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Category: Giving Back

22 Active Sustainability Initiatives in 2022

22 Ways We’re Reducing Our Environmental Impact

As a destination rooted in the landscape, there isn’t a day that goes by where we don’t consider the importance of the natural world that surrounds us. Each year on Earth Day, we take stock of what progress we’ve made toward being a more sustainable resort.

Three guests horseback riding along the creek surrounded by trees

Each department is connected to this goal – from Owner Jim Manley to the staff members who live on-property and hike or bike to work, sometimes waking up to the sound of clashing Bighorn sheep curls outside staff housing.

Since we eliminated most single-use plastics in 2019, we’ve sought more ways to reduce our footprint. In 2021 we shared six sustainable practices. This year, on April 22, 2022, we’re sharing 22 of our initiatives.

Reducing Emissions

1. Walking and biking on propertySince Jim Manley started The Ranch at Rock Creek 12 years ago, his goal was for guests to see the property on foot or by bike, nearly eliminating vehicle traffic. He knew from experience it would be better for the eco-system and allow guests to unplug and see more wildlife.

two guests ride their bikes through the Ranch at Rock Creek arch

2. On-property staff housing & staff shuttlesWe provide staff housing, greatly reducing traffic, and provide shuttles and a staff bike program.
3. Solar powered lights on walkways – After dark, these solar-powered lights allow guests to walk to their accommodations safely.
4. LED lights throughout the resort– We’ve use LED lights throughout The Ranch. When upgrades become necessary, we are dedicated to finding ways to reduce our footprint in accommodations and in public spaces.

Sourcing Locally

5. Locally sourced beverages – We love our local brewers, cider makers and distillers – Philipsburg Brewing Company is located just 20 minutes away and Western Cider, Montgomery Distillery and Black Coffee Roasting Company, based in Missoula, are just a few of our favorite suppliers. They keep us in good spirits!
6. Sourcing ingredients from 100 local purveyors – Our culinary program under Executive Chef Josh Drage sources from over 100 local farms and ranches, most notably from Western Montana Growers Co-op who works with so many local companies, and Clark Fork Organics.

A table filled with fresh produce is just a portion of the fall harvest that we'll featuring during Autumn Harvest Weekend
7. Sourcing straight from Granite County – Our culinary team sources eggs from Farmer Boy Eggs in Drummond, Montana and greens and veggies from Frost Pocket Farms in Philipsburg. Using farms in our county mean less plastic, less fuel and a fresher product.

“Local sourcing means fewer plastic bags, fewer plastic clamshells of produce/fruit shipped across the country, less refrigeration in holding facilities, less fuel to transport and the list goes on… Being part of something like this over time that is bigger than us makes a huge difference in the soil, water and carbon footprint of our community. Produce with Clark Fork Organics is put into reusable farmer market bags and cardboard boxes, and not single use molded plastic container that ends up in the landfill for eternity.” ~ Executive Chef Josh Drage

8. Engineering a closed-loop cattle program – Every year our ranching team comes closer toward the goal of a closed-loop cattle program. Closing the loop means raising our own beef for use in our dining program. Our Cattle Manager Rob Laird helps teach our guests about this process and how it will reduce our footprint in our Ride Along with a Rancher activity, which is part of our all-inclusive activities program.
9. Supporting sustainable farming education in our community – 2022 marks our 10-year partnership with this leader in luxury travel. To celebrate we are auctioning off a ‘Delicious Journey’ – a once in a lifetime experience. Our bidders will help us support sustainable farming education for the children in our community. Visit the auction or make a donation here.

Responsible Recreation

10. Practicing catch and release fishing – Our fly fishing program is centered in the sustainable practice of catch and release. Our mountain-fed stream is one of the few places where non-hybridized, native cutthroat exist in Montana despite coexistence with wild, non-native rainbow trout. Protecting bull and cutthroat populations is a major sustainability concern that will help future generations.
11. Using biodegradable clay pigeons & solar-powered throwers – Our five shooting ranges are hidden within the landscape, but we understand their potential impact on our area. Though we clean our ranges regularly, we also use biodegradable clay pigeons and solar powered clay pigeon throwers.

A family with two young children making notes for The Ranch's all-inclusive Master Naturalist program

12. Teaching conservation through our Master Naturalist program  – Since 2018 our Master Naturalist program has informed guests of all ages about the unique biodiversity along Rock Creek. Through the years we’ve contributed to University of Montana’s bird ecology program, both financially and through bird banding. Taking guests along on these conservation efforts helps them find ways to help in their local communities.
13. Offering Flint’s Forest Ranger’s Program – This year we’ve relaunched our kids program as the Flint Forest Rangers. Flint is our Ranch dog and an intrepid explorer. The program, created with help from Swirl, is also focused on sustainability. Kids learn how to play a positive part in their environment as they recreate responsibly.

