Conservation for the Future: Water as the Key to Management - Lake Harding Association

Conservation for the Future: Water as the Key to Management

Conservation for the Future: Water as the Key to Management

By Micah Moen 0 Comment December 5, 2019

my name is Gary Bischoff we’re in
Southeast Carter County I’ve been here going on my 11th year I lease the ranch
from the Arbuckles it’s a cow calf operation hay alfalfa and grass water’s a big
issue you can look at it here and think that we have all the water in the world
but three years ago we started this or four and once we got the pit dug it
never rained for two years or three years I don’t just remember what it was
and it finally just filled well once you get them filled you got it made so water
is a big issue I’m kami kilwine I’m the area range
specialist out of Miles City with the NRCS I’ve been working with arbuckles on
their conservation plan probably for the last five years arbuckles have a long
history of conservation planning on this unit Lee Arbuckle who’s now passed away
had a grand vision for making this ranch as productive and healthy as it could be
as ecologically functioning as it could be it takes a lot of infrastructure
generally to get a large ranch like this one to where there’s water spread out
and cross fencing and engineering all in place to where we can use the cows as
tools the way that we need to to improve the landscape so we’ve done a lot of
work cross fencing the place to break it up into smaller pastures putting water
you know where it needs to be so we can really control where the cows are
grazing how long they’re grazing there and therefore how long those fields get
to recover before they’re grazed again there were several dugouts but they were
silted in and so we started doing these deep dugouts that’re 20 foot deep
with solar panels they have an all-weather outlet so you can put your
pump in them just like a well the main thing is to pull the cattle you can see
here there’s some tanks around here it pulls the cattle up off the bottoms and
you can utilize your pasture better and get better coverage when you’re grazing
so one of the things we’re trying to take some pressure off this center water gap
because you can see there’s bare ground there’s some trailing coming into the
water gap by getting water out there we can manage this better and hopefully get
more vegetation around the pond for wildlife you know some places water is
just a given and you have it once we get off the river there’s times we just
don’t have it so our next project is we’re gonna dig a deep well there on the
river and eventually hook all these water lines that we have going off of
these dugouts to that deep well so if a guy would get into an extended drought
these pits would go dry we would have a backup
I think the NRCS is a good partnership we get along well we discuss our ideas
we can go in and we set down there in first of may and draw it all out but
things come up in the summer time and all you have to do is call kami and say
hey this is what’s going on Gary’s great he’s always got good ideas
he’s really practical and he’s got the vision for improving the land just like
we do I’m Lauren Manninen I’m a soil
conservationist with NRCS in ekalaka Montana so the very southeast corner of
the state we’re at the crazy woman bison ranch ran by Doug and Mary Stange and
it’s near that chalk buttes just southwest of ekalaka my name is Doug
Stange and I operate the crazy woman bison ranch with Mary my spouse and
we’ve been here 30-plus years both coming from backgrounds that had nothing
to do with large animals we did not know what we were getting into here we
thought you could just let nature be nature and pretty soon we learned we
needed help and we found NRCS and Farm Services Agency and BLM these were all
resources that we could count on so the Stanges started with NRCS with the
WHIP program which is the wildlife habitat improvement program and with
that they started with building dams and then improving wildlife habitat by
excluding those dams we learned about beaver familial patterns is apparently
when the younger beavers get to be old enough the parents kick them out and say
you build your own dam so now we have cascading beaver dams what how many are there I think there’s five now yeah and it’s a beautiful spot it’s a riparian area exactly feeds into Spring Creek it’s a matter of
trying to thwart the loss of your ground water table so the ponds that
NRCS has helped the stanges with they have excluded the Bison from them so
they’re available for wildlife to use and occasionally they will turn the
Bison in to graze and manage weeds and then they got into the EQIP program
which is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and they developed
interior fences and stock water there’s a place further on down spring creek where on the shoreline there we have a well that you
can pull water out of the ground and you get a consistent stream to the point
that you can fill both those tanks without having the water table drop
sufficiently to stop it and part of that is because we have beavers that are
holding the water up there and keeping the water table high with all of the
fences and the stock water and those improvements that has helped set up the
stanges so they can better rotate through their fields and have better utilization
levels so the improvements we’ve made have made it a lot easier for stanges to
improve their level of management

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