By Published On: January 5, 2023

New Video: Changing a Landscape to a Lifescape

The Humboldt Ranch encompasses more than 140 miles of streams and over 350,000 acres of mixed public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and private lands owned by Nevada Gold Mines. Collectively, these lands support important habitat for an abundance of wildlife including Nevada’s native Lahontan cutthroat trout. Historically, cattle and sheep grazed on streams and surrounding uplands throughout the growing season every year for over a century. Eventually, soil-stabilizing plants that grow naturally in the area began to decline and miles of willow-lined stream channels became miles of gullies.

Based on a vision that combines economic viability with environmental sustainability, Gregg Simonds, mentor and founding partner of the Humboldt Ranch, implemented a ranch-wide grazing program based on managing livestock for plant recovery. Rather than reducing livestock numbers, the ranch controls when and how long cattle stay in any one area, giving plant communities a chance to grow and thrive. Humboldt Ranch manager, Jesse Braatz and his wife, Ricarda, have been applying the principles of grazing for recovery for almost 15 years now in the face of floods, wildfires, and droughts.

Today, willows and other plants are becoming re-established, old gullies are starting to heal from decades of erosion and drought, beaver are returning, water tables are rising and better habitat conditions are being created for a multitude of wildlife ranging from insects to trout and from birds to pronghorn antelope. In essence, this vast landscape is becoming a “lifescape.” By comparing current conditions to historical imagery and by conducting interviews with people who have lived or worked in this area for decades, the film explores the power of managed grazing to restore landscapes at scale and ultimately, to offer a vision for sustainable ranching on western rangelands.

The story of the Humboldt Ranch was produced by the production company Little Wild and funded by the Intermountain West Joint Venture, Bureau of Land Management, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Working Lands for Wildlife, and Open Range Consulting.

There is so much potential here in northeastern Nevada to improve landscape function at a huge scale just by changing livestock grazing practices to allow for the recovery of riparian vegetation.

Carol Evans, Video Production Coordinator and Retired Fisheries Biologist
Read more of Carol’s thoughts on the Humboldt Ranch story.

Timing in grazing management is important. Desirable plants in desirable areas die when they are grazed in the active growing season and then don’t have enough rest for recovery.

Gregg Simonds, Open Range Consulting
Read more of Gregg’s thoughts on transforming Humboldt Ranch.

Being observant and sensitive to these changes allows us to make adjustments on the fly that lead to capitalizing on episodic years. This drives positive change noticeably further in a short period of time.

Jesse Braatz, Humboldt Ranch Manager
Read more of Jesse’s thoughts on transforming Humboldt Ranch.