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Explore the diverse programs of this family-owned business that focuses on preservation of biodiversity, while empowering and educating young people to manage ranches in a sustainable way. We caught up with the team of Ranchlands to learn about their work and what it's like to stay at their locations

Words: Emily Georgieva and Aleksandra Georgieva

Photography: Ranchlands


28 June 2023

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Ranchlands is a family business focused on promoting the sustainable management of ranch lands and the quality of life for the people living and working on ranches. The agricultural-based business operates large-scale cattle and bison ranches in the American West. They partner with forward-thinking owners to diversify their cattle business and advisory services based around fishing, hunting, hospitality and ecotourism.

The business owners view ranching as a way of preserving the biodiversity of large-scale American grasslands and seek opportunities for ranchers and environmentalists to combine resources and knowledge to improve land management. The team considers it their responsibility to protect the lands they live and work on, which ultimately support them. They strive to empower young people interested in ranching and to provide learning opportunities to new ranch owners at a time when ranching is losing a high percentage of its young people as the refinancing of the American West results in ranches being purchased by investors with little to none hands-on ecosystem management experience.

Ranchlands cares deeply for the future generations, the public and other ranching communities. They cultivate their experiences and offer expertise with ambitious objectives in ecological restoration, ranch management, business management, and entrepreneurial creativity to other ranch owners. Ranchlands work closely with organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and several others to achieve responsible practices and to reduce the stress on ecosystems.

The goal of Ranchlands is large-scale preservation and restoration of natural resources. Not only are the ranches economically self-sufficient, but vigorous programs improve biodiversity. The business supports ranch real estate owners by providing help with employment and eliminating ongoing costs. Even in times of drought or weak cattle markets, the ranches ensure to remain ecologically and financially viable thanks to their ancillary business. Ranchlands is focused on preserving ranching heritage and traditions while also embracing new ways of thinking.

In our conversation with the Ranchlands team, we learn about their most popular locations, their community and some of their favourite things about the American West.

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‘‘I think everyone involved in Ranchlands has a deep love of the land and it’s wild inhabitants, each connecting to it in a different way. The romance and beauty of the West is still very much alive.’’

Kate Matheson, Zapata Ranch Manager & Ranchlands PR for NOMADSofORIGIN Magazine

NOMADSofORIGIN: You have several ranches across the American West. Which is the most popular location?
Kate: We manage 5 large scale ranches in the West. We currently offer experiences for people to take part in on two of them, Chico Basin Ranch and Zapata Ranch but if you are a member of The Ranchlands Collective you have the opportunity to stay on four of the properties. You can be a member of the collective for as little as $5 per month.

NOMADSofORIGIN: How was Ranchlands founded?

Kate: The Zapata Ranch is owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed by Ranchlands. Ranchlands was founded by Duke Phillips lll and now owned and run by himself and two of his children, Tess Leach and Duke Phillips.

NOMADSofORIGIN: You offer guests the option to book a stay with you. What is that experience like for them?
At the Zapata ranch we offer horseback riding across both the ranch and the Great Sand Dunes. You can experience seeing the Nature Conservancy owned, wild bison herd up-close along with numerous wildlife, flora and fauna. We offer a fully immersive ranch experience that includes ecology walks, guided hikes in to the Sangre De Cristo mountains, horsemanship classes and other specialized workshops like Natural Fabric Dyeing with Edie Ure or literature weeks with Pam Houston.

NOMADSofORIGIN: The Ranchlands Collective is focused on community. Why was it important for you to establish a close connection with people and nature as well?
Kate: We actually developed The Ranchlands Collective as the next phase of our community building. A way for people from around the world to join our mission in perpetuating ranching into the future and demonstrating how ranching can create environmental change at scale. Members will gain behind-the-scenes access to our work, team, and community through a variety of resources and benefits that will allow our community to grow.

NOMADSofORIGIN: What are your favourite things about Western America?

Kate: I think everyone involved in Ranchlands has a deep love of the land and its wild inhabitants, each connecting to it in a different way. The romance and beauty of the West is still very much alive.

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NOMADSofORIGIN: How many horses do you take care of and what do you do to make sure that they live a healthy life?
We have a large horse herds in each ranch. At Zapata, we have around 60 horses. They live together out on pasture in one large herd year round. They are a group that know each other very well, they have hierarchy and structure. They are all riding horses, used to the sandy footing across the ranch and the dunes, used to the presence of coyotes and large bison, to wild winds and occasional hail storms. They are tough and hardy and kind and are the most important element and companions we have on the ranch. Their happiness and well-being is our happiness and well-being.

NOMADSofORIGIN: What do guests love most about Zapata?

Kate: I think Zapata provides people with a sense of wonderment and exhilaration. A connection to nature and freedom so removed from their day to day lives.

NOMADSofORIGIN: What are the difficulties you encounter with Ranchlands?
As ranchers our difficulties are raising awareness of the positive role ranching can take in increasing bio diversity and carbon sequestration. We see education as an important tool in increasing that awareness and our new membership, the Ranchlands Collective is one of the ways in which we are doing that.

Explore Ranchlands

Follow @ranchlands on social media.

NOMADSofORIGIN x Ranchlands

This interview appears in NOMADSofORIGIN Magazine print #06 The Trailblazers Issue



NOMADSofORIGIN is an independent annual publication with a focus on sustainable travelling and global cultural values. Each issue features interviews, engaging articles and photo guides, which take our nomadic readers through different destinations and introduce them to local people's perspectives.



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