Excellence in StewardshipWritten by Christy Hemken
“I think this honor is long overdue and very well-deserved,” says Bob Budd of the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust. “There’s no family more dedicated to the land they own and run on. When you look at the work they’ve done with sage grouse and all the things they didn’t have to do, but they did because they’re a part of the community – they’re truly incredible producers.”
The second ranch recognized is the Merlin Ranch at Buffalo, managed by Mark and Jennie Gordon and family. Both were the 2009 Excellence in Rangeland Stewardship recognitions of the Society for Range Management (SRM) Wyoming Section at the early November SRM meeting.
Garrett is the third generation on his family’s ranch, established in 1937 in Bates Hole south of Casper, and currently there are two more generations also living and working on the land. The Garrett family runs a commercial cowherd, harvests native hay ground and raises a few Quarter Horses.
“If it hadn’t been for my son and daughter, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” says Garrett of his son Steven and daughter Laura Miles, whose husband also works on the ranch. “They’ve never left home, and they’ve helped with the ranch projects and brought in new ideas.”
Garrett says the ranch’s key projects have been on Muddy Mountain. They’ve included sagebrush restoration, which brought forbs back in after burning, and the introduction of a four-pasture rotation that starts out each pasture every second or third year to encourage re-growth.
Burns on two drainages, in cooperation with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) and the BLM, have helped move antelope back into an area they had left. Garrett says the ranch’s mule deer and antelope projects have also encouraged elk in the area.
Sage grouse, antelope and mule deer are targeted for projects on the Garrett Ranch. “We’re in crucial winter habitat for mule deer,” says Garrett, noting one of their pastures was “almost a disaster.”
“The water wasn’t scattered out, and our livestock were only using a third of it,” he explains. “We put in a big solar well and burned it, and that brought in a lot of deer.”
The Garrett Ranch allows elk and antelope hunting, but doesn’t allow mule deer hunting at this time. “Mule deer populations are way down, and my thought is that’s from hunting pressure,” says Garrett. “It’s a general area close to town. It seems like they’re coming back, because everything else is coming back from our projects.”
“The projects have helped the wildlife, and they’ve also really helped our livestock,” he says. Several years ago a winter pasture was split into several smaller pastures to better control winter grazing.
“We’ve got better utilization by our livestock,” says Garrett. “We get out of a pasture a lot quicker, which leaves more forage for wildlife.”
Water developments have been a natural part of splitting pastures, and Garrett says the ranch has been working on them since 1986.
Several burn projects that were supposed to take place this fall have been delayed to next year due to the early snowstorms, but Garrett says the ranch has had projects going every year for the last 15 years.
For next year the Garrett Ranch is also looking at projects to mitigate siltation in two creeks. “We’re going to try to burn brush to see if we can get more water coming down, and reestablish the willows and cottonwoods,” says Garrett.
Garrett says he’s put effort into so many projects over the years to maintain the value of the land as well as the ranching lifestyle. “My kids are there, and they’re interested in taking over the ranch,” he says, noting his grandkids are 16 and 12 years old. “They’re both interested in taking on the ranch, and they’re involved in what goes on.”
“I’m really proud of the kids for learning how to manage the ranch, and we hope it’s got a secure future,” says Garrett.