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Wildlife and ranching: Garrett Ranch Company develops the landscape to benefit cattle, enhance wildlife

Written by Saige Albert

Casper – South of Casper in the Bates Hole area, Garrett Ranch Company works to improve the habitat on their ranch. Their work has improved streamflow and water quality, improved rangelands for cattle grazing, mule deer and sage grouse and overall increased the functionality of the ranch.

  This year, the Garrett Family, led by Pete and Ethel Garrett, received the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) and Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) Environmental Stewardship Award and Leopold Conservation Award, recognizing their work in and dedication to conservation.

Stewardship recognition

“This is the 23rd year of the WSGA and WDA Environmental Stewardship Award and the seventh year that we have partnered with Sand County Foundation to award the Leopold Conservation Award,” said Jim Magagna, WSGA executive director, during a June 21 tour of Garrett Ranch. “The award represents the hundreds and thousands of ranchers across Wyoming who practice good stewardship.”

“The Garretts are among the exemplary examples of stewardship we see from Wyoming ranchers,” he continued.

During the event, Pete and Ethel were joined by their family, Steve, Kim, Dalton and Tyler Garrett and Jack and Laura Miles, along with a number of other friends and relatives.

“We feel very honored to even be nominated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) for this award, and winning is an even higher honor,” Pete commented. “Every member of the ranch has been involved in making this happen.”

About the ranch

Since 1937, the Garrett family has ranched south of Casper. They gradually acquired more land through the early 1990s to expand the operation to its current size, allowing them to support multiple families.

The Garretts started doing conservation work to improve their range quality and utilization in the 1980s.

“We started working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) doing water projects to provide rotational grazing and better use our pastures,” Pete explained. “We developed springs, put in tanks and added solar wells.”

In making these additions, he noted their water quality improved, which, in turn, improved the health of their calves.

They began working to eliminate stands of decadent sagebrush in the late 1990s to improve grazing availability and sage grouse and mule deer habitat.

“We started by burning sagebrush and mountain mahogany, then we started mowing it later,” Pete explained.

They’ve also sprayed cactus, cheatgrass and cedar to improve grass production on the ranch.

Water work

Most notably, the Garrett family has worked to improve the quality of Bolton Creek to reduce erosion and sediment going to the Platte River.

Keith Schoup of WGFD explained that the Garretts have done restoration work on Bolton Creek to restore the riparian areas and reduce streambank erosion.

“We looked at four strategies, and we decided to use insta-dams to restore Bolton Creek,” he said. “We started by using aspens from Muddy Mountain aspen removal efforts and flew them, using a helicopter, to Bolton Creek.”

By flying in aspens, they were able to supplement the food supply for beavers, influencing beaver to continue building dams.

However, they began building artificial dams – insta-dams – after they realized it was difficult to maintain a food source for the beavers during winter months. The insta-dams were constructed using material from Winter Storm Atlas in October 2013 and using old Christmas trees from the City of Casper.

“We installed 31 Christmas tree diversions to stop sediment and reduce head cuts,” Schoup said. “We also have 13 of our 21 insta-dams still functioning.”

They have also planted 1,100 willows and 700 cottonwood trees along Bolton Creek.

“The Garrett family, along with many other partners, have been really instrumental in improving habitats in Bates Hole and along Bolton Creek,” Schoup emphasized.

Praise from all

During the June 21 tour, a number of people provided praise to the Garrett family, noting their hard work provides positive results for both wildlife and livestock.

WDA Deputy Director Stacia Berry noted, “The Garrett family recognizes the value of the beef cow and their work on the range. This family provides a great example of the true balance between livestock and wildlife.”

“We’re thankful for the work of the Garretts and their commitment to conservation,” Berry added.

Justin Binfet of WGFD commented, “The Garretts embody the spirit of conservation and cooperation. They have a true dedication.”

“Pete cares so much, and we have been able to share friendship and mutual understanding through our work,” Binfet continued, explaining that the family has been involved in a variety of efforts while working with WGFD. “Pete has been involved in the Mule Deer Initiative and on the Bates Hole-Shirley Basin Sage Grouse Working Group. The Garretts are always available when we call on them to work together, and they’re often the first family we think of as we look for partners.”

“The Garrett family is not only passionate about wildlife, they care about the heritage and future of their livestock operation,” he said. “These qualities are demonstrated in their engagement and commitment to conservation.”

For more information on Garrett Ranch Company and their conservation work, read the Jan. 7 edition of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..