Location: South of Jackson, Wyoming
Wetland Restoration, Creek Restoration, Regenerative Agriculture
Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Adaptation, Extinction Crisis Protection, Regenerative Agriculture
Located between the embrace of several of the West’s most iconic mountain ranges, 90 minutes south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Ryegrass Ranch is a gem of western beauty and prime recreation habitat. Sagebrush-covered terraces overlook the dominant feature of the ranch — the 11 miles of meandering North Cottonwood Creek that flow through the heart of the property. Springs and wetlands dot its banks. Wyoming stream access laws make this truly private water, as no one apart from the owners (or those with owner permission) may access the creek and its Colorado Cutthroat, brown, brook, rainbow, and tiger trout.
Experience The Ranch
Suffering from years of overgrazing, creek degradation, and deferred maintenance, the nine different owners of this 19-lot fishing subdivision had conflicting goals for their parcels. We worked with the ranch manager to address each owner’s concerns and to craft an acquisition that worked for all involved.
We restored the four most degraded miles of the creek, in the process restoring hundreds of acres of wetland, removed wildlife unfriendly fencing and installed wildlife friendly fencing. We have transitioned to a regenerative cattle grazing operation in an effort to restore the ranch’s uplands. Sage grouse, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, moose, elk, sandhill cranes, and innumerable shore birds are likely to benefit.
Named for the tall grass formerly common in the area, “The Ryegrass” was developed and sold akin to a country club — 18 lots, with a lodge and bunkhouse on a communal 19th lot, with the promise of 11 prime miles of private-access wade fishing. After nearly a quarter-century, many of those original Ryegrass lot owners lost interest or moved on. The remaining owners began looking for a way to liquidate their ownership without losing their vested interest. The ranch manager, who had been raised on the Ryegrass, did not want to see the ranch sold to any old buyer. She connected us with the owners, and we worked together to create a solution that worked for all involved.
Our restoration and management efforts are dramatically improving the health of this ranch and its wild habitats, and positively impacting the larger ecosystem and climate. The creek restoration work is expected to increase water flows, provide cooler temperatures for thriving plant and animal populations, and create purer, sediment-free waters. The wetland restoration will allow the ecosystem to act as a natural reservoir and filter, releasing purified and cooled water throughout the year rather than it rushing violently through during run-off. These changes are all crucial to mitigating the impacts of a changing climate, and will help provide wildlife with vital refugia — safe and protected havens that will allow flora and fauna to resiliently adapt to future conditions.
Our conservation partners believe the positive effects of the Ryegrass restoration work will be felt throughout the North Cottonwood Creek watershed, and further downstream into the Green River ecosystem. Raptors, waterfowl, and amphibians that make their homes among these fields and waters will benefit. Ultimately, the opportunity to restore 11 miles of critical Colorado Cutthroat trout habitat and sage grouse leks, located on the age-old Path of the Pronghorn and in the heart of critical mule deer and moose corridors, benefits us all.
Ryegrass Ranch Areas of Value Creation
Our restoration of wetlands, ponds, and springs that had become separated from the water table will raise the water table in the valley, as well as provide spawning and rearing habitat for trout, birds, amphibians, and other native wildlife.
We are working to restore old creek channels, narrowing and deepening the creek, as well as create dams to re-wet the aquifer in a manner referred to as ‘beaver mimicry’. While beavers have been absent from the property for over a century, we will mimic their actions now and hope they return one day.
By managing the agricultural practices for the benefit of native flora and fauna, rather than purely for maximum agricultural productivity, we are helping to transition the ranch to sustainable, regenerative, and/or organic ranching practices. Additionally, we are proving up the water rights and optimizing the irrigation system, to benefit a more efficient agricultural production and for the overall health of the natural fishery.