Bison ranch in the balance

  A bison ranch that sits in the shadow of the towering Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado could be sold to developers this year if The Nature Conservancy doesn't come through. Rocky Mountain Bison Inc. has promised to sell its 100,000 acres to the nonprofit Conservancy if the group can raise the purchase price of $6.4 million by June 30. The owners, longtime members of The Nature Conservancy, offered the land at below-market value to the group. Located between the towns of Crestone and Alamosa, the land lies next to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. It contains about one-third of the total sand dune mass in the valley, and the same rare insects and plants as the monument.

"This is a biological hotspot," says Conservancy staffer Melinda Helmick. "There are species here that are nowhere else on the planet."

The land is also home to a 2,000-head bison herd that will remain if the sale is completed. The Nature Conservancy of Boulder is counting the days it has left to raise the needed money through private donations.

"It has been a nerve-wracking experience," says Boulder office director Mark Burget. "If we are to lose these lands, it would be a tragedy for the ranch and the entire landscape."

To learn more, contact the Nature Conservancy at 1244 Pine Street, Boulder, CO 80302 (303/444-2950).

*Juniper Davis

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