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Rancher’s Perspectives on a Changing Climate

By Jack McKinney, Resource Conservation major, Wildland Restoration minor
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

We started the morning off with a visit to the Rolling Stone Ranch to speak with Jim Stone.  Jim is the third generation owner of the property, and it has been a cattle and hay operation since the beginning.  Growing up on the property gave him a special perspective on the changes happening there.  Jim will be the first to say that you can’t run the ranch like his grandpa used, the climate is too dry, and you have to think about the greater ecosystem and impact you are having on it.

Hoyt Creek is a small spring creek that runs directly through his property.  It is a special ecosystem because it is surrounded by a seasonal wetland.  Historically, they would take as much water out of the creek to irrigate the hay fields; this inadvertently lowered the water table, which made it harder and harder to get the water they needed.  It was also ruining the riparian ecosystem, which held a number of species including migrating ducks and native cutthroat trout.

With the help of the Blackfoot Challenge, Jim was able to repair the stream.  This raised the water table back to its normal height.  With the water table back to normal, the hay fields were being water naturally, and Jim didn’t have to irrigate the surrounding fields.  Not only did he repair and restore critical habitat, but also he raised his crop from one ton to over four.  The Rolling Stone Ranch is a perfect example that ranching and conservation can go hand in hand.

Rancher Jim Stone shows us how his wetland restoration made his ranch more productive.