Forest Stewardship at The Ranch
From rivers and wetlands to Lodgepole Forests, and Sagebrush steppes, Teton Valley Ranch Camp is home to an incredibly diverse set of relatively untouched landscapes. Before the Teton Valley Ranch Purchased the “Crooked Creek” parcel from the larger “Parker Ranch” in 2003, the Parkers had used the “Crooked Creek” parcel for summer pasture and grazing land for their livestock. Before that, the land that makes up Teton Valley Ranch Camp was home to a wide range woodsman, outdoorsmen and early ranchers and settlers. Many of these historic cabins can still be seen in old cabin meadow and near cabins Leigh and Rendezvous. Even more remains of early settlements can be found scattered over the ranch’s 2360 acres. These former residents of Teton Valley Ranch Camp were some of the first forest stewards to manage the wildlands that make up the Ranch. Their livelihood depended on the forest products they harvested and the ranching they partook in. Thus, it was clear they loved and cared for the land. We are excited to be able to carry on that tradition at Teton Valley Ranch Camp.
Today we continue the tradition of forestry stewardship by partnering with other federal and state agencies, such as the Bureau of land Management, the United States Forest Service, and The State of Wyoming Forestry Division; we all work together as neighbors for the greater health of the forest and the land.
As many people know, in 2016, the Lava Mountain Fire burned a significant portion of the western half of our Ranch. Although the buildings and infrastructure was spared (thanks to the dedication of numerous wildland fire fighters) we are still dealing with the repercussions from that event. Many folks are saddened when they see the results of the Lava Mountain Fire, but the reality is that wildfire is a natural and needed part of maintaining healthy and diversified forests. The Lodge Pole Pine for example has unique characteristics that help it repopulate rapidly from after the effects of wildfire. Further, other tree species like the Quaking Aspen are both fire resistant and are one of the first trees to sprout and grow relatively quickly. Thus, only two and a half years after the Lava Mountain Fire, we are already seeing tremendous growth with new Aspen sprouts.
This Fall Teton Valley Ranch Camp partnered with the State of Wyoming to address one of the more severely burned areas of the ranch, our Chapel hill. This area was burned by a high intensity fire that killed all the trees and understory, leaving a large majority of the soil sterile. The State Forestry Division not only provided matching funds but created a restoration plan. Our shared objectives of the project included:
- Erosion control
- Fuel reduction
- Viewshed improvement
- Facilitate learning regarding wildfire and active forest management
In late November, we completed the active part of the project with the burning of accumulated “slash” piles left from the removal of the standing dead trees. Winter time, is perhaps the best time to burn slash as the snow covered ground prevent imminent spread of fire. Frozen ground in winter also helps alleviate damage and disturbance to soils caused by heavy machinery during the cutting and stacking process.
Moving forward, this specific site will be seeded with native grasses in the late winter and/or early spring. Further we plan to undertake some seedling tree replanting using native tree species to help speed the regeneration of the forest around our chapel. Depending on when the seeding trees arrive from the nursery, our campers may participate in planting the seedlings.
In closing, we don’t take the responsibility of managing our lands at Teton Valley Ranch Camp lightly. Others that have come before us left us with a largely untouched, wild landscape. We hope to be able to leave a forest that’s healthier and more productive. When we look at our land management practices, we make intentional decisions using the best information from professionals like the Wyoming State Forestry Division. Further, we look at how our practices effect our campers, our land’s ecology, the wildlife that call the ranch their home, and our neighbors. We are also excited about the opportunity of our campers being involved! How fantastic will it be to have our campers look back at the Chapel area in 25 or 30 years, perhaps when their children are attending Teton Valley Ranch Camp, and remember when they took a turn practicing stewardship.