Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability

At Vera Earl Ranch, we are proud to care for the ecosystems, grasslands, and riparian areas that provide food and water not only to our cows, but to all wildlife roaming through them. Our intent is to leave the terrain we utilize for our operations in better shape than the prior year. Consistently and extensively monitoring our grasslands ensures grass vigor, plant diversity and effective use of the grasses. We meet with representatives from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) twice yearly or more to assess rangeland health and grass utilization. All of the ranches are monitored each year for grass production and vitality. If we feel our grasslands are not thriving, we will cut our cattle numbers to match the amount of forage available. The cattle are moved through a rest-rotation grazing system, allowing for the resting of pastures during growing season and utilizing between 35% to 50% of the grasses in each pasture.

Vera Earl Ranch manages the grasslands and grazes our cattle in conjunction with at least 12 listed endangered or threatened species. Managing for a healthy ecosystem helps all species including our cattle. Actively working with biologists and federal agencies ensures a healthy and improved ecosystem. Since 2013, we have been enrolled in the Safe Harbor Agreement project on the Vera Earl to create habitat for the endangered Chiricahua Leopard Frog and other aquatic species. In addition, we have worked extensively with BLM and other interested parties to enhance riparian habitat for threatened and endangered species.

We worked with Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and Arizona Game and Fish on the Sands Ranch to treat invasive shrubs and return the landscape to native grasslands. In partnership with U. S. Fish and Wildlife, Arizona Game and Fish, and the Antelope Foundation, we have cleared and restored approximately 3000 acres of mesquite, enhancing the grasslands for antelope, migrating birds, and cattle on the Vera Earl.

On the Empire Ranch, which is half Arizona State Land and half Bureau of Land Management (BLM), we engage the public through a process called Biological Planning. We are proud to continue the process developed by BLM in conjunction with the Donaldson family, previous owners of the Empire Ranch, in which we meet with the public and multiple agencies twice yearly to discuss grazing, rainfall, monitoring, endangered species, wetlands, the creek and archaeological items. Actively engaging the public in the activities of cattle ranches encourages the understanding and appreciation of the history and tradition of cattle ranching.

Please explore the links below to learn how Ian Tomlinson has been recognized for his work on the Empire Ranch:

Cienega Watershed Partnership

Patagonia Regional Times

Science on the Sonoita Plains Symposium

The Nature Conservancy

University of Arizona Range Livestock Workshop


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