Sustainable Tourism at The Ranch at Rock Creek
The Ranch is unique because our sustainability path has actually been in our property’s plans since The Ranch opened. Our location and role as a working ranch means that we naturally partner with our neighbors and nearby ranches in the area. We naturally coexist with our surroundings by the activities that we offer, the food that we prepare and the accommodations that we have built for our guests. When we started our sustainability department, led by Katie Acheson, she noted that it felt like jumping onto a well-developed path, as opposed to having to pave an altogether new one. Our staff come to Montana because we share a similar mindset about our environment – that it is beautiful and should be treasured. Meanwhile, we assumed we would get some push back as we sought to replace plastics; however, all we got was positive feedback and enthusiasm from our fantastic guests.
“We are so glad to be affiliated the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, which only inducts members dedicated to sustainable travel. Being out here where we are, there’s a certain responsibility and it just feels wrong having plastic out here. We’re at the headwaters of Rock Creek. Being at the headwaters, I think there’s a mental but real responsibility that anything we do, it affects everyone who’s downstream of us.”~ General Manager Jon Martin
Eco-Tourism & Environmental Sustainability
Elimination of Single-Use Plastics
Our team has successfully eliminated single-use plastic water bottles across property. We used to buy 40,000-50,000 plastic water bottles a year. Now, we use refillable, glass water bottles and stock all accommodations with these bottles only. In addition, we have replaced all plastic straws with Hay Straws, which are biodegradable straws made from the bi-products of wheat production. The amenities in our bathrooms are now housed in refillable, multi-use bottles, instead of the single-use plastic shampoo and conditioner that are still common in many hotels.
Instead of using Keurig machines in accommodations (which then require wasteful, single-use plastic K-cups), we have found high-end espresso machines and coffee makers that are available to guests. Milk and cream are placed in glass, reusable bottles instead of providing plastic half & half containers.
Reduction of Motor Vehicle Use
Our entire team has worked hard to decrease vehicle traffic by carpooling to work (for those of us who live in Philipsburg) or walking (if we live in staff housing). To promote this initiative, we all got together and rebuilt the walking path between staff housing and The Ranch, which is just about a mile long.
We ask our guests to also consider walking and biking around property to get to meals and activities, as opposed to requiring rides. For guests that did ask for transportation, we used golf carts to get around property whenever possible (as opposed to SUVs). Moving forward, it is a passion project of ours to further decrease the need for vehicles on property. Not only is everything on The Ranch walking distance, but walking and biking is safer and provides guests with a fantastic opportunity to slow down and take in the beauty that Montana offers.
The Ranch is moving toward all LED or solar lights, and we light our walkways with solar lights.
Protection of Waterways
In 2014, Activities Director Patrick Little founded our Clark Fork Cleanup effort. Volunteers from The Ranch at Rock Creek and partner organizations (Clark Fork Coalition, Philipsburg Brewing Company, Trout Unlimited, Grizzly Hackle, Old Works and Live Montanably) have removed three tons of trash and recyclables from the Clark Fork River. In 2016, we removed 800 lbs. of trash from Rock Creek. In 2020, we are planning clean up efforts on Georgetown Lake and the Bitterroot River.
In 2019, we partnered with the Westslope Chapter of Trout Unlimited to install fish screens on irrigation diversions on our four miles of private access on Rock Creek. Installing a screen at the headgate, prevents fish from getting stuck in the ditch. 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.