Summer 2016 was a productive and exciting time for the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust (WSGLT). Between the Annual Roundup Barbeque, monitoring, the closing of another conservation easement, and the addition of two new staff members and one new board member, the WSGLT staff and board were kept busy.
In May, Travis Brammer and Maggie Rux, both recent University of Wyoming graduates, joined the WSGLT team. Travis as our Programs and Stewardship Assistant, and Maggie as our External Relations Coordinator.
In June, Heath Hunter, joined the WSGLT Board of Directors, and brought with him, his vast knowledge of both the financial and ranching sectors.
The C-Bar-B Ranch conservation easement closed in June. The C-BAR-B ranch is a, 1,043 acre property located outside of Buffalo. This easement made national news in 2003 and was the subject of a nearly seven year court battle. A 2010 judgement settled the question of the ranch being conserved in perpetuity, and the recent transfer from Johnson County to WSGLT, puts to rest remaining uncertainty about the easement’s stewardship.
July was peak monitoring season for the 234,989 acres of ranch land that WSGLT holds under easement. Eric and Travis, our monitoring team, traveled all over the state to monitor conservation easements and meet with landowners. They would like to express their thanks to Board members Madeleine Murdock and Rob Hendry for hosting them during their travels.
The Annual Roundup Barbeque was the highlight of August. The event was held at the C-BAR-B Ranch, on August 27th. Steve and Marty Gose, the ranch owners, and the Grubb family, ranch managers, were wonderful hosts and WSGLT is grateful for all of their help with the event. We hosted nearly 300 guests and the evening included music from the High Country Cowboys, a photo booth from Wyoming Photobooth Inc., beer tasting from Black Tooth Brewing, and table wine from Weston Wineries. The WSGLT thanks these wonderful businesses for their help making a wonderful night possible. We would also like to thank all our sponsors for the evening. More than 50 businesses, foundations, and individuals sponsored the event. Their support is greatly appreciated.
The night also included a key note speech from Mark Gordon, Wyoming State Treasurer,
who spoke about the importance of working ranches for Wyoming’s economic and sociological future. Laura Bucholz presented Patrick O’Toole with the 2016 Kurt Bucholz Conservation Award. The bronze statue, sculpted by Jerry Palen, was awarded to Pat for his notable work in the conservation of Wyoming’s water and ranch lands.
The family of Dr. and Mrs. John and Susie Lunt kindly gifted $25,000, to support the Cultural Landscape Fund (the Fund). The Fund was established by the family of Alvin Wiederspahn to help private landowners maintain the range through ranching culture.
Overall, the 15th Annual Roundup Barbeque was one of the most successful to date in several ways. Not only did the night bring in a substantial amount of support for the future conservation of agricultural lands, but it also had the largest attendance of children that the organization can note. This record attendance was a reminder of the importance of ranchland and wildlife habitat conservation, to ensure that the next generation of Wyomingites will have production agriculture, wide-open spaces, and cowboy culture.
It is with great sadness, that the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust (“WSGALT”) shares news of the passing of its Board member, and founder, Dr. John Lunt.
“WSGALT has lost a longtime friend and partner,” said Mantha Phillips, WSGALT’s Chairman of the Board. “Dr. Lunt’s never ending desire to learn, to be better, to do more, and “get it done” attitude will be so missed. The level of his dedication to and his passion for the conservation of Wyoming ag producing lands was unrivaled. We will move forward in his absence having been given the gift of his knowledge and commitment to conserving Wyoming’s working family ranches and farms and the wide-open spaces, natural habitats, and rural communities they support.”
Dr. Lunt’s understanding of the crucial role that agriculture plays in conservation spawned a conservation movement in Wyoming that has protected vast working landscapes across this great state. His deep appreciation for Wyoming and agriculture can be traced back to 1946, when his parents purchased the Double 4 ranch, west of Wheatland, near the base of Laramie Peak. Here, he fell in love with Wyoming’s wide open-spaces and the abundant wildlife it protects.
