Dr. Derek Scasta made his annual visit to the Ranch on July 27 & 30 and August 6, 2021, to take plant transects and soil samples across the ranch, measure the density of horse droppings and evaluate the general condition of the rangelands. A plant transect involves taking a 200-foot tape measure, rolling it out and then recording plants every 2 feet down the tape. Some of the preliminary findings are detailed below.
Overall Condition of Rangelands – There was a wide variety of native grasses and plants on the ranch, all of which were thriving. Tall cool weather grasses were abundant. The density of weeds and undesirable plants were low. In regards to the horse grazing, Dr. Scasta did note that the sites evaluated showed two positive features: (1) they were dominated by native perennial grasses and shrubs and (2) there was a general lack of non-native invasive plants.
Among the grasses found were Western Wheatgrass (the official state grass of Wyoming!), Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Prairie Junegrass (prevalent on the South side), Threadleaf Sedge, Inland Saltgrass & Alkali Sacaton (another saltgrass), Indian Ricegrass, Mutton Bluegrass, Needle-and-Thread, Blue Grama and Basin Wild Rye, to name just a few.
The far East side of the ranch supported plants that can tolerate salty soils such as Inland Saltgrass, Greasewood bushes and Saltbrush.
There is also a diversity of native shrubs, including Wyoming Big Sagebrush, Black Sagebrush, Fringed Sage, Winterfat, Yellow Rubber Rabbitbrush and Grey Rabbitbrush and Skunkbush. The Grey rabbitbrush is a small shrub that looks like sage from a distance, but isn’t. It has no smell and carries an abundance of yellow flowers when it blooms. Deer & antelope and horses have different forage preferences. The horses focus on grasses, while skunkbush (there is a reason for that name) and sage is a favorite of the antelope & deer.
There were lots of wildflowers such as Rocky Mountain Bee Plant (found in large quantities all cross the ranch, especially along the road sides), Rocky Mountain Iris (Southwest side), Woods Rose, Fringed Sandwort, Sulphur Flower a/k/a Buckwheat, Broom Snakeweed (blooms yellow in summer), Water Forget-Me-Not, Western Buttercup, White Evening Primrose and Houndstooth.
Patches of Death Camas were also found across the ranch. This plant is one of the first plants to emerge in early spring when it is also the most toxic to grazing livestock. If you see this plant on your property, please pull it and dispose of it (see photos in the plant gallery below for identification).
Soil and plant samples were taken from sample lots across the ranch for evaluation.
PDFs on Rangeland Grasses and Native Plants are available below for download.
Basin Rye Grass
Wild Horse Preservation Society
PO Box 1610, Laramie, WY 82073
Copyright © 2019 Wild Horse Preservation Society - All Rights Reserved.