Friday, July 10, 2015

Field Notes 1 July 2015: World Cup Soccer and the Whiskey Tent

On a beautiful summer evening a few years back I found myself inside a crowded bunkhouse watching World Cup soccer with about a dozen Peruvian sheep herders, subjecting them to my bad spanish and swapping recipes with the camp cook.  I always love visiting the Ladder Ranch....

Ladder Ranch entrance with Aldo Leopold Award sign.

The Ladder Ranch sits at the base of Squaw Mountain in the Sierra Madre Mountains of southern Wyoming.  It is the only part of the state that has Gambel oak (which makes it a stunning place for a fall visit).  The easement helps protect a number of species and habitats including key habitat for mule deer and elk.  It also ensures that the land will remain in agriculture for many generations to come.

The Whiskey Tent on the Ladder Ranch - the American Mountain Men Rendezvous was held here in 2013 (photo by Sharon O'Toole).  The area is rich in history: Jeremiah Johnson, trapper and mountain man, lived in the area near the confluence of the Little Snake River and Battle Creek in the late 1840’s. 

The ranch has been in the O’Toole/Salisbury family for over a century.  The family runs sheep and cattle and have been widely recognized for their excellent stewardship of the ranch: in 2014 they received the Leopold Conservation Award.  They are currently working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to conserve habitat for the greater sage-grouse, a candidate species for protection under the Endangered Species Act.  On my visit this year they showcased the latest work they've done on Battle Creek  to improve stream quality for the Colorado River cutthroat.

Battle Creek stream improvements include deepening the channels with boulder placement, restoring eroded banks due to flooding and planting willows.   It was about 20 years ago that I worked for the Medicine Bow National Forest doing stream enhancement on this very creek, just a few miles upstream.  I always feel like it's a homecoming when I'm in this neck of the woods.