Continued Elimination of Single Use Plastics

14. Refilling Water Bottles – Before our concerted effort to eliminate single-use plastics in 2019, we began converting our water bottles to refillable versions. With two on-Ranch activities a day, our guests and guides need a lot of water bottles to stay hydrated. These refillable canteens are available at our Rod & Gun Club, while glass versions are available in accommodations and across the ranch.

Two refillable The Ranch at Rock Creek branded water bottles

15. Sipping with Hay Straws – These days hay isn’t just for horses. We switched to Hay Straws in 2019. They are created from hay crops and serve as a sturdy alternative to both plastic and paper straws. Guests have tried the straws and ordered them for their own homes. We love supporting businesses who are creatively solving problems in the hospitality industry.
16. Providing refillable in-room toiletries – Hotels are known for their single-use toiletry bottles. We realized that this was a huge part of our plastic usage. In 2019, a committee of our employees sought to convert our toiletries and coffee program to use refillable containers. Our housekeeping department keeps up this effort by creating a safe, sanitary way to provide our guests with high-quality body products and in-room coffee.

“This initiative is near and dear to my heart as a group of eight of us came together, with the assistance of our mentors, to create solutions to leave less of a footprint on Mother Earth. Our refillable glass water bottles have been a huge success. We selected a design that was unique and functional with recyclable aluminum lids eliminating the use of more than 15,000 plastic water bottles annually. Once the bottles fulfilled their lifetime, we use our glass crusher to turn them into sand-like particles to be used for future projects on property.” ~ Assistant General Manager Linda Walser

17. Crushing glass – In 2020, we installed a glass crusher on-Ranch. When we use glass bottles in our dining program, we place them in our glass crusher. The sand is used for landscaping across the resort.

Environmental Conservation Efforts

18.  Installing Fish Screens – Last year, Trout Unlimited – Clark Fork Project installed the first fish screen on The Ranch.

“Trout that swim into irrigation ditches on Rock Creek usually end up in irrigated hay fields. Fortunately, this fish screen saves thousands of juvenile and adult trout from mortality every year by providing safe fish passage past the irrigation ditch. The new fish screen and other fish screens being installed in Rock Creek will keep more fish in the creek and are expected to improve fish populations.” ~ Tess Scanlon, TU Rock Creek Project Manager

19. Annual River Cleanup – Since 2015 we’ve hosted a Clark Fork Cleanup. Along with the Clark Fork Coalition and local Philipsburg businesses, like the Philipsburg Brewing Company and Live Montanably, we’ve been able to remove tons of trash from our watershed.
20. Launching our inaugural “Spring Greening” – Over Easter Weekend we launched a new program to plant trees. This year’s efforts were focused around the newly installed fish screen, where new trees will reduce erosion and provide nesting habitats for birds along Rock Creek.

A young family planting a tree with a The Ranch at Rock Creek employee

21. Hosting bees on The Ranch – In 2017, we started our own bee hives. Apiarist Kelsey Bruns has been keeping watch over our hives and showing her progress on our blog. We use this honey in craft cocktails and other elements of our dining program. According to Kelsey, when she checked on the bees this year after the winter, they were doing well and had all survived. Bees are responsible for pollinating so much of the food we and other animals consume, so giving them more places to live helps our eco-system to thrive.
22. Annual Highway Cleanup – We adopted several miles along the Skalkaho Highway near Rock Creek Road. On April 26th we’ll host our annual cleanup effort.

Thanks to each and every member of our community, guests and Ranch family who help us to stay true to these goals and keep our eco-system thriving so future generations will enjoy it.

Read more about our sustainability goals and efforts on our dedicated page and on the blog below.

Category: Giving Back

6 Ways We’re Celebrating + Supporting Earth Day in 2021

In our 11 years as a guest ranch, we’ve never had a bigger celebration for Earth Day than we’ve had this week. This year we’ve found more ways to say thanks to nature, which has sustained us personally and professionally during the pandemic.

One of 12 boats on our 2021 Clark Fork Cleanup. Photo by organizer and Activities Director Patrick Little.

During 2020, we had to revise our commitment to eliminate single-use plastics in a few small ways when it was necessary for safety protocols. Though we recommit to returning safely to single-use plastic elimination in all areas, we were inspired us to look deeper into our sustainability efforts to see where we could lessen our footprint further to minimize the environmental effects of new safety measures. Here’s a look at what we’ve been doing this week and this year to celebrate the Earth.

