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Habitat Conservation and Restoration

posted on

March 13, 2024

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My conservation dream team: NRCS, CNLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Ecostudies Institute, and Thurston Conservation District

Much of our work at Colvin Ranch involves conservation projects. A conservation mindset is at the heart of our grazing and management plans, and we are deliberate in when and where we graze our animals for the benefit of the native species that call the ranch home. 

But we also undertake a number of habitat restoration and enhancement projects that go above and beyond conservation grazing. A lot of the time, these projects start with me standing in a field or forest, dreaming about what's possible. I'm always wondering - what does this want to be? What can make this the best version of itself?

I've learned from experts like Marty Chaney at NRCS that it all starts with dirt. The soil type determines what will grow and thrive in a particular area, and you can tell when a piece of land isn't doing as well as it could because what's currently there isn't the right fit for the soil type.

There's a section of land behind the ranch that had been native prairie habitat, but was neglected for years. Without any grazing or management, fir trees and Scotch broom had started taking over. 

Another nearby section of prairie soils had been planted with Christmas trees when I was a kid, which had been abandoned and overgrown. When we purchased the property, we saw an opportunity to help this place return to what it was meant to be. So we got rid of the Christmas trees, and with the help of CLNM and U.S. Fish and Wildlife, we planted oak trees in their place. 

Now, we're undertaking a larger project to create a silvopasture environment that will incorporate trees and native prairie species across these two sections of land. Without the help of organizations like Ecostudies Institute, CNLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, NRCS, and the Thurston Conservation District, we wouldn't be able to do these projects. It would be just me, standing in the field, wondering what the best version of this little piece of land could be. 

More from the blog

Open House May 19

On May 19, come join us for a behind-the-scenes look at our historic ranch. We'll be offering ranch tours, prairie walks, and burgers, of course!

Thurston Green Business Designation

This time of year, our ranch is visibly green. But all year round, we follow sustainable business practices to reduce our carbon footprint while preserving and protecting our natural resources. Because of our environmental stewardship, we're now officially recognized as a Thurston Green Business.  We talk a lot about our conservation work to restore and enhance the native prairie habitat at the ranch, but we don't often talk about the other steps we take to ensure that we operate our business as a whole in a sustainable way. Some of these business practices include: limiting the transportation of our cattle minimizing packaging, reusing materials, and recycling conserving water and protecting streamsconsolidating deliveries to reduce driving milessupporting local businesses by buying local The conservation easement in place at the ranch ensures that the native prairies here will be protected forever. Working with partners like NRCS, WSU Extension, Thurston Conservation District, Ecostudies Institute, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife, we've completed projects including: contributing to the recovery of the golden paintbrush and its removal from the federal list of endangered and threatened plantsimproving Mazama Pocket Gopher habitatincreasing plant diversityprotecting Scatter Creek stream bedsmaintaining Garry Oak ecosystems planting hundreds of trees And there's more in the works. We're currently working on a five-year project to eliminate scotch broom and restore native prairie plants on a nearby property, and creating silvopasture on a section of land that had been previously neglected.  Check out the other local businesses who have been designated as a Thurston Green Business and shop local.