AoR 126: Renewable Energy, Wildlife, & Grazing with Jeff Tayer, Ryan Stingley, & Jennifer Galbraith

Is it possible to generate renewable energy, beef, and wildlife habitat in the same space? Long-time collaborators Puget Sound Energy, WSU Extension, Stingley Ranches, and Washington Dept of Fish & Wildlife have proven the reality of this unlikely combination for more than 15 years on sagebrush ecosystems in the Intermountain West. The Wild Horse Coordinated Resource Management group has been managing grazing and a wide diversity of wildlife species on a wind energy facility since 2007, with a stable grazing process, abundant non-game and game species, and power for 80,000 households. The wind farm has facilitated, rather than diminished, habitat conservation through funding rehabilitation, stockwater, and innovative grazing in addition to preventing housing development on extraordinarily valuable habitat.


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>> Welcome to the Art of Range, a podcast focused on rangelands and the people who manage them. I'm your host, Tip Hudson, range and livestock specialist with Washington State University Extension. The goal of this podcast is education and conservation through conversation. Find us online at

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Welcome back to the Art of Range. My guests today are a diverse group of people that were involved in a -- I guess what I would call a classic multiple use collaborative land conservation effort that started about 20 years ago or a little bit more than that. The term multiple use has kind of fallen out of favor, at least in the context of federal land management, but I think that's what it is. If somebody was visiting this collaborative project today, a project right in the middle of Washington state, they would see a working wind energy facility, cattle grazing, and a fairly abundant wildlife of all the kinds that you would expect to find in the Columbia basin shrub-steppe ecoregion. I'm going to give away my bias right here and say that I think what we're doing is a good example of work that could be done elsewhere. And I'm personally proud of the project, which is why we're talking about it. I'm proud because I think we have healthy livestock production in the same space that we have deer and elk and black bears and cougars and dozens of songbird species and raptors, and it's an electrical generation facility. It's an interesting mashup. So we have Jeff Tayer, who is a former regional manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Jennifer Galbraith, who is -- Jennifer correct me if I get your title wrong, but a senior environmental manager for Puget Sound Energy's Wild Horse Renewable Energy facility.

>> That sounds perfect.

>> Excellent. And Ryan Stingley, a young-ish rancher who's been grazing this project with his father since the beginning and in the area since long before that. There are other players, but these are the major ones, meaning that these are the principle landowners and the people who are the on the ground managers. There's a lot of topics we could cover, but we're going to talk mostly about some of the history, because I think the importance of public-private partnerships in conservation efforts is a pretty big deal. So Jeff, Jennifer, and Ryan, welcome.

>> Thanks, Tip. Good to see you.

>> Thank you, sir.

>>Thank you, Tip.

>> It's good to be seen as some friends of mine like to say. I want to start with the history of the project, because this really is unique. And maybe to set the stage, we're located on the east side of the Cascade Range in Washington state far enough into the rain shadow that, you know, this area is anywhere from 8 to 16 inches of annual precipitation. It's mostly shrub-steppe at the higher elevations or some ponderosa pine. And because the area is fairly mountainous, it was never suitable for most of the land uses that ended up taking out most of the rest of the sagebrush steppe. And so this area represents one of the largest contiguous blocks of intact shrub-steppe. By intact, I mean the plant community left in Washington state. So it's a critical area for a lot of things, not the least of which is various kinds of wildlife habitat. And that queued up some of the people that were interested in this. So Jeff, your history goes back further than mine. I started with Washington State University in 2003, and at that point, I think some of the efforts around trying to solve the elk in the valley problem had just gotten warmed up. At what point did you come into this project?

