes the decline of grassland and arid land birds, which have suffered steep, consistent population loss over the last 40 years—more than any other group of birds. With 85% of grasslands in the U.S. privately owned, Audubon recognizes that partnering with families who have worked the land for decades and even centuries is vital to improve ecological condition of this vast land. The survival of healthy working lands and grasslands birds in New Mexico relies substantially on engaging ranchers in solutions that mitigate economic and environmental threats to their deep-rooted traditional livelihood. The purpose of the program is to establish a market-based grassland stewardship incentive to help New Mexico ranchers voluntarily manage their land for the benefit of both grassland birds and ranching families.

“We recognize the importance of working with New Mexico ranching families in partnership for conservation outcomes at scale,” said Beth Bardwell, Director of Conservation for Audubon New Mexico. “Audubon’s Conservation Ranching Program is a rare opportunity where economic incentives align, support and sustain nature’s ecosystems.”

Ranchers enrolled in Audubon’s Conservation Ranching program adopt Audubon production protocols and implement a Habitat Management Plan that benefits local grassland birds. Typically, these plans outline steps to diversify pastures, control invasive plants, and implement a rotational grazing approach that produces patchy, diverse cover across the land. In recognition of the adoption of these management practices, Audubon will provide technical assistance to participating ranchers in production and rangeland ecology and use its network to build consumer awareness and interest in the program. 

The vast grasslands of New Mexico are a part of the state’s heritage, culture, and economy. Within eastern New Mexico, Audubon has designated over 2 million acres of grasslands as a Globally Important Bird Area for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. The primary goal of Audubon New Mexico’s new statewide Conservation Ranching Program is to further recognize and enhance the biodiversity in multiple grassland ecoregions in the state.

“For centuries, our treasured land holds cultural and historical significance, and has been providing a source of life for both people and wildlife here in New Mexico, and our grasslands are especially critical for bird habitat and generational ranching families,” explained Beth Bardwell, Director of Conservation for Audubon New Mexico.

Central to Audubon’s conservation work is the belief that where birds thrive, people prosper. Audubon’s work is centered on birds because they are a crucial link in the chain of life. The vast distances birds travel and their exposure to diverse ecosystems make them unique barometers of the Earth’s health and specifically, here in New Mexico, the health of our rivers and land. Bardwell explained, “Many birds depend on healthy southern shortgrass prairie grasslands to breed, such as the Lesser-Prairie Chicken, Cassin’s Sparrow, Scaled Quail, and Western Meadowlark. Grassland birds, as a group, are experiencing steep population declines. Since the 1970’s, many species have declined more than 50% and several key species that winter in New Mexico Chihuahuan Desert grasslands have declined more than 80%.” To that end, Audubon New Mexico recognizes the importance of restoring their habitats, and the plight of grassland birds is inextricably linked to the ranching culture.

“We recognize the importance of working with New Mexico ranching families like the Ranney’s in partnership for conservation outcomes at scale,” said Bardwell. “Ranney Ranch is a natural fit for the Audubon Conservation Ranching Program.” Since 2003, Nancy Ranney and her family have been managing the ranch according to regenerative practices including planned rotational grazing which is an integral component of Audubon’s Conservation Ranching Program.

“Ranney Ranch has been working for the past fifteen years with the regenerative land management practices that Audubon considers vital for grassland bird habitat in the West—planned rotational grazing, clearing of invasive juniper, road and drainage design that promotes water retention,” said Nancy Ranney. “Our hope is that this partnership will spread the word that carefully managed livestock are key to the ecologic health and resilience of our nation’s grasslands. It turns out that grassland birds and grass-fed beef go well together, and each requires public support to survive.”  

The 18,000-acre Ranney Ranch is the first New Mexico ranch to enroll their ranchlands into the Audubon Conservation Ranching program and to have the Audubon certification on their product packaging. The Audubon mark certifies cattle were grazed on Audubon certified bird-friendly land. The Ranney Ranch is a family-owned cow-calf operation at 6200 feet in rugged mesa country near Corona, New Mexico. The Ranney family has nurtured an Angus herd for nearly fifty years, bringing healthier, more sustainable grass-fed beef to consumers.

Audubon believes that people are at the heart of conservation solutions. It is because of partnerships with ranchers like the Ranney family that Audubon can further enhance its grassland conservation efforts. “These partnerships are vital to keep ranchers on the land and healthy grasslands on the landscape,” said Chris Wilson, Director of Audubon’s Conservation Ranching Program.  Audubon expects to enroll 600,000 acres of privately owned grasslands in the program over the next three years.

To purchase Ranney Ranch product under the Audubon certified program, contact retail outlet, Skarsgard Farms at 505-681-4060 or visit or visit their online store.

For more information about the Ranney Ranch, visit

For more information about Audubon Conservation Ranching, and to locate retail outlets selling beef under the program, contact Chris Wilson, Program Director, at, or visit

To learn more about Audubon New Mexico’s Conservation Programs, please click here.

About Audubon
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon's state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon's vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more how to help at and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.

Audubon New Mexico: As the state office of the National Audubon Society, Audubon New Mexico’s mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.

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