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Keep those doggies rollin'

Posted by Mitch Friedman at Jun 06, 2011 02:35 PM |

Last Thursday I rode in a cattle drive - something I haven’t done since I was a 17-year-old hired hand on a beef ranch near Cheyenne, WY. It was a beautiful day at the Gotham Ranch and great fun. Managing a 600-lb mammal in the act of managing a herd of 1,000-lb mammals involves more finesse than you might think from watching cowboy movies. And an ecology-minded Western might tell you another thing: Working ranches are important for agriculture, open space, wildlife habitat and connectivity - and wilderness.

Keep those doggies rollin'

Not just any cattle drive - Mitch Friedman and Bryan Gotham on the Gotham ranch near Colville: rich habitat for wildlife, helping connect Cascades to Rockies.

Last Thursday I rode in a cattle drive - something I haven’t done since I was a 17-year-old hired hand on a beef ranch near Cheyenne, WY. It was a beautiful day and great fun. Managing a 600-lb mammal in the act of managing a herd of 1,000-lb mammals involves more finesse than you might think from watching cowboy movies.

The herd I was helping drive belongs to Bryan and Deb Gotham. They live in Colville, though their 2,200-acre ranch is in Ferry County, just west of Sherman Pass.

Conservation Northwest has been working with the Gothams for a year or so, raising funds to retire the development and mining rights associated with their property so that they can afford to commit it permanently to agriculture, open space, and wildlife habitat.

Ensuring that the Gothams can maintain their ranch as a working ranch is vital to our interest, as their property happens to be great habitat. It registers very high in modeling done to determine the best habitat for maintaining connections between the Cascades and the Rockies for wildlife like lynx, wolverine, and others.

The Gothams also lease a lot of national forest between Highway 20 and the Colville Indian Reservation. Much of the public land they lease for summer grazing has been proposed (by Conservation Northwest and our partners) for wilderness protection.

In contrast to some ranchers, the Gothams are ranchers who support that proposal and wilderness. They see wilderness as not only compatible with their management style, but also having the advantage of keeping out ATVs that harass cattle and spread weeds.

This wasn’t just any cattle drive - on hand were executives and a film crew from Ameristar Meats, which buys Gotham beef, filming the drive for promotional materials. Ameristar is developing its premium beef brand for marketing to people who want to know that their food was raised well.

I was happy to associate myself and the Conservation Northwest name with their promotion, because they were happy to say that quality stewardship and even designation of wilderness, one of the highest forms of land protection in America, fits their interests. That’s how we roll.

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