Each year, the Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Beef Council and the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s Foundation, honors a Montana ranch that exemplifies environmental stewardship and demonstrates a commitment toward improved sustainability within their communities. This award recognizes Montana ranchers who are at the forefront in conservation and stewardship and are willing to serve as examples for other ranchers.
The Padlock Ranch, located in both Montana and Wyoming, has won both the respective state awards, and received the Regional ESAP recognition. Ranch manager Wayne Fahsholtz has worked with the ranch crew and family owners to implement outstanding stewardship practices and continues to strive daily to create an environmentally sustainable beef cattle operation. Wayne answered a few questions for us about winning the award and some advice for other ranchers:
Why do you think the Environmental Stewardship Program is important for Montana (and Wyoming)?
The award is a way to communicate with others about good practices that are occurring on the land. With rancher to rancher communication, we learn from each other and can improve or avoid costly mistakes. With rancher to customer, it allows us to visit about what is happening and help dispel some of the myths about land management.
In your opinion, what makes a Montana/Wyoming rancher a good steward of the land?
Good stewards know what condition their resource is in and have plans that will maintain or improve those resources.
Can you give us a few examples of innovations and projects you are most proud of at the Padlock Ranch?
The biggest impact was the implementation of a “planned time” rotational grazing system. This keeps livestock from being in pastures season long and it rotates the time of use for a pasture. It is fairly simple but has great results.
The Padlock Ranch is a great example of how a beef cattle business and the western landscape can co-exist…how can other ranches follow this lead?
One of the things that I have tried to do is to be transparent about how we operate. Over 95% of our population is far removed from production agriculture. We need to be creative in the ways we communicate and educate this population. So, I would urge ranchers to share their stories and ranches with others around them that may not understand about agriculture.
How did you feel when you learned that the Padlock Ranch was selected as both state and regional winner?
It was a great honor and great to be able to share that with everyone involved with the ranch. At the same time, it was humbling because I know what a good job my fellow ranchers do and to be singled out was an honor and hopefully I represented everyone well.
Do you have any advice for ranches considering to apply for the award?
Just do it! The application process can be intimidating but once you get started it flows fairly well. You can get help from stockgrowers staff and past winners.
Ranches wishing to apply for the award and recognition are asked to complete an application packet (available at mtbeef.org/mesap); due to the MSGA office by June 30. Nominations can be submitted by contacting the MSGA office. Ranches must be a member of the Montana Stockgrowers Association to qualify for the award. A committee, which will include representatives from Montana Stockgrowers, Montana Beef Council, past Environmental Stewardship Award winners, and others invested in Montana stewardship and conservation will evaluate the applications after all applications are completed.