Each time we visit a conserved ranch property, there’s always a moment where we stop and take in the sheer beauty and importance of conserving just that single place. In June, a few of the WSGLT staff were lucky enough to experience this moment yet again, as we toured Hecht Creek Ranch and met with the Sigel family.
The Hecht Creek Ranch, previously known as the Squires Ranch, was conserved by the WSGLT and the Sigel family in 2006. The conserved portion of the ranch consists of over 2,000 acres of high altitude range and irrigated land that is primarily used for farming and as a cattle ranch. Hecht Creek, Spring Creek and the South Fork of the Little Laramie all flow to the ranch and offer irrigation water as well a water sources for livestock and wildlife.
On the day we visited, the cool breeze of spring was blowing through the valley as we loaded up into the side-by-side and headed out to see the ranch. As we drove, Art Sigel pointed out the pond where his grandchildren swim during the summers and a path where elk had migrated through one of the pastures just a few weeks earlier. The elk migrate through every year and the ranch is also utilized by a variety of other wildlife in the area.
Along with producing food and fiber and serving as important wildlife habitat, the ranch offers a rich history and a richer future. The ranch was founded by Reynold Hecht in 1887, and his son, William Hecht, went on to homestead additional property in 1906. The ranch changed hands through the generations before the Sigel Family purchased the property in 2005. Examples of this history are still visible as you walk through the pastures and up on the hills, with tracks from wagons still rutted in the earth.
Today, three generations of the Sigel family are actively taking part in the day-to-day operations of the ranch. Both of Art and his wife Dorothy’s sons, Matt and his wife Gina, and Ed and his wife Harmony have children and work on the ranch. Matt and Gina have started a Community Supported Agriculture otherwise known as a CSA, on the ranch called The Black Market Farm. People in the neighboring communities are able to order ranch grown beef, pork, chicken, lamb or goat meat packages. The family also supplements their ranch income by opening their home to tourists for overnight stays and trail rides.
At the end of our tour we sat down with Art and Dorothy and they discussed how their family is pleased with the WSGLT’s mentality as an organization, not getting involved in day-to-day operations and allowing farmers and ranchers to manage their conserved properties as they best see fit. More importantly, Art discussed how happy this conserved ranch makes his family and that the hope is for that happiness and agricultural productivity to continue into the future.
Conserving a ranch achieves so much more than just ensuring it will never be lost to development. We were reminded of this that day. Conserving a ranch allows the land to forever spur diversification and creativity which can support local communities and inspire future generations. Yet more reasons to continue our mission.
Photo Captions: 1st Photo: Lanscape photo of a portion of the ranch.
2nd Photo: Art Sigel points out a spot on hillside to WSGLT Stewardship Coordinator, Travis Brammer.