>> I had been regional director in North Central Washington in the '90s and I transferred to Yakima in 2000. And there were, you know, there's multiple issues that you brought up in the introduction that I was in the middle of. Probably the most significant in historical is the very significant conversion of most of Washington shrub-steppe habitat. Two thirds of it is completely gone. It is now converted to other uses, primarily irrigated agriculture. Of the other third, a lot of that is fragmented or in some way degraded. So the areas that are not fragmented and not degraded are few and far between. And the area east of Ellensburg is one of those areas that's still pretty intact. There's well over 100,000 acres of contiguous shrub-steppe there, so really important to Washington. A lot of it was in the -- most of it in fact was already part of a wildlife area in 2000. And the main reason it got into being a wildlife area was actually not shrub-steppe protection, but elk winter range. It was purchased historically as was a lot of the other shrub-steppe that Fish and Wildlife owns for elk winter range. So when I moved here there were issues related to elk not being where we wanted them to be, which was out on the wildlife area. And they were on private lands causing pretty significant issues. So there was a discussion here in the community about how to keep the elk in the right place at the right time. At the same time there was a rapidly increasing interest in shifting carbon -- fossil fuel-based energy to renewable sources like wind power. So that's kind of where I came into the conversation around Wild Horse was the tension. There was really a tension around renewable energy facilities. We want them and we want to try to convert from fossil fuels to other more renewable sources, but most people don't want them near their homes. So there's that tension to push them away from people's homes. And wildlife folks don't necessarily want them out in wildlife habitat either, because there's an impact there. There's no free lunch. And so there's that tension. Most of the time it's manageable. In the case of Wild Horse, it was a particularly of significant interest to state Fish and Wildlife because the biggest neighbor to the Wind Farm was going to be the wildlife area. So by definition, the reason we bought that land is because it's very, very, very important to wildlife. And so having an industrial facility come in as a neighbor was significant to us. At the same time, we were dealing with elk distribution issues and we actually didn't have elk wintering in the vicinity of what's now the Wild Horse Wind Farm and we wanted them there. So we had these two converging things that happened. And I guess I would also mention that one of the attributes of wind power development is oftentimes there's a developer and then there's an owner operator. And in the case of Wild Horse, there was a developer prior to Puget Sound Energy ownership and an operation that I was dealing with before I was dealing with Puget Sound Energy; there was a company called Zilkha that was a developer out there. So there were a lot of moving parts 20 years ago as this project was being proposed. And I was pretty heavily involved.

>> And just to add to the discussion there, Jennifer, do I understand right that there's different kinds of zones for favorable wind energy, like different classes?

>> Well, sure. Yeah. We want, you know, good windy areas and this area certainly was that. You know, I worked for that developer, Zilkha, that Jeff mentioned, and we had been measuring the wind speeds in this area, and it was definitely a favorable area for winds. If you look at a wind map of Washington state, you know Wild Horse is in that purple zone where it's a good solid wind resource and good for wind projects.

>> And of course, those areas that are favorable for wind are often ridge tops and hills that are also really attractive sites for building fancy homes. Is that also right?

>> Yeah, that's very true. In fact, before PSE purchased the Wind Farm, the property was actually owned by a group of foreign investors. And I believe they had purchased it from Boise Cascade back in the early '70s for the purposes of drilling for oil and gas and for building residential housing developments specifically for summer vacation homes, I think, and, you know, Tip, this is no joke. There was an article actually in the local paper from 1976 that I read about recently about these investors. And the headline was, you know, "Just Bare Land Now: He Sees Homes, Streets, and Oil Wells". And they had talked about clearing all the sagebrush and growing wine grapes and apple trees and other fruit trees. And they even talked about raising a rabbit farm on the property. But I think their priority was to prepare the land for subdivisions. And those foreign investors actually ended up selling the property to a Swiss corporation called American Minerals and Land Corporation with the same goal of developing the land for homes and for gas exploration. And that's what happened. In the early 1980s, the Shell Oil company began drilling a well at the top of Whiskey Dick Mountain. They didn't find any oil [brief laughter], and the well only produced a small amount of gas, from what I understand. That was not economical for them, but it was still viable for subdivisions. So, yeah, residential development was a threat in this area, and it's actually not far off from what we're seeing right now just a couple of miles from the Wind Farm. There's a subdivision there called Sage Hills Estates that was developed recently with more than 20 home sites, each about 20 acres with some custom homes either built or in the process of being built. And this subdivision borders the wildlife area and is being marketed for expansive views and access to public lands, and presence of wildlife. So --

