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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.

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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.

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Community Sustainability

Community Support

The Ranch at Rock Creek is committed to serving the Granite County community and surrounding area through its support of local organizations and events that improve the lives of our fellow citizens. We have given cash and in-kind donations to support our local Granite County Medical Center and Foundation, through the Granite County Festival of Trees and other initiatives. We will host the Festival for the seventh time in 2020.

The Ranch has provided support to county organizations like Echo Lake Trails Association, Montana Food Bank, Watson Children’s Shelter, Ronald McDonald House, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Philipsburg Friends of the Library/Imagination Library, St. Timothy’s Summer Music Festival, Westslope Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Drummond Kiwanis PRCA Rodeo, Philipsburg Rotary Summer Concert, the Granite High School Prom, Philipsburg Volunteer Fire Department, the Flint Creek Trails Association, and the Montana Natural History Center.

Community Support Request

EMT Training

Granite County is considered a frontier area because there are fewer than two people per square mile. Rural emergency medical services are important and challenging to fund and man statewide. At the same time, this area is a hub of recreation activity. Activities Director Patrick Little is committed to helping the community get more EMTs to respond to emergencies by hosting EMT classes in the fall and winter.

Patrick explains, “This EMT class is the single best thing we can do for the community to saturate the county with willing able body people who can respond to emergency calls. As the President of Philipsburg volunteer ambulance (EMS), I push to improve the ambulance, with fundraising, training new EMTs and gaining support from the community.”

Patrick got the county support to get a new 12 lead heart monitor. Ranch Owner Jim Manley donated $11,000 to Granite County EMS in September and $10,000 will be a down payment for the new heart monitor.

The Nest at Rock Creek

When General Manager Jon Martin and his wife Brenda came to Philipsburg in early 2018, there were no childcare options for their two young girls. A parent staying at home was a change the Martin family was able to make, but they soon saw that other employee families and single-parent households needed more childcare options to maintain their careers and provide for their families.

In 2019, we opened The Nest on-site childcare. Ranch employees pay $25 per day for the first child and $15 per day for the second, which covers a portion of the expense for this program. The remainder is covered by The Ranch as a benefit to employees. The Nest was built to cater to the idiosyncrasies of the hospitality industry. Instead of strict monthly schedules and pre-payments that many daycares require, we’ve chosen to remain as flexible. Women account for 51% of our staff. Access to affordable childcare will aid female staff in developing their careers and combat gender wage gaps caused by time out of the workplace.

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Sustainable & Local Sourcing

Culinary Sourcing

Families and businesses in this area have always relied on their neighbors to remain resilient. Likewise, The Ranch is passionate about supporting farmers and ranchers close to home. Executive Chef Drage and his team serve food that is 75% sourced from local farms, ranches and purveyors, with 90% of meats, 90% of summer produce (with transition to storage crops during winter), 95% of grains and 100% of our dairy sourced from Western Montana.

This commitment extends to our Great Room Bar and Silver Dollar Saloon – 90% of our beer is handcrafted by eight Montana microbreweries. Thirteen Montana spirits appear in our back bar, accounting for 30% of our liquor.

Our kitchen saves food waste and adds all waste to our composting pile. This composting pile is maintained by our landscaping team and when it is ready, the compost is used across property to enrich our soil. In addition, we sell our compost to local farmers and ranchers (many of whom we also purchase produce or meat from!).

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Nature Spa Sourcing

Our Granite Spa is committed to using producers who are committed to quality and sustainable business. In 2019, we began a partnership with emerginC. Not only are their products created using fair trade, ethically farmed ingredients, but emerginC only uses sustainable packaging. The products are shipping in glass bottles in biodegradable packing materials. emerginC gives back to communities by following the “buy one, plant one” initiative where they plant a tree for every product sold. Finally, their office is run on 80% wind power and they cultivate a rooftop garden. As with Hay Straws, The Ranch is proud to support businesses that are similarly making sustainability a priority.

We work with cruelty-free committed brand Farmhouse Fresh. Our spa supports local Montana businesses as well, like Medicine Springs mineral therapy and Big Wick Candles. Body Bliss developed a line of custom scents inspired by our environs for our refillable accommodation amenities.

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Mercantile Sourcing

The Ranch’s Mercantile showcases local jewelry, pottery, art, leather crafts, homemade candles, cutting boards and clothing designs made by local artisans. We regularly host trunk shows with local artists who produce one-of-a-kind items. The best souvenirs are a reflection of the hard work and creativity of Montana’s citizens.

We sell honey made by The Ranch’s own bees in the Mercantile and serve it in our kitchens whenever possible. Ranch Apiarist Kelsey Bruns brought her passion for beekeeping to The Ranch and has helped build our bee program from the ground up. She teaches guests about their importance during our “Live Hive at Five” social hour featuring live bees and artisan cocktails made with our honey. Read more about her efforts.

Local artisans can submit their goods or services for consideration by filling out the form below.

Artisan Submission Form