Saving a Family Ranch in Wyoming
Freddie Botur with his horse on Cottonwood Ranches. Photo by The Conservation Fund
By Luke Lynch, Wyoming State Director
The first time I met Freddie, he had just convinced his aging father to pull their family’s cattle ranch off the market. Listening to real estate developers talk about massive subdivisions on his pristine ranch as they passed miles of trout-filled Cottonwood Creek had become too much for him to bear. After much negotiating, he convinced his father that he could turn around the struggling ranch, and he was faced with the daunting task of managing the vast 75,000-acre spread.
Freddie’s historic ranchland has some of the most important wildlife habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. It is land that supports his cattle herd, but it is also home to large populations of moose, elk, mule deer and pronghorn antelope. It’s a place with healthy populations of sage grouse, raptors, burrowing owls and approximately 65 species of concern in Wyoming.
I’ve been blessed to work with Freddie’s family over the past several years since he saved the ranch from subdivision. The Conservation Fund’s approach—building partnerships to conserve lands in an economically sustainable way— has made a truly symbiotic relationship possible. Working in concert with federal and state agencies, along with the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust, our partnership has provided needed help to the ranch. Funds were used to install pipelines, replace antiquated headgates, build wildlife-friendly fence and encourage progressive grazing management that has benefited all species, including the cattle. In exchange, the public is now assured that the ranch will stay intact and be available for wildlife and agriculture forever.
The Fund’s work has freed Freddie to do what he loves—run the ranch. Freddie’s leadership has prompted neighboring ranchers to work with us to conserve their lands. What once looked like a bleak future is now bright for Cottonwood Creek and its wildlife and ranching heritage.