Walker Ranch now is home to a 1,315-acre conservation easement in partnership with the Department of Defense, furthering its protection of Fort Carson and wildlife habitat, The Nature Conservancy announced Friday.

The addition brings the Walkers' total conservation easements to about 22,292 acres, conserving land next to Fort Carson through money from the Army Compatible Use Buffer program.

The Walker Ranch conservation is one of the largest, most successful such projects, creating a buffer against development along more than 20 miles of the Fort Carson boundary, The Conservancy said in a news release.

Gary Walker's family has worked with the Conservancy and the U.S. Army since 2005, ensuring continued military use of a key installation and economic driver for the Colorado Springs area.

The easement protects not only the post, but also habitat for the ferruginous hawk, scaled quail, burrowing owl, Cassin's sparrow, mule deer and pronghorn antelope.

"This conservation easement is a win for all parties," said Matt Moorhead, southeastern Colorado program director for The Nature Conservancy. "It provides a lasting benefit of conservation, helps the Walkers maintain the property as a family-owned ranch, and secures Fort Carson for training the armed forces of the future.

"The Walkers are true stewards of their land. They understand the importance of the many species their land supports and how conservation can ensure that the land is preserved as a legacy for future generations."

The ranch also became the first restoration site in eastern Colorado for the endangered black-footed ferret in 2013.

"I hope to have all our lands under a conservation easement in my lifetime," Walker said in a Conservancy news release. "This ranch is meant to be protected, and there is nothing more destructive to this fragile ecosystem than subdivision. Build up, not out."

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