Woodjam Ranch views themselves as stewards of the land and manage their cattle to enhance the natural landscape. The ranch has 16 fish-bearing tributary creeks and high populations of native plant species where the cattle graze. The Seelhof’s implement ecologically sustainable practices, such as streamside restoration and cattle grazing, to help mitigate climate change and protect the sockeye salmon that use their waterways to spawn. Ricky explains, “We distribute our cattle to different areas to drink water so that they aren’t trying to go to the creek, not to disturb any of the habitat areas along those waterways.” The Seelhof’s work to restore and maintain the riparian area around each creek by planting trees and constructing rock walls to stabilize channel banks.
The Seelhof’s work with local environmental groups to measure the impact of their initiatives. For example, Ricky says, “These groups measure the temperature of the water. There was a time, years ago, when they were concerned about the temperature of the river being too high for the salmon. The creeks run off of our land and into the river, so it’s important that those are kept shaded because they are keeping the overall temperature down in the water.”
The Seelhof’s annual cattle management strategy mitigates the land impacts of their operations. Ricky explains, “Our place is all flood-irrigated from the river so we keep the cattle up in the high country.” This keeps the cattle off the low area when the river is high, which can damage the river bed and fields.” She continues, “We utilize salt stations, so if we put salt in certain areas, the cattle naturally graze there. Every year we have a management plan for where they go, where we take them, and when they come home.” This helps build soil in depleted areas and keeps the cattle out of fragile ecosystems. Every year, the cattle go to range on June 1st and come home by the middle of October. During those months, they are grazing the deeded land that the ranchers manage all summer. When the cattle come home in the winter months, they feed cut hay from the farm and continue to graze. Seelhof says, “We have a system of grazing specific areas and then letting the grass grow back for when they come home in the fall time.” She continues, “In the winter, we are feeding our cows out on long rows, on fields that need more fertilizer. They are helping us by pooping, peeing, and leaving hay waste [in the field], that goes back into the ground.”
Farming and ranching on a large-scale is important, but daunting given how much land there is to manage. There are several strategies that mitigate climate change and benefit the natural environment that can be adopted. Seelhof says, “It is daunting, but I think stepping back and looking at what you’re given and seeing how you can work with nature, helps a lot. Looking at the lay of the land, knowing how the water works, where it floods, for example, is helpful.”
Seelhof recommends the Environmental Farm Plan as a first step for large-scale farmers looking to reduce their impact. Livestock animals are an integral part of grasslands and can have a big impact on the land if they are being raised on a large-scale.
Across the areas of their ranch where the cattle graze, they have noticed more wildlife in the area finding shelter or grazing. Seelhof says, “We’re creating habitat for not just our livestock but other wildlife species.” She also notes, “I think livestock are very important to the land. Everything does have a carbon footprint in a sense, but the biggest thing is keeping the land as close to nature as possible. That’s helping sequester carbon well and we can use cows to do that.”