The High Lonesome Institute was born of a desire to scientifically study living and land features of The High Lonesome Ranch in order to learn how to better understand, protect, restore them, and use them in a sustainable way. It represents a long-term investment in stewardship of this quintessential large western landscape. It began with a contract between the HLR and the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, PA, to conduct annual inventories and surveys of plants, birds, reptile, amphibians, and stream characteristics at the ranch. Those first surveys commenced in 2008 and concluded in 2011. Additional studies have been added by HLR in subsequent years and will continue for the foreseeable future. The science conducted by the High Lonesome Institute will always be an integral component in improving stewardship decisions. All past and current research is available under the research section.
An Education Program was added in 2010. Full Education information can be found under the Education tab. HLI ‘s Land Ethic Education Program provides learning opportunities for adults and children as well as guests and visitors to HLR. It offers a program that increases environmental literacy and natural awareness in all participants through hands-on experiences and scientific inquiry. HLI and HLR host Field Schools with participating colleges and universities where undergraduate students and their instructors come to camp and study on the ranch and adjoining Public Lands. HLI also supports graduate student education and research in cooperation with affiliated universities. When HLI facilities are completed, the education program will expand to accommodate more year-around activities.
In summer 2011, The High Lonesome Ranch President and CEO, Paul R. Vahldiek, Jr., HLR General Manager Scott Stewart, HLR Research Director Cristina Eisenberg, and HLR Advisors Shane Mahoney, Roger Creasey and Hal Salwasser visited three privately-endowed conservation research centers to gain understanding about how to establish and administer the growing science and education enterprise at The High Lonesome Ranch. Those were the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center in Georgia, the Rob and Bessie Welder Wildlife Foundation in Sinton, TX, and the Ceasar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M University- Kingsville.
Following those visits, Paul Vahldiek and Scott Stewart asked Dr. Salwasser to prepare a proposal for the creation of an institute for The HLR owners to consider at their annual meeting in November. The owners approved the proposal and The HLR initiated the establishment of a 501(c) 3 institution. Paperwork was filed with the IRS and State of Colorado in December 2012.
Currently, plans are underway for facilities design and fund raising to finance construction and endow both the Institute and the Ranch into perpetuity.