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Wyoming

A Family’s Ranching Legacy Endures in the Little Snake River Valley

“We believe we found the right partner in The Nature Conservancy. They have been great to work with, encouraging us every step of the way.”

-Sharon O’Toole, Ladder Ranch Co-Owner

The Salisbury/O’Toole family has raised cattle, sheep and horses on Ladder Ranch in the Little Snake River Valley for more than 130 years. Three generations live on the ranch today.

Working with The Nature Conservancy, the family has safeguarded the 1,518-acre ranch with conservation easements that limit future development but continue traditional agricultural uses, including the existing cattle, sheep, and hay enterprises.

The easements also allow the family to maintain and expand their ranch recreation business while keeping vital wildlife corridors open.

“We believe we found the right partner in The Nature Conservancy,” said co-property owner Sharon O’Toole. “They have been great to work with, encouraging us every step of the way. We share the same vision for the future of this landscape.”

Sharp-Tailed Grouse, Wetlands and More

The Ladder Ranch sits in the shadow of Battle Mountain and overlooks Squaw Mountain, Sheep Mountain, Battle Creek, and the Little Snake River. The easements include valuable riparian areas, irrigated meadowland, and sage uplands.

The Ladder Ranch—which contains five ponds and 250 acres of wetlands—safeguards habitat that potentially supports 50 Species of Greatest Conservation Need as identified by Wyoming’s statewide wildlife action plan, Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy.

Surrounding lands support the largest and most robust population of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse found anywhere in the central Rockies.

“A combination of exceptional wildlife habitat, viable ranchlands, and looming development pressures make protection of the Little Snake River Valley a top conservation priority,” said Andrea Erickson-Quiroz, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming.

“The Conservancy and other conservation organizations have been actively engaged on both sides of the Wyoming/ Colorado border.”

Conservation: A Family Tradition

The Salisbury/O’Toole family’s land stretches across the border into Colorado where they have protected two additional properties covering more than 1,000 acres and approximately 1.5 miles of the Little Snake River with conservation easements held by the Colorado Cattleman’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT).

“CCALT is excited to hear about the Salisbury/O’Toole family’s conservation efforts in Wyoming,” said Chris West, executive director of Colorado Cattleman’s Agricultural Land Trust. “This work will ensure that the ranching heritage of the Upper Little Snake River Valley will be preserved for the benefit of future generations.”

A Conservation Collaboration

The Ladder Ranch conservation easements were supported by several entities, including the Little Snake River Conservation District, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Farm & Ranchland Protection Program, Wyoming Governor’s Big Game License Coalition, Green River Valley Land Trust and several private supporters helped enable the completion of the project.

Support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation was pivotal in this conservation project.  

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