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Ucross Partners with Yale on High Plains Stewardship Initiative

Ucross Foundation has recently entered an innovative new partnership with Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, which brought current and recent Yale graduate students to work on-site at Ucross throughout the summer. During the project, Yale’s expertise with specialized technology will be brought to bear on the over 20,000-acre Ucross Ranch, to create models, maps and other scientific tools intended to enhance and monitor the long-range health of the land.  The project, which follows Ucross Founder Raymond Plank’s vision for Ucross as a demonstration and testing area for land stewardship, will run for three years.  

Yale Members of the Ucross High Plains Stewardship team, pictured in Plant Trees T-shirts, from left:
Charlie Bettigole, Philip Marshall, Devin Routh, Star Childs, Henry Glick, and Lindsi Seegmiller.  In center: Chad Oliver.

The newly constructed Raymond Plank Creative Center, located at the heart of Ucross (at the site of a former junkyard), serves as the office space for the Yale students, as well as providing group meeting opportunities for learning about the ranch. Among the projects that have already begun are the set-up of acoustic monitoring stations to sample birdsongs across the landscape, custom maps of the land-cover types (grasslands, sage, barren earth, riparian forests, etc.) that will be used for later analysis, and preliminary work on plans for an arboretum and botanical garden on the ranch.

Yale staffers at Ucross this summer included Devin Routh, Henry Glick and Charlie Bettigole; additional staff working remotely from New Haven, CT, included Lindsi Seegmiller, Starling Childs, and Ambika Khadka.  As Chad Oliver, Director of Yale’s Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry has stated, “To continue human prosperity, we need to continue integrating local know-how with technologies to make land stewardship as effective as possible.  Effective management means efficiency on the one hand, but not losing the unique lifestyle that makes the High Plains special.  That is, we need to manage for as many values as possible—and make no more ‘tradeoffs’ and ‘sacrifices’ among values than necessary.”

Issues to be studied at Ucross include water use, cattle grazing, health of flood plains and riparian areas, native and invasive insects and weeds, bird and mammal populations, and trees management. While in Wyoming, the Yale team connected with many local people, public officials, ranchers, educators, scientists, and others.

This summer’s land stewardship work at Ucross coincided serendipitously with a two-week residency that brought together eight artists connected to the University of New Mexico’s Land Arts program. Numerous intersections emerged between the Yale team and the Land Arts group, and plans are currently underway for a Land Arts exhibition to be presented at Ucross in 2015.

From left: Sharon Dynak, Devin Routh, Raymond Plank, Chad Oliver, Vivian Banks


Charlie Bettigole with new acoustic monitoring system installed near the confluence of Clear and Piney Creeks at Ucross