Environmental Stewarship Tour 2010, Hewards host tour on the historic 7E Ranch
Medicine Bow – Over 125 people gathered at the 7E Ranch in the Shirley Basin June 24 for the Wyoming Stock Growers Association Environmental Stewardship Program and Leopold Conservation Award tour. Ron and Linda Heward and their children and grandchildren welcomed everyone with wildflower centerpieces and stories encompassing the entire 101-year history of the ranch.
“This is the 15th year of the Stewardship Award program and is a big milestone for everyone involved. As we look back, one measure of the program’s success in this state are the three national award winners, which is more than any other state. I would say Wyoming easily matches and exceeds the stewardship found in other states, and we are proud to name the Hewards the 2010 award winners,” said Wyoming Stock Growers Executive Vice President Jim Magagna.
“I couldn’t believe we were chosen for this award. We really appreciate it and find it very overwhelming when we consider the number of great producers found in this state. We are very honored,” said Heward in a video played during the morning presentation that featured a variety of footage filmed on the ranch.
“My grandfather, his two brothers, sister and mother came to this country from England in 1906 and they worked in the coal mines in Hanna until 1909. Then they moved out here and each took out a homestead. I think one reason my family made a go of it in this harsh country was there were enough of them to secure enough land to make a start. They started out running old ewes and gradually expanded from there,” said Heward.
Today the 7E Ranch runs sheep, cattle and puts up hay. Ron explained that hay is the operation’s most limiting factor, saying their carrying capacity is based on the amount of hay they can raise to feed during winter months.
“We put most of it in large loose loafs because we’ve found that to be the most economical. We still put some in small squares because you can always find a way to feed those, even on really cold days,” explained Heward.
The coldest reading recorded on the weather station located in the Hewards’ yard is 38.9 degrees below zero. “Prior to having that I saw it get down to around 50 below zero. When it gets really cold the water will freeze several feet thick and providing water to the livestock can be difficult,” commented Heward.
In addition to dealing with the cold winter weather, the Hewards have implemented a number of improvements over the years. All water on the operation is pumped into storage tanks using solar power, and then gravity fed into rubber tire tanks. Mechanical sagebrush control methods have been tried experimentally on parts of the ranch in an effort to improve rangeland and sage grouse habitat. The ranch also boasts over 250 miles of fence.
“We put in a lot of cross fences in order to implement a rotational grazing system and to better utilize our grass. We use a lot of single-wire electric fence and also build a lot of three-wire suspension fence with the posts 80 feet apart and twisters every 16 feet. We’ve found that kind of fence to be cheaper and easier to build and they’re also more environmentally friendly. The antelope don’t get hung up in them and they don’t tear the fence up,” said Heward. “We still have several more miles we want to put in that will split additional pastures and improve our grass management.”
“For generations, families like the Hewards have studied the land, contended with the seasons and adapted. They have committed themselves to leaving their land better than they found it. When this day of recognition is over and the celebration has ended, the Hewards will keep on going, doing their best to enhance Wyoming’s natural resources, contribute to their neighbors and community and continue seeking harmony with their land,” noted Kevin Cuddy with the Sand County Foundation.
Director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture Jason Fearneyhough noted that this is a wonderful year to see stewardship practices shine. “But it’s the years when we don’t have this much moisture and things aren’t as green that stewardship becomes really important. I think the Hewards have committed to that and you will see the results today,” he added.
“What they do represents some of the best private landowner land management practices, not only within Wyoming but across the nation,” stated Cuddy.
The afternoon was spent touring the 7E Ranch and attendees were given a firsthand education of the practices in place. Heward and his sons each rode a bus to answer questions and provide information between tour stops. Following the actual tour the celebration continued with a steak dinner.
“We are very thankful to all our partners who helped make this possible and we’re especially grateful to our hosts for opening their ranch to us on such a beautiful day,” noted Cuddy.