>> Yeah, that's a different kind of multiple use. It's interesting that specific list of potential end uses because a recent national scale ecosystem services report that we've actually done a couple podcast interviews about, there's some episodes on this, addressed the primary threats to rangeland and the function of rangelands nationwide. And the top of that list is conversion to housing and wine grapes and some other, you know, other uses that involve taking out everything that was there previously. But it relates to maybe a socioeconomic definition of rangelands, you know, we used to define rangelands by everything that they were not. If you picked up a 1949 textbook, it would've said that rangelands were everything that wasn't forest, cropland, cities, open water, essentially all the leftovers, which sort of fit, even with the pattern of development across the west. You know, we had a homestead era, I think the 1862 Homestead Act, you know, that allowed people to just claim land, sort of put it to beneficial use, and then they could own it. And at everything that got left over, either because it didn't have enough natural resources to really make a living, those leftovers were primarily what we call rangelands. But this more recent socioeconomic definition would say that rangelands are non-forested places where more lucrative economic activities or more intensive economic activities have not yet taken root. And we feel that tension everywhere. There's a whole host of things that make more money per acre for whoever the present landowner is, than leaving it in open space. And I think there's some fairly admirable efforts to begin to think about how we pay for these ecosystem services at a society scale. But so those pressures are exactly what was going on here and led to, yeah, both PSE and Fish and Wildlife becoming interested in trying to acquire this land. And we use the term -- sometimes the word protection is seen in a negative light. But on the other hand, most of the people, at least the ones that weren't planning on building home sites up there, probably preferred to see that protected. And I think it's a good case to -- this is the situation where that word is appropriate.

>> Now, Tip, I should mention that the American Minerals land, which the Wind Farm is now sited on, Fish and Wildlife tried to buy several times, multiple times, and we could not get the deal done. And I think the trick in conservation, which is, you know, kind of my, you know, what I focused most of my professional career in is turning a threat into an opportunity. And what we couldn't get done -- so the Wind Farm occupies about, I don't know, a little less than half of what the whole property was that American Minerals own and Zilkha and its successor, Puget Sound Energy had just about half of that. And because of the way that transaction was structured, it created an opportunity for Fish and Wildlife to buy the remainder. But one of the interesting parts of this was that, actually, and I'm not even sure truthfully, whether it was Zilkha or Puget Sound Energy, we needed them to consolidate the transaction into one thing, and we needed them to help us do that. And they did that. And as my recollection, we needed three signatures; one individual was in London, one was in Switzerland, and one might've been in Lebanon. And Puget Sound Energy, or Zilkha, I'm not sure which, we relied on in the negotiations during the permitting to get an option agreement for the remainder of the ranch for Fish and Wildlife. And the night before the hearing, I was actually in Puget Sound Energy's office here, after hours, waiting for a signed agreement from the own landowners that we could do a consolidated transaction where Fish and Wildlife would buy the remainder. And like at 6 o'clock at night, the fax started humming and in came the signed documents from around the world, really. And if we had not been able to form a partnership with Puget Sound Energy, that may not have happened, and the conversion that Jennifer described could potentially have happened. So it was a good -- right off the get go, an example of where Fish and Wildlife couldn't get where we wanted to be in protecting wildlife habitat, but a partnership with Puget Sound Energy got us there. So that was a good example, I think, of trying to turn a, you know, what you could view as a threat or a conflict into an opportunity.

>> For those that are younger than 30, a fax machine is a device that sends a document over a phone [brief laughter].

>> I don't remember, Jennifer, were you there that night?

>> I wasn't there that night, but that, that sounds about right to me there, Jeff. Yeah, from what I understand, Fish and Wildlife had been trying to secure that land for several years. And when the developer and PSE came along, we had agreed to pay a premium for that windy portion in the Whiskey Dick Mountain area which opened up that opportunity for Fish and Wildlife to purchase the rest of that. And I think the rest of that actually created a gap between the two wildlife areas that went all the way from the eastern boundary of the Wind Farm all the way to the Columbia River. So it was really important for Fish and Wildlife to bridge that gap, from what I understand.

>> Yep, that's exactly right. And so Puget Sound Energy actually did the heavy lifting of getting the signed documents from, like I said, around the world, literally. But what we didn't -- you know, what it didn't do was provide the funding to actually buy the land. And that required the legislature to get involved. And that required a broader partnership yet than the above and beyond that we formed with the energy companies, which is where the conversation with local farm bureau and cattlemen and Ryan's dad, Russ Stingley, started because we needed to have our local community really supporting it. And that launched, you know, the coordinated resource management plan really depends on cooperation and collaboration, just buying the land depended on the same thing. Without that, we probably -- we actually got a standalone separate appropriation from the legislature to pay for Phase 1 of the acquisition, which wouldn't have happened without a lot of support from the community.

