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Annual Environmental Stewardship Award honors ranches that combine ecological and economic sustainability.

August 12, 2016

2 Min Read


The Region VI winner of the Environmental Stewardship Awards Program (ESAP) is Smith Creek Ranch, Austin, Nevada.

Beef Producer is featuring one of these operations each day for the coming week, recognizing their excellence.

The owner is Ray Hendrix, and current manager is Samuel Lossing. Duane Coombs formerly was the manager.

Smith Creek Ranch originated as a Pony Express station and contains many historic structures. The Hendrix family bought the ranch in 1994. The ranch comprises 230,000 acres in central Nevada, of which 3,000 acres are deeded and the rest is leased public land.


Stocking varies with conditions, but the ranch typically carries 800 cow-calf pairs. Cowboys herd cattle between seasonal-use pastures in rotation.

Ranch management has restored two miles of creeks through the ranch. Stream restoration included removing head cuts, re-routing roads, installing retention ponds and reseeding native plants to provide habitat for wildlife and forage for cattle. Smith Creek Reservoir on the ranch provides habitat for migrating waterfowl and irrigation water.

Lahontan cutthroat trout, a threatened species, inhabits Edwards Creek on the ranch, and the ranch participates in conservation measures on private land to benefit the Lahontan trout.

Meadows on deeded lands supply hay and provide habitat for sage grouse and other wildlife. Through monitoring, the ranch has demonstrated the compatibility of livestock and sage grouse with practices that reduce habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation.

The ranch also works with the Bureau of Land Management to manage wild horses on the ranch.

The ranch managers have learned how to utilize invasive cheatgrass, discouraging its spread and threat of wildfire.

Rangeland monitoring documented measurable increases in groundwater and increases in spring flow following removal of invasive pinyon and juniper trees in sagebrush rangeland.

Smith Creek Ranch was nominated by Nevada Cattlemen’s Association

The Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) was started by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) in 1991. It recognizes cattle producers whose efforts benefit both the environment and the bottom line, reflecting true sustainability – ecological and economic.

It is administered by the National Cattlemen’s Foundation and funded by Dow AgroSciences, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Any individual or group may nominate a cattle producer for the award. Winners are selected by a committee of from both within and outside the cattle industry. The selection committee chooses a regional winner from each of seven regions, then a national winner is named at NCBA’s annual convention each winter.

Nominations are due in March.

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