1.Resuming our annual Clark Fork Cleanup

In 2015, we launched our first Clark Fork Cleanup along with the Clark Fork Coalition (who oversees cleanups throughout this watershed) and the Philipsburg Brewing Company. (Rock Creek is a tributary to the Clark Fork River.) The Cleanup continued for years.

Due to high water levels and the pandemic, we were forced to go on a hiatus, but on Tuesday, April 20, we resumed the tradition with a total of 12 drift boats and rafts carrying 25 people! The Ranch provided lunch for the crew and removed approximately 1,500 lbs. of trash from 11 miles of the Clark Fork River. This included a kid’s bike, 30 pieces of sheet metal, three large rolls of wire fence and more.

“The Clark Fork river has some of the best trout rivers in Montana flowing into the Clark Fork, yet I feel it’s one of the most polluted big rivers in Montana. When we get great partners Like Trout Unlimited, Clark Fork Coalition, along with local businesses like Philipsburg Brewery, to help us clean up for a day it can really make a difference! Over the years we’ve cleaned up almost 4 tons of garbage and metal out of the same 11 miles of river. You can see the change!” ~ Activities Director Patrick Little

2. Adopting a stretch of highway

This year, our application to adopt four miles of highway near The Ranch was accepted by the Montana Department of Transportation, Adopt a Highway program. We now oversee cleanup efforts between mile marker 41 and 44 of the Skalkaho Highway – the main road that we use to access the unpaved Rock Creek Road that leads to The Ranch.

General Manager Jon Martin and HR Director Cat Johnson help during our first highway cleanup.

Accounting Associate Danna Landry organized our acceptance into this program. “I grew up in Philipsburg. My childhood memories are full of green grass, flowers, blue skies, and pristine spaces as far as the eye can see. I want others to have the same memories as I do, and it begins when each of us takes just a little time to contribute. It was my way of giving back to a place that has taken care of me.”

On Wednesday, April 21, a crew of seven ranchers removed 12 bags of trash. Those involved commented that is was surprising how many things they removed were there for decades. They even found now-obsolete pull-top cans hidden in embankments with other trash. This hidden trash could have easily been washed into Rock Creek. A cleanup will happen every spring and more often if we see the need.

Director of Rooms Linda Walser finds litter during the cleanup on April 21st.

3. Hosting a blood drive in our Buckle Barn

Covid-19 impacted the Red Cross’ ability to do blood drives, reducing its blood supply. For people in Philipsburg, that makes it significantly harder to donate because we are 90 minutes from the nearest donation locations. When one of our beloved long-time employees was diagnosed with cancer in January, Assistant Pastry Chef Flynn Hall saw the number of blood donations that staff member needed to fight cancer and scheduled a blood drive as soon as the Red Cross resumed them.

A Red Cross van parks outside the Buckle Barn where 15 people donated blood on April 20.

The blood drive took place on Tuesday, April 20 in our Buckle Barn and 15 people, including Flynn herself, donated blood. The Red Cross remarked how many first-time blood donors there were. Encouraging new blood donors is important step in providing enough blood to emergency room, cancer and chronically ill patients. It is one another addition to our community sustainability efforts that we hope to continue in the future.

Nest Supervisor Katie Tobin and Controller Angie Scantling donate blood during the drive.

“My cousin Caitie was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia at the same time one of our Ranchers was diagnosed with AML as well. Patients often need blood transfusions, due to a low count of red blood cells and platelets. I was unable to attend a blood drive back home so I thought it’s a good cause in honor of someone we love at The Ranch. It was really gratifying to see everyone supporting the cause as a donor, organizer or providing food for the event.” ~ Assistant Pastry Chef Flynn Hall

4. Installing a Trout Unlimited fish screen

This winter and spring, and through snowstorms and rain, Trout Unlimited constructed a fish screen on an irrigation headgate on The Ranch to protect fish populations that were swimming into irrigation ditches and dying as those seasonal ditches dried up.

Construction of the fish screen on The Ranch at Rock Creek. Photo Courtesy of @troutunlimitedcf

Trout Unlimited has raised funds to revise the headgates in agricultural areas throughout the Clark Fork watershed and beyond. While this meant a large construction project would have to take place for months on one of our most frequented areas of Rock Creek, we knew that this was an essential step in protecting the creek we love. The fish screen is designed to regulate flow like a normal headgate, but also let water flow through holes in a steel plate while fish and debris are ushered into a tube that returns them to the main channel of Rock Creek. During the research portion of this project Trout Unlimited discovered there were 14-16 inch brown trout making their way into irrigation ditches, which will now safely stay in their natural habitat.

fish screen projects help promote more sustainable waterways

An example of the Trout Unlimited fish screen working in the warmer months.

