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The pandemic contributed to a surge in land purchases in the American West, says Duke Phillips III, the third-generation cattleman behind Ranchlands. A conservation-driven livestock-management company and luxury eco-retreat, Ranchlands also runs turnkey operations for property owners who may not have the time or expertise but want to learn how to live off the land the right way. High-net-worth individuals are buying large tracts for two reasons, Phillips says. “One, to have a place to go that’s away from the rest of the world, and two, as a low-risk, long-term investment”—one that can be shared with multiple generations. In the case of the Phillips family, ranching has also served as a way to carry some of America’s agrarian traditions into the future.
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Ranchlands works closely with groups like the Nature Conservancy, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to tailor site-specific, science-based conservation initiatives for each property (including prescriptive grazing, to mimic the symbiotic relationship between the grasslands and the great bison herds of the past). “Everything we do has the land at the center of it,” says Phillips’s daughter, Tess Leach, who, along with her brother, Duke Phillips IV, manages Ranchlands’ five large-scale livestock operations in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and South Dakota, as well as the company’s leathergoods outfit. “We can’t run a business if we don’t have a healthy landscape.”