All rangeland interns were present at the Garrett Ranch Environmental Stewardship Tour. Andrew Mainini took note of many interesting facts covered throughout the course of the day on the ranch.
The Garrett Ranch is located in Casper, Wyoming and is the 2017 Environmental Stewardship Award recipient. The Garret ranch is a family owned and operated ranch that works closely with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Together they have taken strides to ensure the longevity of the ranch as well as the natural resources that the land provides. Some issues they have had to taken steps towards repairing or controlling are erosion control, cheat grass control and further rangeland development.
The soil type on the Garrett Ranch is extremely erodible, especially in riparian areas across the ranch. These areas are a cause for concern because as time goes by the soil in riparian areas begins to give way and create deep cuts in the stream banks form. To overturn this, the Garret Ranch has introduced the beaver back in to their ecosystem in the hopes that the dams created by the beaver will displace enough water to slow down the effects of excess water creating these deep cuts. One major problem in this is that beaver use aspen trees to create their dams as well as it is the main component of their diets. Aspen trees are provided to the beavers via helicopter drop on the Garrett Ranch. I find this management technique very interesting and would like to see the long term affects.
Just as many ranches in Wyoming the Garrett Ranch is in the constant fight with cheat grass (Bromus tectorum). To manage this, they aerial spray their ranch and they have made great strives against cheat grass. After visiting the ranch, it was extremely impressive to see the lack of cheat grass. I found it difficult to find any substantial populations of it.
The Garrett ranch is an area of prime sage grouse ecosystem and it holds a very high amount of birds. Being such a prime area, the ranch is very limited to the popular rangeland development techniques such as sagebrush removal and prescribed fire. To overcome this, they have started cutting swaths of sagebrush in small parcels. It is important to keep the sizes on these swaths under the rangeland disturbance size determined by the state of Wyoming. To cut these swaths, they use an implement that can be put on equipment and almost acts like a brush hog that can cut up enough sage brush to eliminate in from that area. In these swathed areas, grass production has increased and an abundance of wildlife can be found close to these areas as well.
After visiting the Garrett Ranch I was extremely impressed in the quality of their rangelands. I think erosion control is a topic often over looked by operations across the country. Erosion control, especially in riparian areas can ensure quality water distribution through out ranches and can increase productivity.