Environmental Stewardship Williams and Double 8 Ranch awarded by WSGA
Published on Jan. 4, 2020
For nearly 70 years, the Williams family has been managing the Double 8 Ranch in Elk Mountain for the Scott family. Three generations later, the long-held traditions of stewardship are being awarded. Wyoming Stock Growers Association has recognized the operation with their annual Environmental Stewardship Award.
“A corporate-owned ranch with such a family ranch feel is so uncommon it could be considered extraordinary,” said the Medicine Bow Conservation District, one of numerous nominators.
The ranch is a stand-alone business relying on its own income generated from cattle and hay sales. The ranch is expected to be profitable and budgets annually for both income and expenses. It employs six full-time employees, plus their families, as well as three to four seasonal employees.
In 1951, Walter Scott Jr. purchased the Double 8 Ranch from the Richardson family, who established it in the 1870s. The ranch is now in its third generation of Scott ownership.
Walter became friends with Pres. Williams while attending Colorado State University. Pres and his wife Nelda were hired to manage the business in July of 1951.
Owen Williams inherited the managerial position from his father, Willis Williams, in 2011.
The partnership between the two families has lasted nearly 70 years and continues on today.
“The Scott and Williams families have quietly contributed to the ranching industry, natural resources and the community for decades,” said nominator Shanon Sims of Medicine Bow Conservation District.
“The ownership of the Double 8 Ranch may lie in the corporate world, but the land management is Wyoming grown and Wyoming proud,” said nominator Mindy Meade of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Pres Williams laid the initial foundation stone that would become a family legacy.”
Meade continued, “With the transition of management to each successive generation, grows a sense of great appreciation for the land and all that it provides. Each day, I witness the Williams family and their staff as they lean in on ranch foundation stones that include honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.”
“The Double 8 Ranch, though corporate owned, is clearly operated by passionate individuals who believe that this ranch and surrounding ranches are worth preserving in the future,” said Meade.
According to the Medicine Bow Conservation District, cross fencing, water development and brush and elk management have been top priorities for Double 8 Ranch.
“Cross fencing big pastures have reduced season long grazing and the impact on riparian areas,” according to Medicine Bow Conservation District. “Recently, eight miles of electric fence has been built to split five pastures. Doing so has increased the amount of grazing days in each pasture while cutting the impact days on each riparian zone in half.”
Medicine Bow Conservation District noted the Double 8 Ranch has also helped with instream flow in the Medicine Bow River by keeping water in the main stream rather than diverting for stock water in the late summer months.
Most of these projects have taken place on the McKee Ranch, which is leased by Double 8 Ranch.
“These last four years have seen the use of both goats and sheep on the Double 8. They are used for controlling the usual weeds and brush as well as helping to regenerate some of the brush for browsing wildlife,” said Medicine Bow Conservation District. “On top of this, goats and sheep pose as competition to help turn some of the brush back into grass species for livestock use.”
They continued, “Elk do not like to be near these ruminants, so with usage of strategic location, the elk can be pushed out of native hay meadows until the hay has been cut.”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) noted they have been in limited partnership with Double 8 Ranch since 2016 on 7,202 acres, which includes benefits to federal, state and Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) lands.
“To date, conservation efforts include the development and protection of three springs and associated stock tanks; the instillation of three miles of wildlife-friendly fencing to improve range condition while protection riparian and wetlands and new water development as a tool for managing cattle distribution on large pasture units,” said FWS.
FWS continued, “On-going efforts include the Double 8 Ranch working willing neighbors to eliminate the need to divert water from the East Fork of the Medicine Bow River to water livestock. This helps maintain greater instream flows and provide migrating water fowl with much needed habitat.”
Collaborative efforts include the possibility of developing an abandoned seismic test well as a wildlife water source and the development of new water source within the sage-steppe to improve livestock distribution.
“If feasible, both projects could improve habitat on a combined 1,500 acres,” said FWS.
WGFD Laramie Habitat and Access Supervisor Jerry Cowles has been working with Owen and the Double 8 Ranch for one grazing season and worked on many projects that improve terrestrial and aquatic habitat that are critical for sustaining fish and wildlife species.
“Owen has had many years of wildlife damage on the Double 8 Ranch and instead of asking for compensation for damages, he is working with wildlife managers to increase harvest rates by allowing hunting on the ranch and working with habitat managers to improve habitats,” said Crowles.
“Owen came to me several years ago and wanted the specifications for a wildlife-friendly fence he wanted to install on a major migration corridor for elk and mule deer,” said Crowley. “Not only did he use the specifications, he installed reflectors for sage grouse and ensured the fence was also safe for pronghorn.
“Owen and the Double 8 Ranch exemplifies the level of land stewardship and concern for wildlife and their habitat, which WGFD is proud to recognize,” said Crowley.
Callie Hanson is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.