The Rock Creek director of this Trout Unlimited Clark Fork project, Tess Scanlon, has taken on an incredible amount of work to make this happen. While the construction took place on our land, the irrigation ditch that was installed does not serve our own irrigation ditch, but rather the irrigation for three ranches down the road. Conservation efforts are rarely done quickly. Trout Unlimited, those ranch owners, and The Ranch at Rock Creek, had to work together for years to make this a reality. Tess wrote a blog about these efforts two years ago. They require an incredible amount of community participation, organizational oversight and planning. We thank Trout Unlimited, Tess Scanlon and the construction crew for their commitment to protecting the streams in our area.

General Manager Jon Martin said, “The Clark Fork Cleanup, the Trout Unlimited fish screen and the highway cleanup extend how we can protect Rock Creek. It’s not just about the 52 miles on Rock Creek. It’s about protecting the tributaries upstream and the watershed downstream.”

5. Starting on-Ranch glass reuse

One of the major reasons we strived to eliminate single-use plastics in 2019 was that nearly all recycling was removed from our frontier county. Now, as we prioritize safety protocols that require some single-use plastics, we look for alternatives to using those plastics along with other meaningful ways to reduce our footprint.

Aluminum is one of the few materials that can still be recycled in our area. We both recycle and support local businesses like Philipsburg Brewing Company and Montana Silver Springs that bottle with recyclable aluminum and create containers that can be reused.

We’ve long sought to close the loop on even this practice, so we’ve just completed the purchase of a glass crusher which will turn glass into sand to use on property. This will allow us to prioritize glass containers because they can be directly put to use on property.

As GM Jon Martin said, “The bottle of wine that you enjoy today with dinner can be under foot at Bikini Beach pond tomorrow.”

The dock at Bikini Beach is a great place for yoga, a picnic or a quick dip during a summer vacation

If you’ve just read for the first time about these efforts, they are adding to a multitude of other practices, such as composting, local purchasing and community philanthropy. We detail our other ongoing efforts on a special sustainability page, from reducing vehicle traffic and emissions to recycling brass from our shooting ranges and replacing all lights with LEDs.

“I think it’s our progression toward sustainability that is important. In 2020, we had an excuse to bring back single-use plastics, but we are striving not to do it where it’s not absolutely necessary. When we make changes, we always ask “Is this sustainable? Is this good for the environment? And we try to make the most environmentally friendly choice while retaining our high Forbes Travel Guide standards.” ~ Director of Rooms Linda Walser

6. Educating guests and staff on the importance of sustainability

One very important piece of sustainability is educating our staff and guests about conservation efforts.

“Our endeavors for a more sustainable work place, are also great ways for staff to invest in this area. Whether they are here long term or for a season, the beauty of Montana is often what inspires them to come out here and work for us.”  ~ HR Director Cat Johnson

Recently Virtuoso featured Master Naturalist and Activities Manager Kelsey McGlothlin in an article called, “Big Sky School.

Master Naturalist Kelsey McGlothlin leads a Master Naturalist class with Centano’s daughters. Photo courtesy Joel Centano/Virtuoso.

Writer Joel Centano explains how he tried to impart information about environmentalism to his daughters, but it wasn’t until their stay at The Ranch that they realized the impact they had on the environment around them.

“Ranch stays include plenty of other ways to continue the conversation that won’t feel like you’re forcing your kids to eat their vegetables. A fleet of specialized bikes replaces cars to encourage carbon-free wanderings around the property’s 6,600 protected acres. Art classes by the creek show how green spaces spur creativity. Visits to the apiary illuminate how bees sustain food supplies. Fly-fishing guides preach catch-and-release and lead cleanups to remove refuse from nearby rivers.” ~ Joel Centano, Virtuoso

Centano’s daughter shares her master naturalist journal. Photo courtesy Joel Centano/Virtuoso.

Our Ride Along with a Rancher activity also teaches how our Ranching Manager Rob Laird and Barn Manager Hailey Laird are developing our own cattle herd to close the loop on our beef supply, while Executive Chef Josh Drage sources our meat and produce from over 100 local and regional farms and ranches. Every department is empowered to keep sustainability a priority in their decisions and development.

Mother Nature has been so good to us, and our gratitude must be expressed in lasting, meaningful action to protect her for future generations.

Read more about our sustainability efforts here.

