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A day at the ranch

DWR employees gather to improve Hardware Ranch Wildlife Management Area

Phil Douglass is the DWR's conservation outreach manager in northern Utah. He is an avid videographer who works closely with the public and the media to highlight Utah's great wildlife opportunities.

EACH SUMMER, more than 60 employees from the DWR’s northern region spend a day together, improving wildlife habitat and a local DWR facility. In June of 2012, we held our annual workday at the Hardware Ranch Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

This year, we tackled a handful of projects:

  • Sampled fish populations in Rock and Curtis creeks
  • Constructed proper campfire rings at campsites
  • Installed signs at campsites
  • Worked on the elk-capture pens
  • Built a fire pit to keep winter sleigh-ride visitors warm
  • Cleaned and painted the visitor center and other buildings

Paul Thompson, our region’s native fish biologist, helped with the fish-sampling work. He was amazed at how well the fish populations have done and how good the riparian zones look.

“I sampled these streams in 2000, and they look completely different now,” said Thompson. He was referring to how well the vegetation has responded to grazing practices that use grazing to improve brush habitats and keep cattle away from streams.

The group of fish samplers found good numbers of cutthroat and brown trout in both streams.

Over the years, hunters, anglers and wildlife enthusiasts have made it a tradition to camp at Hardware Ranch WMA. To improve and protect the area’s campsites, another workgroup focused on building and installing new campfire rings.

They replaced old, poorly situated structures with new, standard rings that are strategically placed to better protect habitats and prevent wildfires.

Val Bachman, manager of the Ogden Bay Waterfowl Management Area, was one of those who helped dig pits, spread gravel and place fire rings. He was pleased with the end results, “These are great campsites, and the new fire rings are much better than the old ones.”

The group also installed signs at the camp areas to inform campers of some basic rules at Hardware Ranch.

Yet another group worked on repairing the ranch’s elk-capture pens. The pens have been used every winter for many decades. The pens confine the elk while DWR employees take blood samples. Those samples are used to monitor the health of the elk that visit the ranch each year.

And the workday wasn’t just limited to just DWR employees. Mike Laughter, who works for the Mule Deer Foundation, spent hours helping us at the ranch. Mike served on the committee to help formulate the management plan for Hardware Ranch WMA.

Mike was enthusiastic about helping, “I love this place, and I learned some things about the fish survey methods used by DWR.”

Our other groups spent their time cleaning, painting and building a fire pit to warm the ranch’s winter visitors. In all, it was a great team effort and really gratifying to get so much work done in just one day!

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