He attended college in New York, where he graduated from Cornell University in 1950. He went on to attended Columbia University, College of Physicians, where he graduated in 1954. During medical school, Dr. Lunt enjoyed his summers back in Wyoming, working on ranches, nurturing his love for ranching and agriculture.
After medical school, he established a private practice in general surgery in Denver, Colorado, where he resided for the next 17 years. His love of Wyoming never waned, and in 1977, he moved to Saratoga. Here, he served the community for 21 years as its family physician. He was once quoted as saying “Every surgeon should have to do some years in family practice, because that’s where you really find out how to care for your patients.” Folks in Saratoga knew his kindness and dedication first hand. He never hesitated to make house calls, and always provided his patients the upmost care and attention.
In addition to his successful medical practice, he was passionate about Wyoming’s working landscapes. He keenly understood the importance agriculture played in protecting Wyoming’s natural attributes and way of life, and while in Saratoga, Dr. Lunt and his wife Susie fulfilled a lifetime dream and purchased the Highline Ranch. In 1998, they placed a conservation easement on the ranch, and in 2001, with the help of several likeminded ranchers in and around Saratoga, he founded the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust. He wanted to create an agricultural land trust to conserve the productive working lands of the North Platte Valley that he had grown to love. He understood the importance of keeping productive ranches in agriculture forever, and his enthusiasm inspired regular organizational meetings of local ranchers.
Dr. Lunt was appointed to the first Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust Board of Directors in 2001 and served on the Board until his death. He was passionate about agricultural lands remaining in production. He once said, “For 130 years across Wyoming the hand of the rancher and farmer has been gentle, transformative, and landscape-enhancing; not because the early ranchers set out to be ‘environmentalists,’ but because their survival depended upon open working landscapes, irrigated meadows, and a healthy productive ecosystem…this landscape is what we inherit today.” Dr. Lunt was a 2009 recipient of the Kurt Bucholz Conservation award.
We at the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust will forever be guided by the virtues and integrity Dr. Lunt instilled in our organization, and the memory of his dedication will serve as a catalyst, to continue the work that he started…to always to more…to always do better.
An agricultural conservation easement on almost 5,000 acres south and west of Devils Tower was completed by the Driskill family and the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust in early October with the primary purpose of protecting the agricultural values of the property; additionally, the easement will conserve the wildlife habitat and open spaces enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of annual visitors to the nation’s first national monument, designated by President Theodore Roosevelt on September 24, 1906.
The conservation easement was made possible by the generosity of the Bear Lodge Cattle Co. and Ogden and Zannie Driskill who contributed a significant portion of the value of the conservation easement. No stranger to supporting conservation, Ogden stepped off the Board of Directors of the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust prior to making application for the project. More recently, he served on the Board of Directors of the Land Trust Alliance, the national organization of more than 1,600 land trusts throughout the United States. Ogden also served as Chairman of the Partnership of Rangeland Trusts until 2014 and continues service on its Board.
“I can’t think of a better legacy to leave for future generations than to keep a ranch in production forever. In an era where nothing is permanent, it gives me great pride in knowing that the ranch will continue providing clean water, wildlife habitat and food and fiber for generations to come. – Ogden Driskill
After seven years with the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust, Executive Director Pam Dewell will continue a career devoted to the conservation of working lands and wildlife habitat in mid-coast Maine. The Board of Directors has appointed Conservation Director Bo Alley as Acting Director effective October 15th.
“Working with the landowners that have entrusted their family legacies to the Stock Growers Land Trust in perpetuity has been a humbling experience and many conversations with those with whom we have worked echo in my memory. My favorite remains, ‘My grandfather spent his entire life putting this ranch together. We want to keep it that way to honor him.’ ” — Pam Dewell
Since joining the Stock Growers Land Trust in 2008, Pam has worked with landowners and partners to achieve the completion of 44 projects on 137,000 acres — more than doubling the acreage under conservation easement during her tenure. “I am proud of the conservation I have helped to accomplish in Wyoming and am grateful to the many visionary landowners who have chosen to work with the Stock Growers Land Trust,” she said, “I can’t think of a more qualified successor than Bo and know that the Land Trust will be in good hands.”
