for National Geographic News
Editor's Note: The original version of this story unintentionally misrepresented the conditions of the sale of Dugout Ranch. The story has been updated to accurately reflect the transfer of the property.
Ten years ago, Heidi Redd feared that her ranching days were over.
For 30 years she had been running cattle on the Dugout Ranch in southeastern Utah, first with her husband, Robert, and then by herself after the couple's divorce in the 1980s.
By the 1990s the future of the 5,200-acre (2,100-hectare) property was in question. The Redds had received offers to buy the ranch, which sits near Canyonlands National Park, but turned down the requests because they didn't want to see the land subdivided.
(More on Canyonlands from National Geographic magazine.)
Hoping to keep the ranch intact, Redd approached the Nature Conservancy (TNC), the environmental nonprofit, which buys ecologically significant property and preserves it.
The ranch was a prime candidate for TNC ownership. The property includes rights to 250,000 acres (100,000 hectares) of federal grazing land, some of which has never been grazed.
Redd was looking for more than just a buy-sell arrangement, however.
"I was hoping they would purchase the land and allow me to continue ranching there," she said.
TNC agreed to Redd's plan, and this year marks the tenth anniversary of the partnership between the long-time rancher and the nonprofit.
TNC opted to continue with ranch operations and to use the property as a research lab, allowing scientists to work with Redd to determine the best grazing rotation for a desert climate.
Over the last decade, Redd has made changes to her grazing pattern based on the scientists' suggestion. In addition, she has reduced her herd size to 550 cattle, down from its peak of 2,000 in the 1960s.
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