Category: Giving Back

Master Naturalists: Golden Eagle Rescue

In 2017, The Ranch started its Master Naturalist program to better explain the beauty of our exceptionally diverse eco-system. In 2018, it expanded to include National Geographic’s Year of the Bird, and in 2019 we’ve added the Rock Creek Field Guide (e-mail) and special classes like our Christmas week Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery Skills Class.

What we didn’t know is that our Montana master naturalists would play an even more active part in helping our eco-system. Read about the rescue, recovery and release of a golden eagle. At the end, you’ll find two important ways you can help raptors in the wild today.

The Rescue

On October 12, 2019, Ranch Master Naturalist and Activities Manager Kelsey Bruns spotted an injured golden eagle on a blind curve on the Skalkaho Road near The Ranch. The golden eagle was on her back when she found her, so she wrapped some clothing over her to be able to hold her wings together. She then, rolled her over, picked her up and took her to the side of the road. Kelsey placed her clothing over her head so that she couldn’t see and was less likely to get spooked and fly away.

Wild Skies Raptor Centers Jesse Varnado holds the rescued golden eagle
Rescued golden eagle, held by Wild Skies Raptor Center’s Jesse Varnado. Photo by Activities Director Patrick Little.

Kelsey reported it to the Wild Skies Raptor Center in Potomac, Montana. The Wild Skies Raptor Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to providing rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured raptors in Western Montana. They promote wildlife conservation through on and off-site education programs with live raptors.

“I will forever be in awe that I touched something so wild and free. I am grateful I was able to help such an absolutely stunning creature return to her home.” ~ Master Naturalist Kelsey Bruns

Kelsey, Activities Director Patrick Little and Guide Madi King, all Montana Master Naturalists, helped Wild Skies Raptor Center’s Jesse Varnado secure the golden eagle for x-rays. Patrick captured the rescue on camera. Watch the video of Jesse holding her.

This young golden eagle has a 7 ft. wingspan. Hatch-year eagles have a little bit longer flight and tail feathers than adults. Photo by Activities Director Patrick Little. 

It was determined that the golden eagle’s injuries were likely sustained in a car collision on the blind curve. Although roadkill and other carrion often serves as part of Montana raptors’ diets, living near roadways can also endanger the eagles.

Jesse determined that the 10 lb. young female sustained a pelvic fracture and head trauma due to the collision. She was transported to Potomac, Montana to recover.

The Recovery

Due to their hollow bones, birds like eagles are prone to blood clots when they are healing. The Wild Skies Raptor Center created a treatment program to give her the best possible chance of recovery. The first week of her treatment involved supportive care and containment in order to administer fluids, pain management and adequate nutrition. 

Photo courtesy of Jesse Varnado.

During the second week she was moved outside to move around on her own for two weeks. She dined on venison, rats, rabbit and Guinea pigs.

Once she reached the top perch, Wild Skies started conditioning her for release. During the last two weeks, they exercised her two to three times daily and she was allowed to eat all she wanted. Wild Skies has a permit to collect roadkill to feed the raptors at the center – sticking to a similar diet that they would have in the wild.

“Like most Golden Eagles I’ve worked with over the years, it was an absolute pleasure and an honor to provide her with the time and care she needed to recover.” ~Brooke Tanner, Executive Director of Wild Skies Raptor Center

She was found at 10 lbs. and released at 12 lbs., ready for her return to the Rock Creek area.

Photo courtesy of Jesse Varnado.

The Release

After five weeks of successful recovery, the golden girl was ready to be released. Although she was found near The Ranch, she was released on the mountains at The Ranch, likely part of her previous territory. Watch the video of her release taken by Guide Madi King here.

Releasing the Golden Eagle. Photo courtesy of  Jesse Varnado. 

As a younger female, the raptor center and The Ranch hope she will survive, stay in the area and raise young along Rock Creek. Although mortality is quite high for hatch-year raptors, this center works hard to give raptors a second chance.

She will give back to the team who helped her over the coming year. She was fitted with a GPS satellite transmitter that will help the Wild Skies Raptor Center gather information about migratory, feeding and other behaviors.

Notice the GPS satellite transmitter on the released golden eagle’s back. Photo by Activities Manager Kelsey Bruns.

The transmitter is designed to fall off, but the center is hoping it will stay attached for approximately one year. This is the first time they have every placed a transmitter on a rehabbed bird! Our golden girl is helping make raptor history, and helping this incredible organization learn how to better care for Montana’s rescued birds.