>> Thanks, Jeff, for that history. Some of that I didn't know anything about. I came in in 2003 and became part of an effort because I had come from a position with the Washington Cattlemen's Association and knew of an effort, mostly dealing with elk distribution, with some local cattlemen involved that had gotten to be called the Big Game Management Roundtable. Actually toward the beginning of this, in about 2003, I was living in a rental house right on the edge of the valley, Dawn and Barb Weber's little place on the corner of Fox and Lions, and it's right below the High Line Canal. And there was a period of time in both the spring and the fall when there would be literally hundreds of elk that would -- as soon as it was, you know, darker than shooting light they would come pouring over the hill and they'd camp out all night. So in the summertime or like in the early fall when it's still warm, we'd have the windows open at night. because the house had no air conditioning, and you would hear elk bugling and eating all night long, either on the pasture on one side or the sweet corn field on the other. They had a propane cannon that would go off about every 60 seconds, and the elk completely ignored the propane cannon. But, you know, that had been going on for a while, so that you've got hay growers and ranchers with fairly high value irrigated pasture that are saying, "When we've got hundreds of elk every single night in these places, it's a significant yield loss." It's not just that you've got, you know, a little patch of 10 mule deer that visit every once in a while. You've got literally hundreds of elk eating thousands of dollars' worth of forage that either gets sold as pounds of hay, tons of hay, or as pounds of forage, and pounds of beef on cattle. And so I got brought in a little bit late in that process because this group was trying to identify some of the reasons why the elk migration patterns had changed and why you had a group that was, as I recall it, spending more time in the irrigated valley than had been the case historically. And of course, you know, as is often the case, natural resources is quite complicated, and so there's a long list of potential factors. Jeff, I'll run the list off the top of my head and you can tell me whether it matches your recollection of this list of bullets. But I know you've got a combination of 100 years of fire suppression on the higher elevation forested areas that has resulted in forest closing in. You've got a decline, at least on the forest service part of active timber harvest that to some extent had previously sort of substituted for the natural openings of periodic fire that created what we call in the range world transitional range. You had more and more people with four-wheel drive vehicles that could get to places that they never could get before, particularly on winter range. People going out to hunt for elk, shed antlers, and exerting pressure on the winter range before the elk would normally be leaving their winter range. You had some changes on rangeland, changes in grazing patterns, and also, an absence of wildfire that historically would've kept some of those plant communities open with a larger percentage of annual and perennial forbs and less wolfy grasses. I think the list went on, but that's what comes to mind from the top of my head.

>> That's a good list, Tip. You know, the problem you described, we were able to put together a collaborative group to try to address those issues. And a lot of it really boiled down to elk are smart enough to -- as you mentioned, they weren't coming down onto the private grounds till after shooting time. So they were smart enough to figure out, where can we go that we're going to be safe, and where can we go that we're not? And one of the things that we determined was that in the winter, during the winter time, there were, you know, the clock I heard, I think was around 4,000 elk at the time, and 3,000 of those were up on West Bar, which is almost to Wenatchee, very remote part of the wildlife area. The most hard to get to area. Not many were in the Whiskey Dick in the Quilomene, and then there were too many in the Ellensburg Valley. And so there was an area of the wildlife area that we wanted elk in that they weren't there, so, you know, what we really worked hard to try to do was take disturbance away from the areas we wanted them and put disturbance into the areas we didn't want them. So we had some -- you know, a bunch of discussion about changing the seasons and all that kind of stuff to try to accomplish that, and right in the middle, of course, of where we wanted those elk was the wind farm. So there was once again an opportunity there because, you know, if you want to create an area where elk are not going to be disturbed and they're going to get comfortable, the wind farm was a good place for that. And in my recollection is we saw -- all -- and we ended up doing something that was actually pretty controversial at the time, which is put a winter vehicle closure on the Whiskey Dick and the Quilomene. And that would've been difficult to do, but we had a consensus on doing it. And I'm pretty sure, Jennifer, you were at the public meeting and it wasn't DFW that presented the proposal, it was a local Field and Stream Club representative, and a representative from the Cattlemen's Association. And it changes the dynamic, you know, when it's coming from somebody that's a neighbor versus the government, and so we instituted all of that bunch of stuff and saw pretty quick results. The elk really redistributed themselves pretty quickly when we put more pressure on them down in the places we didn't want them and took pressure away from the places we did.

>> I think it's remarkable that you had such wide agreement on what ought to be done; ranchers, wildlife area managers, and sportsmen and energy companies. I mean, it sounded like the beginning of a joke, [brief laughter] a joke.

>> True.

>> They don't usually agree on what ought to be done in the management of wide-open spaces, but in this case, there was near unanimous agreement on several things that ought to be done, one of which was the road closure. It's interesting too that you're calling the wind farm a place that was functioning as not a refuge, but a place where they would be less disturbed than --

>> Yeah.

