In 2002, Beaverhead Ranch became the first ranching operation in the United States to receive Wildlife at Work certification from the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) for outstanding natural resource management initiatives. Companies that partner with the Wildlife Habitat Council voluntarily manage their lands to support sustainable ecosystems and the communities that surround them. It remains the only ranching operation in the U.S. to hold this certification.
In 2016, the ranch again accomplished Conservation Certification (formerly Wildlife at Work) from WHC. The habitat management program was designated as Gold Certified, signifying leadership among the more than 700 WHC Conservation Certification programs. In addition, the ranch was nominated for WHC’s Mammal Project Award for successful elk, pronghorn and deer herd management practices.
Our conservation program focuses on providing sustainable habitat for a variety of animals by utilizing practices that work in harmony with the ranch’s operations. We are proud of our successful conservation efforts, which are due in large part to the dedication of our employees. Working with federal and state agencies, and with the help of local Boy Scouts and 4-H groups, employees have created a model program for habitat stewardship.
The ranch is home to a diverse wildlife population. Working with biologists from state and federal agencies, ranch employees address specific threats to species such as the trumpeter swan and westslope cutthroat trout. Both species have been identified as a “species of concern” and a conservation priority by the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
The trumpeter swan prefers riverine wetlands with large open areas free of man-made obstacle, which are hazards for the birds. This type of habitat continues to decrease. Habitat initiatives included removing an old property line fence that cross a body of water where a pair of adult swans hatched four cygnets.
A genetically pure species of westslope cutthroat trout was re-established on two miles of Bear Creek. Since starting the project in 2002, surveys by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicate an improvement in stream quality and function.
In 2015, the ranch team began working to establish westslope cutthroat trout at Peet Creek by removing non-native fish and constructing a passage barrier to prevent hybridization or competition from other fish downstream. Establishing a population at Peet Creek will expand the distribution in the Centennial Valley and help meet statewide goals to preserve the species.
Successful timber and grassland management practices have resulted in improved habitat in several areas on the ranch. The Bear Creek and Jones Creek areas now provide calving grounds for hundreds of elk and supports about 5,000 head on a seasonal basis.
Other wildlife species benefited are white-tailed deer, mule deer and antelope, as well as moose and many non-game species, including wolves.
Management practices on the Sage Creek area have resulted in an increased population of elk from 56 to more than 400. Results in the Blacktail benches area include improved utilization, wildlife variety and stream health. The Blacktail benches and meadows provide habitat for elk, antelope, white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, coyotes and fish, as well as mountain lions and bears. In addition, it provides nesting areas for blue herons, sandhill cranes and bald eagles.
Ranch employees are contributing to local and regional bluebird projects by creating and enhancing habitat for the mountain bluebird. Nesting boxes for were installed in areas that not only attract the species but also provide adequate food resources through the use of rotational cattle grazing. The boxes not only provide shelter for the birds but also opportunities to monitor their numbers.
As a subsidiary of Koch Industries, Matador Cattle Company is among four other Koch companies that partner with Wildlife Habitat Council.
Learn about Wildlife Habitat Council’s Conservation Certification program here.