The Two Best Ways to Protect Raptors

Approximately 70-80% of raptors don’t make it past their first year of life. This doesn’t stop the Wild Skies Raptor Center from working hard to increase their odds. Helping a potential breeding female can have a positive impact on raptor populations, which face lead poisoning, vehicle collisions, electrocutions, intentional shootings, trap-related injuries and wind turbine collisions.

According to Executive Director Brooke Tanner, these are the best ways you can help raptors in the wild and after they are rescued:

  1. Switch to non-lead ammunition when hunting. This reduces the incidence of lead poisoning in the raptor population. When lead ammunition is used and birds are hit but not harvested, raptors eat the injured birds, resulting in lead poisoning. The center sees birds die of acute lead poisoning all too often. Read more here
  2. Donate to the Wild Skies Raptor Center’s Giving Tuesday or ongoing donation programs to directly fund more raptor rescues! Donate here.

Read More about The Ranch at Rock Creek’s recent sustainability efforts:

Sustainability Program

Protecting Rock Creek with Trout Unlimited

How to Bird Your World for the Year of the Bird

Sustaining Five-Stars & the Future by Eliminating Single-Use Plastics

Category: Giving Back

Protecting Rock Creek with Trout Unlimited

Sustainability from Field to Stream
Guest blog by Teresa Scanlon, project coordinator with Trout Unlimited

Why We Love Rock Creek

It’s no secret that Rock Creek, the fabled blue-ribbon trout stream tucked away in the mountains of Western Montana, is remarkable. Its steep canyon walls and sweeping valleys are home to both traditional ranching and endless prospects of recreation and exploration.

Guests can enjoy beautiful fall river scenes like this one at Montana's The Ranch at Rock Creek
Rock Creek bridge at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

The hills in Rock Creek are filled with wildlife diversity including moose, bear, mountain goats, and elk, and its waters offer prized fly-fishing opportunities.

A moose crosses Blue Ribbon Rock Creek
Moose crossing Rock Creek. Photo courtesy of Brian Bowen Smith.

That’s why Trout Unlimited’s (TU) local WestSlope Chapter is partnering with the community and other stakeholders to launch a signature program dedicated to protecting and restoring this iconic local watershed for future generations of anglers to enjoy.

A Montana fly fisherman catches a fish in his net
Fly fishing on Rock Creek. Photo by Silvio Mollov.

For over a year now, I’ve been the Trout Unlimited program coordinator, working with individual and public landowners to explore opportunities to improve habitat and connectivity for native and wild trout in Rock Creek.

Why Rock Creek Matters

Biologists recognize Rock Creek as a native trout stronghold with populations of bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout as well as wild browns and rainbows.

A large bull trout is released back into Rock Creek
Bull trout photo by Ranch Guide Madi King.

Anglers from across the country revere Rock Creek for both its accessibility and quality fishing. Yet native and wild trout populations are facing challenges, such as increasing water temperatures and barriers to migration.

Tess Scanlon of Trout Unlimited
Tess at our Whiskey & Water Weekend casting carnival.

I am collaborating with biologists and landowners to address these issues through collaborative projects that benefit both the fishery and landowners.

How The Ranch is Helping

The Ranch at Rock Creek and Trout Unlimited are working together to protect the landscape and fishery in Rock Creek and ensure future guests can enjoy it. I am working with The Ranch to explore installing fish screens on irrigation diversions on the four miles that run through The Ranch’s property.

fish screen projects help promote more sustainable waterways
An established fish screen similar to what will be installed at The Ranch at Rock Creek. Photo courtesy of Trout Unlimited.

The Ranch uses stream water to irrigate their fields for pasture and hay production. Installing a screen at the headgate, which is used to control the water intake, prevents fish from getting stuck in the ditch.

Pastures and hayfields at The Ranch at Rock Creek
Lines are cut into the hayfields by a pivot sprinkler used in irrigation.

In the process of installing a fish screen, the irrigation infrastructure used to divert water from the stream is typically updated to the latest technology. This collaborative project showcases The Ranch’s dedication to environmental conservation and helps keep fish in Rock Creek.

“Rock Creek has a special spot in my heart. Working with local animal protection and conservation groups like Trout Unlimited is so important to everyone in Montana and at The Ranch. There are people, groups, companies and land owners that care deeply and take steps to help preserve the wilds of this great state. It’s uplifting knowing that what we (The Ranch, TU, and our neighbors) do in this valley makes a difference and sets an example of what should be done. I couldn’t work for a property that didn’t care.” ~ Activities Director Patrick Little

How You Can Help

When I attended The Ranch’s Whiskey and Water Weekend, I discussed how guests could contribute to healthy fish populations on Rock Creek. Here are my top tips for protecting local waterways, especially our beloved Rock Creek.

