Eco-ploration in Montana

Ranch Rider’s Rocking Z Ranch uses waste
vegetable oil to power an irrigation pump, saving
more than 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year.

Editor’s Note: Ecotourism can take many forms – activist tours, where the line between work and vacation is blurry; adventure tours, where the tourist braves white water in a canoe, or thin air and freezing temperatures on a mountain trek, or any number of other challenges of nature; visits to pristine places, where one can view the most beautiful and unspoiled regions on earth, hopefully through their tourist dollars helping to fund the preservation and restoration of these places, and finally; low impact tourism, where the traveler stays in accomodations and enjoys means of transit that leave no footprint.

These distinctions are somewhat arbitrary, of course, since many tour operations combine all four of these characteristics of eco-tourism in varying degrees. Ranch Rider, a company marketing a huge collection of tourist destinations in the rugged heartland of North America in and around the massive Rocky Mountain range, has begun to see their affiliates systematically convert their operations to increasingly sustainable, clean and organic practices. From the food being prepared, to the fuel being used, to the stewardship of the land surrounding these resorts, these ranches been consciously evolving how they run their businesses with an eye to the much vaunted “triple bottom line,” paying equal attention to people, planet, and profit.


Being located in remote, mountainous areas in close proximity to wilderness, these tourist ranches are already familiar with sustainability in ways urban dwellers don’t often as easily assimilate. Harsh winters, unforgiving landscape, often intermittant water supplies, and other realities of nature inculcate a resourcefulness and responsibility towards the earth intrinsically. And what is invariably the case when sensible sustainability is implemented is what helps the earth will automatically help the bottom line, in addition to granting the tourist an experience that provides not only relaxation, but the comforting knowledge their experience is contributing to the preservation and restoration of nature. – Ed “Redwood” Ring.

Ranch Rider’s Siwash Lake Ranch has been
awarded Five Green Keys by the Hotel Association
of Canada, only given to hotels that exemplify the
highest standards of environmental responsibility.

In the old days, cowboys explored and exploited the vast open ranges of the country, embodying the frontier spirit of the Wild West.

Our attitude towards the environment has since changed, and now, a new generation of ranches offered by Ranch Rider seeks to co-exist harmoniously with nature.

These “green ranches” practice a more sustainable style of ranching through energy-saving techniques and conservation initiatives. The Siwash Lake and the Rocking Z are examples of how ranchers can be great stewards of the earth, ensuring that future generations can still enjoy the scenic beauty of the Wild West.

Many wilderness ranches claim to be off grid, but there’s no greenwash at the Siwash Lake in British Columbia, as the ranch has recently been awarded with a 5 Green Key eco-rating by the Hotel Association of Canada. The prestigious accolade is given to a hotel that exemplifies the highest standards of environmental and social responsibility in all areas of operations – the Siwash Lake Ranch employing cutting-edge technologies and eco-friendly policies.

While guests are out eco-ploring on unspoiled wilderness trails, the luxury ranch is working behind the scenes to ensure a seamless green stay for its guests. Siwash Lake runs on solar power and a combined diesel generator – the latter charging up the battery bank on cloudy days, or when city slickers who can’t resist curling irons and hairdryers stay at home on the range.

Always mindful of being environmentally friendly and energy efficient, the ranch uses propane, a clean fuel, for cooking and for heating hot water. In addition, guests lounging by the cosy fireplace are sure to find comfort in the fact that the wood is beetle-killed pine – Siwash ensuring that their waste wood is put to good use. Biodegradable chemicals, energy saving light bulbs and emission controlled wood stoves are further initiatives that have been brought to the fore by the eco-friendly ranch ensuring would be cowboys and girls minimise their impact in the West.

Eco-gourmands can have their taste buds tickled by the Siwash Lake’s 2-acre organic garden, a source of fresh greens, edible flowers and herbs. The ranch produces its own beef and pork, which is again organic and all the chickens at Siwash produce free range eggs. However it’s not just the hearty Western cooking that has a green stamp of approval as everything is 100% natural and even the water comes from the ranch’s own well! The water goes through a low power, high-tech filtration system, including UV light treatment, to make it 100% potable and pure, with no chemicals added into the process.

Situated in the heart of Cariboo Country, ethical ranchers can experience the wonders of the natural grassland on horseback, by canoe or on foot – numerous bird and wildlife stopping by to greet wilderness ranchers. (7-nights with Ranch Rider from £1,939pp, excludes transfers as car hire recommended.)

Bedroom
Energy saving light bulbs and wide windows minimise
the use of electricity at the Siwash Lake Ranch.

The Rocking Z in Montana might seem like an ordinary guest ranch at first sight, but ask the owners about their deed of conservation and you might see it differently. The ranch now uses solar and straight waste vegetable oil power to irrigate the land – saving over 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 600 gallons of petrol per year. The ranch also uses pure bio diesel for its tractors and earth moving equipment making the Rocking Z a truly green home on the range.

As part of their conservation commitment, the owners recently struck up a partnership with the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Foundation. The latest initiative, at the Little Pickly Pear Creek, has helped to lower stream temperatures by 2 degrees; ensuring a more amenable habitat for the resident rainbow trout who now thrive in their natural environment. The owners have also committed the ranch with a deed of Conservation, working closely with Montana’s Land Reliance to protect and conserve the ecologically and agriculturally significant land, as a living resource for future generations to enjoy.

Green moves implemented by the ranch include, the recycling of glass, aluminum, tin and all metals; and the composting of all waste foods and bio-degradable material ensuring everything comes back full-circle. A significant proportion of the ranch’s produce is also organically grown by local farmers, helping the Wolf Creek community with their livelihood. Ethical stewards, who are constantly looking for ways to further their green commitment, the owners of the Rocking Z have yet more plans in store, and in 2009 they are hoping to install a wind charged generator – making this the perfect stay for forward thinking ranchers.

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