>> -- than otherwise. This kind of sits on the hump, you know, on a pretty large landscape that has, in my opinion fairly nice vegetation. Like if we went out there today, or as soon as things start growing and ran rangeland health assessments using the 17-indicator matrix at the back of an ecological site description, we would find that almost any place that we could go, we would have rangeland health that nearly tops the charts, which is intriguing also scientifically in that some of this had been fairly heavily grazed in the past. I think you mentioned, Jeff, that some of that land that was owned by American Minerals had been -- was triple leased.

>> It was. Yeah, there was a cattle lease, which was the Stingley lease. There was a horse lease, and I can't remember who that was, and there was a sheep lease, all on the same ground. And so that was one of the opportunities that consolidating our situation out there provided an opportunity to get to a place where we're working with one operator and one species of livestock.

>> Yeah, and I would say that's often the objective of a coordinated resource management project in general, is to take what can be a mixed ownership, even if it's not full on checkerboard ownership and manage that all under a single plan that's agreed upon by all the different landowners, and where it's grazed to do it with a single permittee or lessee. And it seems like that usually works out better. Ryan, when did you come into the story?

>> Man, my family, I wouldn't actually know the date. I guess for me it would be, I don't know life without it, as far as the area that we're talking about. I mean, I remember all this going in and we were just the little kids that got to deal with, I guess, what had happened at the meeting or whatever the night before or what ideas came up with. But at that time we were just the help on the ground doing whatever. As far as like just taking this over -- I haven't -- I've only been, I guess the one the last couple years as far as I'm still involved with all my brothers and my dad in that, I guess my mom and my sister as well too, so yeah, I would say not all of the ground that we're talking, but most of it were --I've been, I guess going out there, say 35-plus years and don't know anything else other than this place.

>> Yeah, it's really fairly productive and beautiful ground. I'm often surprised when I drive to other places that have wide-open rangelands, what the quality of this vegetation is like. I mean, we've done some species richness plots out there where we've found 50 to 60 separate plant species in a 10 by 30-meter plot, and 95% of those are native. In many cases it's 100% of them that are native. And, you know, to a point that I like to hammer on sometimes I feel like these areas, when we try to maximize or optimize rangeland health, that tends to be good for nearly all of the other uses. And I don't think -- I agree with Jeff that there's no free lunches, but if we do grazing right, we can do cattle production in the same places where we've got healthy wildlife populations, and I feel like we've kind of struck that balance here. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. We can back up and talk about one of the other solutions because I think it's an interesting story. One of the conclusions that came out of this Big Game Management Roundtable was that we should try out using a single operator, grazing operator to graze some of this area. And initially, the proposal was to graze a little bit larger area than what ended up being part of the project because we felt like we could do grazing in a way that was ecologically responsible and would be beneficial to the elk. And that there was -- again, as I recollect it, there was a pretty wide range of agreement. And this was -- I've been a part of a few CRMs. This one had more participants than I think I've ever seen before. We had Trust for Public Land and The Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy and Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources, The Bureau of Land Management, local cattlemen's organizations, the local Farm Bureau, Puget Sound Energy. I was involved as the representative of the university extension program. Who else am I not thinking of, Jeff?

>> The Tribes. The Tribes were [multiple speakers] --

>> Yep, Field and Stream Club.

>> That's right. Yeah, the Sportsman Group.

>> The Weed Control Board.

>> Yep [brief laughter] -- yeah. Yeah, Jennifer's got the better list than I -- my memory is coming up with, honestly [brief laughter].

>> Memory is the second thing to go.

>> [brief laughter] Yeah.

>> I can't remember the first one.

>> You know, Tip, I would say, you know, a couple things. One is there's no -- you know, when I said there's no free lunch, you know, one of the, you know, the things that I think is also true is multi-species management is always more complicated than single species management, so the more you're trying to manage more, the more complicated it can be. You know, I would also say collaboration over the long-term, partnerships just in general, are not easy. They're hard to do. There's a reason that partners end up suing each other [brief laughter] half the time and in the business world. And so you got to pick your partners pretty carefully. We had the right thing out here and in some cases you have potential partners that either are, you know, that just there's so much of a gap in values that you're -- it's bound to be a failure. And this case, we had a good mix, I think, of interest in what we were trying to accomplish and the willingness to give and take, and you don't always have that with Puget Sound Energy and with the Stingley family as well. You had a good opportunity there to have a good outcome, and that isn't always the case. But still having said that, Number 1, the devil is always in the details, and you're going to have to work through some difficult details, and two, you're going to have problems. There'll be issues that will come up. It's just, you know, if you expect it to be smooth sailing the whole way, you're going to be disappointed.