  1. Sponsor a fish in the Race Up Rock Creek. Watch cutthroat trout run the 80k up Rock Creek to spawn! All donations go to our on-the-ground projects to protect Rock Creek.
  2. Be conscientious about when you fish. Midday water temperatures in the summer are hot. Catching and releasing fish at the hottest times of the day can stress or even kill fish.
  3. Join or support your local Trout Unlimited chapter. No matter where you live in the United States, you have a local chapter that will share with you how you can support fishing for the future. Go to TU.org to join or to learn about our research and project work across the country.
  4. Teach a kid how to fish. Building memories and a love for the outdoors breeds the next generation of conservation leaders!

Dalles Rapid on Rock Creek. Photo Courtsey of Trout Unlimited.


Category: Giving Back

How to Bird Your World for the Year of the Bird

2018 is the year of the dog in the Chinese zodiac, but man’s best friend has to share the limelight with another vertebrate, the bird. 2018 marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In recognition of the most powerful piece of bird protection legislation ever passed, the National Geographic Society and other likeminded organization are taking part in worldwide conservation efforts to protect migratory bird species, a key cornerstone of our ecosystems.

Sustainability through Conservation

From the very first day of 2018, we began celebrating Montana’s incredible bird population and supporting conservation efforts in a program we are calling Bird Your World. On New Year’s Eve we even decorated the Silver Dollar Saloon with majestic raptors and on New Year’s Day on a snowy Raptor Hike to learn about the hawks, eagles, osprey and other birds of prey that call Rock Creek home.

A bald eagle sits on a fence post near Philipsburg, Montana. Photo by Activities Director Patrick Little. Read more…

Category: Giving Back

A Joyful Kickoff to the Season of Giving

Giving Thanks

Before thanks have even been given in the traditional American way, we’re giving thanks to our community through a local tradition. This Friday and Saturday, we will host the 4th annual Granite County Festival of Trees in our bedecked Buckle Barn. Though Santa doesn’t make his appearance for another month and a half, it’s fair to say our elves are busy as ever preparing for this charity event. Read on to garner the recipe for our Bar Manager’s wassail-worthy mulled wine. 

17 Christmas trees lit up the Buckle Barn before the Festival of Trees gala auction
“It’s a Wonderful Life” plays in the Buckle Barn before the 2015 Festival of Trees Gala Auction.

Joy in Montana, Joy to the World

The Granite County Festival of Trees is the only major fundraiser for the local non-profit organization, the Granite County Medical Foundation. Since the event’s inception, The Ranch has been a sponsor, and for the last three years we’ve served as angel sponsor and host. The first year, the event raised over $10,000 and last year’s event it raised $35,000 for local health projects.

The outside view of the Buckle Barn after the 2015 Granite County Festival of Trees
Peeking into the windows of the Buckle Barn before the 2015 Gala Auction. 

These projects have ranged from buying new beds for the long-term care and acute care patients at our local medical center to supplying AEDs to local law enforcement vehicles and to helping provide car seat checks and bike helmets to the area’s youth. When you live in a remote mountain environment, you truly appreciate emergency and preventive health services that help your staff, family, friends and neighbors.

Mercantile artisan, Pat Siler of Philipsburg’s Back Creek Pottery, created commemorative ornaments for the event. 

In addition to the Festival of Trees, The Ranch also hosts our hometown’s Granite High School prom and supports a long list of charity projects throughout the year. We believe one of the most important parts of our commitment to sustainability is giving back to local organizations and supporting local businesses and artisans.

“Our whole Ranch team truly enjoys helping to produce this community event. We are proud of our angel sponsorship and look forward to our participation every year. Our group coordinators and culinary team are very talented and create memorable family reunions, corporate retreats and weddings throughout the year. But this greatly anticipated event is extra special because it brings our community together for a wonderful cause and represents the official start to The Ranch’s holiday season celebrations.” ~Steve Shotsberger, General Manager

We are happy to be recognized for our giving and sustainability initiatives, but these charity projects also signify a personal connection to many of our employees, who volunteer their time to serve on local non-profit boards, volunteer for projects and even work as Ski Patrol or volunteer fire fighters to ensure the safety and health of local residents. Read more…

Category: Giving Back

Sweet Life of Bees: A Montana Apiary Story

Join us as we follow our new colleagues—the bees—as they homestead in the Rock Creek Valley. 

Chapter 1, Spring: Welcoming Bees to Rock Creek

by Kelsey Bruns, Beekeeper, Master Naturalist and Little Grizzlies Kids Club Coordinator

New Arrivals

The Pintler Mountain range from the Edith Lake trail. Photo by Kelsey Bruns. 

