Kiowa and Rita Blanca National Grasslands

photo of windmill on the grasslands

Click here to visit the National Grasslands web page!

Mike Atkinson, District Ranger
District Address: 714 Main St.; Clayton, NM 88415  
Phone: 575.374.9652


Within the short grass prairie of the southern Great Plains lie the Kiowa and Rita Blanca National Grasslands. These grasslands encompass approximately 230,000 acres in six counties within New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. These administrative units are not solid blocks of Government owned land; rather they consist of numerous small Government parcels, intermingled with privately owned tracts. Prior to settlement, this area was home to many American Indian tribes. The abundance of buffalo and wildlife provides strong testimony to the importance of the grass resource.

With the Homestead Act of 1862, settlers began to pour into the prairie. They were lured by the promise of a better life, and cheap and productive farmland.

The settlers quickly discovered the unpredictability of the prairie life. While the grasslands were productive in wet years, they were also subject to serious drought and harsh winters. The farm price collapse in 1919-20, coupled with severe drought, the depression, and ensuing "dust bowl", pushed many homesteaders to the edge of survival.

In the 1930's and early 1940's, programs were initiated which allowed the Federal Government to purchase and restore damaged lands. These purchased lands were known as Land Utilization Projects, and were administered by the Soil Conservation Service. By 1960, the administration of these Land Utilization Projects was transferred to the Forest Service, and they were then designated as National Grasslands. The Cibola National Forest is fortunate to administer the only National Grasslands in all of Region 3!

With much of the restoration and rehabilitation task completed following the dust bowl, the District today can focus on managing a widely varied program of work, which includes:

  • 140 individual grazing permits, which incorporate the use of a wide variety of grazing management techniques.
  • A wildlife program that is managed on an ecosystem basis within the Kiowa and Rita Blanca National Grasslands.
  • A large range of pinyon - juniper management programs, which includes prescribed burning and mechanical treatment.
  • A personal use fuel wood program.
  • Many active partnerships with local counties, other Federal Agencies, State Wildlife Agencies, the National Park Service, Texas Quail Coalition, the Clayton Livestock Research Center and others.
  • Rural Community Development Program, which provides grants to assist the small communities within our purview.
  • Management of 14 miles of the Canadian River and associated canyon lands.
  • Many paleontological and historic and prehistoric cultural sites.
  • Developed and dispersed recreation program which includes bird watching, hunting, hiking, picnicking, etc.
  • A two-mile section of the Santa Fe Trail.
  • A wide variety of special use permits.
  • A strong community involvement program.
  • Lots of fresh air and open space, including beautiful skies both day and night.