>> And everybody has got to be willing to give a little bit, which is the way these things usually go. Not everybody is going to get exactly what they want, but if they can work together, all of them may get more than what would've happened otherwise.

>> Yeah. it's so easy to get wrapped around the axle over some short-term thing. And the big picture issues out there of trying to consolidate the wildlife area, have a contiguous area of shrub-steppe, not have conversion, which I think Jennifer did a good job of describing the original owner's intent to really convert this from both rangeland and wildlife habitat. You know, those were the big picture components here that it's hard to keep in mind when you're down deep in the details, but they matter, you know, you got to remember why you got into this to begin with.

>> Yeah. So that list of really diverse -- I'm not calling them -- I guess they are partners, that long list of organizations and individuals that were part of this problem-solving process eventually agreed that we should try out a grazing plan that had had a fair bit of definition on how we were going to go about it with the expectation that that would be ecologically compatible with the needs of shrub-steppe plant communities and the wildlife populations that were out there, and people were willing to roll with it. And so I think we implemented that plan in 2007. It was either 2007 or 2006, Jennifer, maybe you remember. I've got monitoring data from 2007, which is why that date sticks in my head.

>> Yeah, I think it started in 2006. I think we didn't graze during construction of the facility, so yeah, that would've been the grazing plan started in 2007.

>> Yeah, and I would say -- I mean, this has been a little while ago, Ryan and I are close to the same age, but I was in my mid to late 20s at the time that this was all going on. So I'm a Greenhorn Range graduate, you know, trying to apply some ideas that I've got about what grazing ought to look like in shrub-steppe. We're trying to produce sage-grouse habitat attributes, even whether there's many sage-grouse around or not, this is certainly an area where they ought to be and could be. And so we're trying to make sure that whatever we do, we'd be compatible with that. But I for sure didn't have any preconceived ideas about wind energy. Describe the project a little bit. This was how many acres, how many turbines, and what's the generation capacity?

>> Okay, sure. Yeah, so Wild Horse consists of a total of 149 wind turbines. And they were constructed on those high rocky ridge tops in the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Mountain area. So, you know, the elevation ranges from about 2,200 feet in the deep canyons of the Skookumchuck and Whiskey Dick creeks to about 3,800 feet on top of Whiskey Dick Mountain. So most of the land in which we operate the wind farm is actually owned by PSE, about 7,800 acres. I think we're the second largest private landowner in Kittitas County, actually. And we lease the rest of the land from Fish and Wildlife and DNR, about 2,600 acres. And so yeah, we can generate up to 273 megawatts; that's our total nameplate capacity, and that's enough to power about 80,000 homes. So yeah, that's basically it in a nutshell. You know, the land around us, of course, is the Whiskey Dick and Quilomene wildlife areas, which are managed by Fish and Wildlife. And as Jeff mentioned, we're within that critical winter range for mule deer and elk, which is about 83,000 acres in size. So it's very popular area for, you know, for hunters and other recreational users and campers and birders and hikers and whatnot. So and we've been operating now for -- goodness, over 18 years now.

>> Yeah, that's right.

>> That's incredible

>> [brief laughter] I know, right [brief laughter]?

>> Hard to believe.

>> Yeah.