Summer has arrived and the buzz is high here at The Ranch at Rock Creek. The local Pintler Mountain range is slowing losing its snowcaps, which means the Rock Creek is flowing high and the salmonfly hatch is upon us.

The large salmonfly beckons trout and fishermen on Rock Creek. Photo by Patrick Little.

In addition to fantastic fly fishing for our guests, the local flora is rushing into its full summer bloom. Lupine, larkspur and arrowleaf balsamroot are a few of our native wildflowers that put on a show for us during our mid-summer Montana landscapes. Our new naturalist classes teach adventure-loving guests about the connection between the flora, fauna and landscape.

A hillside of arrowleaf balsamroot. Photo by Patrick Little. 

We strive to offer guests the chance to delve deeper into the very eco-system that makes our corner of Gold Country so special. Our narrative photography workshops also help them use their knowledge of the environment to capture incredible moments throughout their vacation.

Activities Director Patrick Little and Kelsey Bruns share images during a photography training session. Photo by Ned Derosier.

As an addition to our sustainability program and to highlight the connection between the local produce used in our farm-to-table dining, we recently added some new livestock to The Ranch. It’s not a new herd of cattle or addition to our thriving horse herd; our new stock is the extremely important and completely captivating honeybee.

Honeybees outside of their new hives. Photo by Kelsey Bruns. 

Our first bees arrived at The Ranch in April. Their arrival meant that I could share another one of my passions with my colleagues and friends. With our long summer days, I know our honeybees will be very busy these coming months and will have a positive impact on The Ranch’s ecosystem. Our hope is that once these hives become established, guests will soon be enjoying the fruits of their labor. Read more…

Category: Giving Back

Giving Back: A Christmas Season of Stories

Third Annual Granite County Festival of Trees

While we are just finished decking our halls for the upcoming holiday celebrations, we’ve been in the Christmas spirit for over a month.

Sunset at the Buckle Barn before the 2016 Granite County Festival of Trees - hosting is one of the ways we're giving back to the communityThe sun sets before the Gala Auction. Look closely and you’ll see the Christmas trees glowing inside the Buckle Barn. Photo by Rancher Katie Forbes.

On November 11 and 12, we hosted the Granite County Festival of Trees for the second year in a row. The Festival has become a tradition for The Ranch—we’ve been a sponsor for three years. We joined 18 other regional sponsors in supporting this year’s event. Read about last year’s Mystical Mountain Christmas and the first annual event.

Hands go up as people bid on trees during the Granite County Festival of Trees, one of The Ranch at Rock Creek's giving initiatives
A scene from the live auction. The event filled the Buckle Barn. 

This wonderful event serves so many purposes. It supports local healthcare initiatives through the non-profit Granite County Medical Foundation. It showcases the incredible artistic talent we have in a community with only 3,000 residents. Lastly, it allows the community to come together and unite for a worthy cause. This year, the Festival raised over $36,000. Read more…

Category: Giving Back

Securing Sustainability

Sustainability in Wild Montana

The Ranch at Rock Creek is embarking on its sixth year in operation as a guest ranch. As we head into the summer season, we’re examining our commitment to sustainability and how we are responding to the evolution of the travel industry. While we seek high standards, we must also ensure we are growing in a healthy way, in order to provide an unmatchable travel experience for our guests and steady, supportive jobs for our dedicated employees. Just like the frontiersmen who settled in Granite County over the last 150 years, we need to be able to sustain our business in an untamed land—the still wild peaks and valleys of the Northern Rocky Mountains.

Our mission as a travel destination is to stay as close to our authentic Montana Ranch roots as possible while providing an unmatchable luxury experience. For this reason, we’re committed to making improvements each year that allow us to create a lasting home in Granite County, reduce our footprint and support our efforts to be better stewards of the land.

A springtime scene in the Rock Creek Valley with green grass, mountains and stormy skies

Read more…

Category: Giving Back

Supporting Discovery Ski Area, Our Best-Kept Secret

Sunday, April 8th marked the close of a memorable, powdery snow season at Discovery Mountain. Winter refuses to be ushered out without a fight, so late spring skiing was some of the best we’ve ever had. This year, our guests enjoyed all-inclusive downhill skiing and snowboarding throughout the winter, meaning we spent a lot of time on our wonderful local hill.

In 2014, National Geographic chose Philipsburg as one of the Best Secret Ski Towns in North America. We are inclined to agree, although it’s anything but secret in Western Montana.

Enjoy free downhill skiing at Discovery ski area when you travel to The Ranch at Rock Creek

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