A Wyoming native, Bo’s family has deep roots in Wyoming ranching and agriculture. His great-grandfather Jim Grieve began ranching in Natrona County in 1893 on the historic UC Ranch. Later the Grieves purchased and operated the Diamond Ring and the Dumbbell Ranch Company. On his father’s side, his grandfather Ralph Alley managed the John Hay sheep company and was very active in the Wyoming sheep industry.
Bo spent his infant years on a family ranch in the Sybille Canyon between Wheatland and Laramie. He has a deep appreciation for Wyoming’s culture and values and looks forward to working with Wyoming farmers and ranchers to help preserve and perpetuate the Wyoming way of life. Bo holds a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management from Colorado State University. Prior to joining the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust he worked in energy development and the commercial construction industry.
The agricultural and wildlife values of the Buck Ranch in Lincoln County will be protected in perpetuity, thanks to a conservation easement agreement between landowner Karen Buck and the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust completed today. With its stunning mountain views and abundant fishing, more than 2,000 acres would have otherwise been at high risk of subdivision which would have harmed a variety of habitats, including the riparian corridor straddling the Hams Fork River watershed.
The Buck Ranch is located on or near migration corridors for moose, mule deer, and pronghorn and there is one sage grouse lek on the property which is located entirely within a Sage Grouse Core Area. The protection of the Buck Ranch will keep the land available to agriculture in perpetuity and help to conserve wildlife habitat and an open space buffer between Lake Viva Naughton and Kemmerer Reservoir.
At closing Karen Buck said, “I have looked around at the dams, powerlines and subdivisions that have surrounded my ranch in the last years and realized that if I didn’t want the same for my property I had better do something soon. The Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust was brought to my attention and after a lot of consideration I decided they were what I needed. Both sets of my grandparents homesteaded here in the early 1900’s and raised their families. I spent most of my summer months growing up helping my grandmother on the ranch that is now under Lake Viva Naughton. As a tribute to my late husband Chester, grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles I wanted the land to be left in agriculture and ranching and undeveloped as close as it was originally when they settled. Thanks to the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust I am able to do this.”
Funding for the project was provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, and the Wyoming Sage Grouse Campaign, a partnership between The Conservation Fund and the Knobloch Family Foundation.
“The Conservation Fund is thrilled to be able to assist this terrific partnership by contributing matching funds toward permanently maintaining the Buck Ranch—an incredibly important wildlife and agricultural property,” said Gates Watson, Northwest Director for The Conservation Fund. “The outcome here makes great economic sense and protects critical private lands for sage grouse and other key wildlife species that help define Wyoming’s working ranchlands.”
The Buck Ranch can be seen from State Highway 223 along the western side of the road. This view offers a scenic vista of the Hams Fork River and willow galleries along its banks, as well as expansive views of productive hayfields and rangeland pasture. The public may also enjoy scenic views of the ranch from the Hams Fork River public access fishing areas, and the publicly-accessible lookouts and use areas on State HWY 223 along Commissary Ridge.
Governor Mead stated, “It is critical that existing land uses and landowner activities continue to occur in core areas, particularly agricultural activities on private lands.” Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust Executive Director Pam Dewell underscored the important contribution of private lands to the Cowboy State’s defining wide open spaces. “Wyoming leads the country in the size of ag operations, averaging 2,745 acres per farm or ranch, versus the national average of 418 acres in 2014. With more than 30 million acres of agricultural land, we can thank Wyoming producers for keeping these lands open and available for the production of food, fiber and wildlife habitat as well as the magnificent views we all enjoy every day.”
The Buck Ranch is comprised of several separate ranches that had different homesteading and agricultural histories. When the Buck family purchased the property, it was comprised of land homesteaded in 1881 and previous owners included Elmore Stevenson, R.A. Miller, J.W. Haddenham, John J. Smith, and Elijah Buck until Justin J. Pomeroy purchased it in 1915. The Bucks leased the Property from 1915-1945 when they purchased it from the Pomeroy family in 1945. Kemmerer Reservoir was built in 1938 which flooded some of the original property which was acquired by the city of Kemmerer.