One of the many properties owned by The Nature Conservancy is Red Canyon Ranch south of Lander, Wyoming. We spent a glorious afternoon there yesterday, on a horse drawn wagon ride as part of a donor appreciation event. We have donated to the Nature Conservancy for 14 year’s. No, this is not a sponsored post. I haven’t yet monetized this blog. I may never monetize it, although that was the intent when I began it. I like keeping it all content, for now anyway.
The Red Canyon Ranch
Wyoming has so much iconic scenery that the Red Canyon is overlooked. The Wind River’s grassy slopes plunge into the canyon then rise to a bluff of brilliant red rock that mark the prairie’s end.
When the Nature Conservancy bought Red Canyon Ranch in 1993, the goal was to prevent habitat fragmentation and protect the area’s unique biodiversity.
Moose, bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer and antelope graze the canyon’s gentle western slope. Black bear descend from the uplands to feast on huckleberries that line Red Canyon Creek and the Little Pogo Agie, where trout swim the tiny waterways. Myriad birds and plants call the canyon’s varying ecosystems home. The canyon is important habitat for seeing out the colder months.
Large predators such as mountain lion, black bear and a variety of birds of prey attest to the vitality of this working ranch.
Ranching, the conservation agency figured, was one of the best ways to protect those species. Grazing cattle replace vast herds of elk, wild sheep and bison that once roamed the area. They thin out vegetation that used to be swept clean by fire and help native plants thrive.
Critical research into animal behavior also is taking place here. Scientists—from Utah State University’s BEHAVE project—hope by studying the ranch’s cattle they can better understand why animals forage in certain places and at certain times. If science can understand what triggers certain behaviors, then land managers of the future will have a valuable tool in helping ensure that cattle and landscapes thrive.
The ranch is currently undergoing a 10-year grazing study in the hopes of learning ways to reduce the frequency and intensity of wildfires.
Scientific research is ongoing, including a project focused on how grazing methods relate to native bees.
Many of the Species of Concern designated by Partners In Flight inhabit the area such as: Sandhill Crane, northern goshawk, broad-tailed hummingbird, rufous hummingbird, blue grouse, sage grouse, black-billed cuckoo, rough-wing swallow, warbling vireo, green-tailed towhee, vesper sparrow, brewer’s sparrow, say’s phoebe, dusky flycatcher, willow flycatcher, mountain bluebird, rock wren, lazuli bunting, and bullock’s oriole. The Red Canyon Ranch is an important bird area.
The earliest people to find shelter, sustenance and solace in Red Canyon were Folsom hunters ten millennia ago. They are best remembered for courageously hunting mammoth and giant bison with spears, but what probably brought them to Red Canyon was its plant resources—the same variety and unique ecosystem that attracted the Conservancy.
Native people could harvest a multitude of edible and medicinal plants. By walking a short distance to higher elevations, they could gather flora in different stages of development and postpone moving camp. This availability of game and plant foods brought Native American’s back to Red Canyon for untold generations.
With its long tradition as a site for public education, Red Canyon Ranch will continue to host education and research activities. For pictures and a description of their site facility, click here.
The Nature Conservancy (from their website)
Founded in 1951, the Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. One of our core values is our commitment to diversity. Therefore, we strive for a globally diverse and culturally competent workforce. Working in 72 countries, including all 50 United States, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.