>> I like to talk about grazing, but I think this is an interesting angle just because again, from somebody who previously would've been outside of this, it seems like Fish and Wildlife and energy facilities are unlikely bedfellows, [brief laughter], but it really seems like this worked out in wildlife's favor. I really don't know if this is the case everywhere, but I have spent thousands of hours in this area as part of helping coordinate the grazing project, making sure we're hitting some of the, you know, annual use goals in terms of grazing intensity and collecting a fair bit of different kinds of monitoring data with repeat photography and collecting cover data, species composition all kinds of stuff. And so I've spent a lot of time out there, and I would say that the wildlife diversity and abundance rivals anything I've seen in so-called, you know, undisturbed or protected areas. I've personally encountered black bears. I took a group of college students out there a few years ago. I actually had done it multiple times, but we were out there in the middle of May and we come around the spot actually just to stop on the hillside and have a picnic lunch, and these people thought they'd been dropped off on a wildlife film set. Literally, there were elk, hundreds and hundreds of them on the hillside opposite where we were sitting eating our lunch. And the elk would, you know, get up and drift a little ways and then bed back down and get up and graze and then move a little bit more. And actually that same day we saw a black bear sow with what looked like two yearling cubs with her, and we just sat there and watched them for a long time. And eventually one of us moved enough that it scared one of the black bears, and so he kind of started trotting across the hillside kind of on the contour. Well, there was a group of cows, bovine cows, just up the hill from this bear. And I've got a photograph -- I've got a video of the bear trotting, not like he's alarmed, just moving, trotting probably 40 yards below this group of cows, and they didn't even look up. They just kept grazing, which has to mean that they're in the same space all the time and are accustomed to one another. And anyway, it looked like we were on a -- filming a nature video. So it now seems pretty audacious that Fish and Wildlife was willing to entertain building a wind farm on a, you know, what is a really nice chunk of shrub-steppe in Washington state. But you know, you go out there now and you'll see elk lying down in the shadows of the towers. The cows do the same thing, but it really does -- I'm curious what the Fish and Wildlife perspective is on this, but you know, as somebody who's not a wildlife biologist, it looks like you've got an awful lot of wildlife out there.

>> Well, there's a reason why we bought it [brief laughter]. It's a great wildlife area, and there's a reason why we wanted to buy the Skookumchuck, which was the American Minerals' land that the wind farm is on, and the land that we bought in conjunction with licensing the wind farm. So yeah, it's very valuable wildlife habitat, very diverse. There's a lot out there. You know, I would say, you know, you mentioned the sage-grouse issues. One of the guiding documents we used for the CRM was the sage-grouse recovery plan and the grazing recommendations in that plan. That hasn't happened very many places, so this is one of those places. A lot of times you have a plan, it sits on the shelf and it's academically interesting, but does it get implemented? Well, here, this is one place it got implemented. We implemented those recommendations. I should also mention that -- well, first of all, Fish and Wildlife doesn't generally -- so I was the regional director for Fish and Wildlife here in Central Washington. I didn't get involved very often in a wind farm development licensing process. There was a reason I directly got involved in this one. It was because it was such an important area for Fish and Wildlife. And one of the other attributes, Jennifer mentioned all those potential conversions, well, those can never happen at Wild Horse because part of our work with Puget Sound Energy was for them to convey a conservation easement to DF -- to Department of Fish and Wildlife. So we have an easement underlying the wind farm that will ensure hopefully for in perpetuity, that those conversions can never happen. And I guess one of the other things that I've always been pretty happy with is that we were able to bring and work with the Kittitas Conservation District on the monitoring plan. They didn't want to own the easement. They could have owned the easement, and in some ways there were some benefits to them owning the easement. They didn't want to own it because there are legal ramifications of having a easement on a piece of property that they didn't want to have. But a more natural fit for the conservation district was the monitoring, which I think they're still doing out there as I understand.

>> Yep, every year.

>> Yeah. So I'm [brief laughter], you know, this was a pretty, this -- this partnership had a pretty big footprint, I would say.

>> Yeah, and that long list of partners, I think was critical to generate the political will to get it off the ground, you know, most of them are not involved much anymore. It's mostly the principal landowners and managers that are involved in the day-to-day management and ongoing planning. But we're still essentially using the same guidelines, you know, for any of the range nerds that [brief laughter] are listening, and it's probably most of them. You know, some of the details of this is that we were aiming for 35% utilization on the most preferred perennial grasses during a grazing period, trying to use or planning to use any given pasture no more than one year out of three during the period of active growth on the most preferred bunch grasses, and then using -- accounting for elk consumption of some of that feed as well in the calculations for a stocking rate. And there's a few more details, but, you know, that's the -- that's kind of the gist of it. It looks a little bit like a light grazing plan in that the amount of forage consumed by domestic livestock is quite a small percentage of what total production is. But that seems to have worked out fairly well. It for sure works out well for wildlife. And I think has been a good example of what can be done. I'm curious, Jennifer, why did -- I know there's some -- there's a variety of reasons, but what was the main reason why PSE was interested in continuing to allow grazing? Because you could have just had a conservation easement with no grazing at all.

