While the prospect of thousands of people having access to your property could cause many landowners to shudder, it’s anything but for Don Roberts, who owns and operates Sheridan Heights Ranch.
Don described having a recreational trail open and accessible to the public on his land as a paradigm shift. “It was a tough decision, because for the first half of life all you do is put up ‘No Trespassing’ signs to protect your equipment and cattle.
But it didn’t take long for Roberts to see the value in something like Soldier Ridge Trail. “The trail system is working. These trails have a great value for our community,” Don concluded.
So much so, in fact, that the voluntary conservation agreement includes language that allows new trails to be developed. “The Soldier Ridge Trail has worked so well in coordination with our agriculture, I thought we should expand that,” Don stated.
That agricultural component is essential to the character of Sheridan Heights Ranch. Cows and calves intermingle with runners, walkers, bikers, hikers and horseback riders, giving trail users an up-close-and-personal experience that can create closer connections between the ranching and recreation communities. That’s especially important for young children and other residents who might not ever have the opportunity to spend time on a working ranch. While the cattle have run of the range, trail users are reminded that they are guests on the ranch and are only allowed access to the trail corridor. At SCLT, that’s what’s called ranching and recreation working hand in glove.
But it’s not just trail users those cows and calves intermingle with, Sheridan Heights Ranch is important habitat for a bevy of wildlife. Its grasslands connect deciduous shrub and sagebrush steppe habitats which attract large numbers of pronghorn, mule and whitetail deer as well as smaller-statured species like mink, badger, striped skunk, and jackrabbit. Elk, moose, mountain lion, black bear and bobcat are all occasional visitors.
Bauer added that the area is also enjoyed by many a bird and birder. Bald and golden eagles, osprey and kestrel are among the 10 species of raptors, while great horned owls hunt voles, shrews and packrats by night. Sandhill cranes and great blue herons are among the several dozen seasonal visitors that fly through during the year.