The Garrett Ranch is nestled in the sage-covered hills about 30 miles out of Casper, Wyoming. This family-owned ranch has been in operation for 80 years. The ranch is home to cattle, horses, pronghorn, deer, and other wildlife. The Garrett’s land is comprised of both irrigated hay meadows and non-irrigated rangelands along the North Platte River. Their exceptional stewardship of their land earned them the 2017 Leopold Conservation Award.
One accomplishment that deserved this recognition was the reduction of sediment flowing into the North Platte River. In the Bolton Creek area, the soils are comprised of easily weathered clays. Rainstorms or spring runoff are extremely detrimental to these soils, making huge gullies where the water runs. This soil ultimately ends up in the North Platte river as sediment, altering the course of the river and reducing the quality of fish habitat. To remedy this, the Garrett family worked with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to build dams in the creek to catch the sediment. They hauled aspen trees that had been logged on Muddy Mountain, and relocated beavers to the Bolton Creek area. In addition to the beaver’s efforts to dam the creek, the Garretts also installed manmade dams to catch sediment. The efforts were a success. Not only did the amount of sediment in the river decrease, the water level was raised so that the floodplain and the surrounding trees could utilize the water again. Additionally, the manmade dams caused the water to remain flowing and free of ice in the winter for livestock water. Although the water conservation efforts of the Garrett family somewhat expensive, they were very effective and made a positive impact on the environment.
3 of our Wyoming Stock Grower 2017 Range Land Interns: Tyler Flatt, Jedidiah Hewlett, and Andrew Mainini at the Garrett Ranch.
In addition to the work done on their waterways, the Garrett family partnered with the Wyoming Game and Fish to improve their rangeland pastures and BLM allotments. They conducted several controlled burns to reduce the amount of sage brush and cedar present on the range, especially in the draws where water was more readily available. This effort did not destroy the sage grouse habitat, but improved it. Where the sagebrush canopy cover was reduced, more grass and forbs grew. These plants attracted more insects, which are of great importance to sage grouse chicks. The removal of sage brush also improved the mule deer habitat and allowed for increased cattle grazing utilization in the pasture. Due to the increased costs of conducting controlled burns on the range, the Garrett family implemented a new method of removal. Using a heavy-duty mulching head on a skid steer, they pulverized and tilled the sage brush underground in strips through heavy stands of sage. These efforts accomplished a more controlled removal of sagebrush, while reducing the cost and risk involved with controlled burns. The removal of sagebrush on rangeland and improving habitats is another reason the Garrett family was deserving of the Leopold Conservation Award.
The conservation efforts of the Garrett Ranch are truly noteworthy. Their dedication to land and water preservation makes for a bright future as younger generations take on the role of environmental stewards. Wyoming should treasure ranches like the Garrett ranch, and be thankful that ranchers like Garrett Family are established to provide a habitat for livestock, wildlife, and humans alike.