THE FORT UNION RANCH
Building a Legacy of Sustainability
The Fort Union Ranch in Northeastern New Mexico is situated where the Sangre de Cristo Mountains give way to the Great Plains of the Southwest. Ranging in elevation from 6,500 feet to more than 8,400 feet, and receiving an average rainfall between 12 and 16 inches per year, this is a semi-arid landscape dominated by short-grass prairie, rugged mesas and pinyon-juniper woodlands.
It is also a landscape of unexpected diversity that is steeped in early Western American history. It is a place where bison roamed, where hunter-gatherer tribes survived, and where the U.S. Army outpost, Fort Union, defended the Santa Fe Trail and the expanding frontier.
Before the industrial revolution, agriculture, along with fishing and forestry, made up one third of the Rocky Mountain economy. Today, farming and ranching account for just one percent of employment in the Rocky Mountain states. This dramatic decline in economic impact obscures the essential role that traditional working lands continue to play in western economies and native ecosystems.
Facing a future of challenges and uncertainties posed by fluctuating economies, drought, and shifting land-use patterns, the Fort Union Ranch approached the Sonoran Institute for help in 2010. The owning family, descendents of General Adelbert Ames and his wife Blanch Butler Ames, wanted to ensure the viability of their land and ranch over the long term by better integrating their economic and ecological goals for the property. In addition, they hoped to work with the Institute to create a positive, lasting impact beyond the boundaries of the Ranch itself.
For the Sonoran Institute, the challenge posed by the Fort Union Ranch offers an exciting opportunity to illustrate that working lands can be financially viable while simultaneously sustaining the natural, human, and wild aspects of whole landscapes.
“That a National Park Service unit can participate with local area landowners in landscape conservation will be exciting challenging and very rewarding.”
~ Marie Frias Sauter, Superintendent, Fort Union National Monument, National Park Service
Historical Note on The Fort Union Ranch
The Fort Union Ranch surrounds the Fort Union National Monument. Over the course of 40 years (1851-1891), three different forts were established to guard the Santa Fe Trail, a major trade route and frontier gateway.