2009 Stewardship Tour features Foy RanchWritten by Jennifer Womack
It’s an assignment most Wyoming ranchers take quite seriously. It isn’t, however, an endeavor that’s often congratulated, celebrated with the local community and highlighted among fellow ranchers.
July 2 provided a chance to do those things when members of the ranching community invited conservationists, media, elected officials and those interested in the management of natural resources to join them at the Foy Ranch near Glendo for a daylong tour. For ranchers it was an opportunity to learn new practices that might benefit their own ranches. For others, the event provides an opportunity to see ranchers who are committed to properly managing the natural resources in their care for the mutual benefit of wildlife and livestock.
“By what they’ve done,” said Wyoming Stock Growers Executive Vice President Jim Magagna of the Foy family, “they’ve brought recognition to the ranching industry in the state of Wyoming.”
Kevin McAleese with the Sand County Foundation noted Aldo Leopold’s belief in private conservation. Captured in Leopold’s book, “Sand County Almanac,” McAleese summed the great conservationist’s beliefs in saying, “It has to come from a personal ethic within the landowner to do the right thing.” McAleese said the Sand County Foundation, created in memory of Leopold, presents its Aldo Leopold Award for Conservation to those ranchers and individuals who have accepted and recognized the land ethic. The award was among those presented to the Foys on July 2.
“Those people who use the land are some of the people who are the best conservationists on the land, who take the best care of the land,” said Randy Teeuwen of EnCana Oil and Gas. Sustainability, he noted, is part of a good business plan.
Rocky Foy, who has a reputation of grasping learning opportunities that might add value to his ranch, said openness to change and a willingness to look at ranching practices from a new angle have been the most important lessons he’s learned. “We can’t expect kids to come back to the ranch if it’s not fun and profitable,” he said.
The Foys have developed stock water and changed the fencing and grazing rotations on their ranch using electric fence. While goats are not currently present on the ranch, in recent years they’ve been a tool in addressing weed problems and reducing sagebrush canopy. In the years to come, Rocky said they’ll phase out their hayfields and make them part of the grazing rotation. Irrigation will continue on the fields to enhance production and to protect their water rights from abandonment.
Changes on the ranch, said Rocky, have resulted in an additional two months worth of grass. Seeing that improvement during the recent drought, additional benefits may be forthcoming with a return to better precipitation patterns.
Of the need for events like the July 2 tour, McAleese stated, “We don’t believe the public has a full grasp and appreciation of the important role that people on the land play.”
“One of the easiest jobs I’ve ever had is being involved in the nomination of the Foy family for this award,” said Southeast Wyoming Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Coordinator Grant Stumbough. “The Foys are proactive and creative and every day they’re thinking of ways to improve their land, thinking of ways to make it better and do what it takes to make it better. The Foys are heroes of the ranch and heroes of the community.”
“We want to keep it fun,” said Rocky. “Life’s too short to not enjoy what you’re doing and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be enjoying this.”