Sunset Magazine Recognizes Wyoming Ranches


The conservation easements on the historic Sommers and Grindstone ranches in Sublette County continue to attract national attention for their conservation impact.  This large-scale project was recently selected as Sunset Magazine’s 2012 Environmental Winner in the “Best Ranchland” category. 

Sunset Magazine announced that this project is a winner because: “The 19,000 acres of the Sommers-Grindstone Conservation Project will remain undeveloped, keeping it as it was in the early 1900s. Neighboring properties along the Upper Green River in western Wyoming, Sommers Ranch and Grindstone Cattle Co. are as old as the state itself.”

The Sommers-Grindstone conservation easements were completed in 2010 as a cooperative effort between landowners Albert Sommers and his sister Jonita Sommers who own and operate the Sommers Ranch Partnership, Maggie Miller of Grindstone Cattle Co., the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust.  Both private and public agencies joined together to raise the funds necessary to complete this project which will keep these working ranches producing food and fiber for future generations – and available to wildlife, anglers and all those who enjoy Wyoming’s defining wide open spaces.

“Western ranchland, in particular in Western Wyoming and in the Pinedale area is disappearing as lands are subdivided for ranchettes and homes.  The Sublette County population between 2000 and 2010 increased by more than 70{962fe9be9a8a5c386944bfa41f48d98b010325707b70b1fa6182bcabd27c5d7f}, and agricultural lands bore the majority of the growth.   Private lands are important wildlife habitat particularly those including wetlands, meadows and valley bottoms.  While private lands comprise just over 19{962fe9be9a8a5c386944bfa41f48d98b010325707b70b1fa6182bcabd27c5d7f} of the county, the majority of these lands are in the most critical wildlife habitat areas.  With land values rising and the increasing demand to develop rural county areas, partnerships between government agencies, willing ranchers and conservation groups are increasingly important to the future of this habitat,”  Shane DeForest, Bureau of Land Management, Field Manager for the Pinedale Field Office.

“This project would  have never have happened without the commitment to conservation held by the Sommers Ranch Partnership and the Grindstone Cattle Company, and the WY Game and Fish Department taking the lead on fund raising for the project,” said Pamela Dewell, Executive Director of the WY Stock Growers Land Trust, holder of the conservation easements. “We are greatly appreciative of grants from the Jonah Interagency and Pinedale Anticline Office, which is funded by Encana, BP, Shell, Ultra and Questar, which made up the “lion’s share” of funding for the project.  Additional project funding was contributed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, WY Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, WY Game and Fish Commission, US Fish and Wildlife Service Landowner Incentive Program, Walmart Acres for America through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, WY Landscape Conservation Initiative through the Bureau of Land Management, Doris Duke Charitable Trust through TNC, the Turner Foundation, WY Governor’s Big Game License Coalition, Wildlife Heritage Foundation of Wyoming, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the Mule Deer Foundation.”

The easements lie at two critical locations along the Green River in northern Sublette County and serve as important corridor and buffer areas between the Bridger Teton National Forest and the Green River. Two of the easements provide an immense, unbroken landscape between two large tracts of Bureau of Land Management land. They are also located along the west side of the Pinedale Anticline natural gas field.

The cattle ranches are comprised of hay meadows, riparian areas, a diverse population of tree stands, upland areas, sagebrush and high-prairie-grass areas and wetlands. The agricultural land provides important habitat and vital migration corridors for deer, antelope, elk and moose. The riparian areas are home to nesting song birds, raptors, waterfowl, shorebirds, sandhill cranes and blue herons. Additionally, the ranches and surrounding areas host sage grouse leks and protective habitat for the species.

“The Sommers Grindstone project represents a unique private land-wildlife habitat conservation and public access partnership.  The collaboration among the landowners and other partners involved in this project, and their desire to conserve agricultural land and wildlife habitat, and provide high-quality public fishing access on the Green River, is impressive.  The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and Department is proud to be a part of this outstanding partnership,” John Kennedy, Wyoming Game and Fish Department deputy director, said. 

At the request of the landowners, the Sommers-Grindstone conservation project includes a public fishing access easement on the Green River. The area will be walking and boat access to nearly five miles of the river. “Our family has always allowed fishing on our property,” Albert said when the project closed in 2010. “With more and more ranches being bought as fishing estates, we wanted to include the access to continue our legacy of allowing the public to fish.”  Maggie Miller added, “I hope this becomes one of the more appreciated open-space projects.  It provides great benefits to the land, agriculture, wildlife and our community.  I hope it’s appreciated and inspirational to others to continue to do similar things.”

 Source: WY Stock Growers Land Trust

Posted by Northern Ag Network

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