“We’re rich because of the biodiversity and productivity of our small corner of the planet.”
- John Buyok, Rancher
“Sometimes being rich has nothing to do with money,” says John Buyok, who ranches along the Tongue River in Sheridan County. “We’re rich because of the biodiversity and productivity of our small corner of the planet. We want to do what we can to ensure that it continues in the future.”
Three years ago, John and his wife, Vanessa, worked with the Sheridan Community Land Trust to put a conservation easement on their ranch in northeast Wyoming.
Now The Nature Conservancy, the Sheridan Community Land Trust and the Sheridan County Conservation District have launched a partnership to protect the Tongue River by reaching out to other landowners in the area.
The effort enrolls landowners in cost-share conservation projects to improve water quality, agricultural efficiency and wildlife habitat. It also helps them set up conservation easements.
“These exciting partnerships will strengthen our ability to get the work done,” says Rick Pallister, the Conservancy’s Northeast Wyoming program director.
From its majestic headwaters in the Big Horn National Forest, the Tongue River snakes through one of the state’s most fertile, productive valleys on its way to Montana, providing water to three towns and many ranches.
Although its upper sections are in good condition, the lower river is plagued by high levels of E. coli and Cryptosporidium, invasive plants, and irrigation diversions that are often aging, inefficient and detrimental to fish and wildlife.
Projects will run the gamut from moving corrals away from water sources to replacing antiquated livestock watering systems, and planting trees that stabilize the stream bank.
Cost-share initiatives can reduce a landowner’s costs for these projects to as little as 10 percent of the total bill.
John says that what’s good for the river is ultimately good for all the region’s residents. Thanks to his good stewardship, his ranch provides habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.
“There’s beaver, otter, mink, snapping turtles, badgers, porcupines” he says. “Lots of pronghorns. There’s mule deer up in the hills. Bald eagles, marsh hawks, great horned owls, burrowing owls, weasels.”
His enthusiastic inventory paints a picture of an intact and thriving landscape that, with the help of the Conservancy and our partners, will remain that way.
Want to learn more? Download the Tongue River Valley Landownder Resource Guide.