>> Yeah, well, actually the conservation easement spells out that if we do allow grazing, that we do it in the sustainable way, and it has to be a part of a CRM group. But one of the more important things to PSE and for this community is what we learned during development is that the traditional uses of this land was really important to the local community. And that included cattle grazing and, you know, hunting and outdoor recreation, but also the conservation of the wildlife habitat as well. So we wanted to ensure that we were working with our neighbors and the area wildlife managers and the cattlemen because, you know, we're a major private landowner in this area. And so we needed help with developing solutions to all of these resource management issues and making sure that we really ensured a balance between, you know, the working lands and the habitat conservation and wildlife protection. So that was something that was very important to PSE, and why [brief laughter] I am very happy to be working for them, is that they care about things like this. They care about the communities in which they operate their generation facilities, so --

>> Well, that's been my impression, but it's good to hear somebody actually say it. Maybe just one final shift and then I want to ask some -- we'll go to FAQ for in panel discussion. I've got a few questions I think it'd be worthwhile to talk about. One of the things that's been at the forefront of sage-grouse and shrub-steppe research in the last 20 years is the threat of wildfire. You know, where we have sagebrush and grass, and there's an any invasive annual grass in the mix, when that burns and if it burns completely, it takes out sagebrush for a long time. I mean, all of the researchers that have been working on sagebrush for a long time would say, you know, it's at least 20 to 40 years before you get sagebrush back at a level that, you know, represents the plant community percentage that it would normally occupy in this part of the world. And that's long enough that it usually burns again before you get back to that point. And so you end up in this cheatgrass fire feedback loop where you get fire, it takes out the sagebrush, you get a lot of cheatgrass, now it burns every three to five years, and you're never going to get sagebrush back. And in fact, you know, some of the more recent reports, there's a big report out of US Geological Survey out of the Boise office in 2018 talking about threats to sagebrush steppe. And it clearly identified wildfire is by far the largest risk. And essentially, if we're not doing something proactive to limit the risk of wildfire to replace sagebrush with stuff that's less valuable, then we're making a decision to let it go. And one of the maybe unexpected benefits that I see of this wind facility is that you have, I guess what I would call a light road network, meaning there's not a high road density, but there are some roads and that certainly functions as fire breaks. And that, you know, this is another area of very active research with the SageSTEP program, the Idaho Cheatgrass Challenge, Western Governors' Association, the Defend the Core initiative. You know, how can we do less invasive things that can change fire behavior when it does burn and reduce the risk of ignition and reduce or change the aerial extent of the wildfire so that we burn 500 acres instead of five counties when it does light off. And it seems like there are some natural benefits of having a few roads, of having what I'm calling light grazing, meaning that it's certainly not trying to eliminate all the fine fuels, but even a light to moderate reduction in the amount of fine fuels also changes the continuity of that fuel load and really significantly changes fire behavior. I've recently been doing some literature review on wildfire and shrub-steppe, and one of the biggest differences is that where you have a little bit of a reduction in fuel loads, a little bit higher fine fuel moisture and a little bit less continuity of fuels, you have a dramatic difference in fire behavior where you have shorter flame lengths, lower flame height, lower flame temperatures which results in higher survival of some of the species that we want to make it through a fire. And I'm curious whether that was even in the thinking when Fish and Wildlife was considering putting a wind farm out here.

>> Yeah, so I can say a little bit, Tip, here, but I think when we were working with the CRM early on we weren't really thinking about fire. I'm not sure it even came up much then, but it wasn't really an issue for the area until I think the Taylor Bridge fire in 2012. But the grazing component has definitely become a very important part for us in reducing those wildfire fuels. It not only helps protect the wind farm infrastructure, but it helps protect the shrub-steppe habitat, right? But wildfire is a very real risk in this area and since that Taylor Bridge fire, we have had, I think, at least 15 wildfires here in Kittitas County. And the latest one was actually the Vantage Highway fire that broke out in August of 2022. And that ended up burning over 30,000 acres of shrub-steppe. And most of that was in the Whiskey Dick wildlife area just west of the wind farm. So, you know, we're prone to wildland fires in the area and Wild Horse is actually, the wind farm is not located in a fire district. So we signed a fire protection services agreement with the local fire district for those fire protection services, and we actually pay them annually for those services. So yeah, and like as you mentioned, the roads act as a fire break to help as well, so to help prevent the spread of those fires. And they also provide easy access for emergency responders into those wildlife areas where a lot of those fires occur. And, you know, with the Vantage fire, they were able to put out that fire at one of our turbine access roads, so that was pretty significant. We had the fire line right on one of our turbine access roads burning up from the river and we were able to stop it there. I think what we also have here at the wind farm itself is that we have 125,000-gallon water tank, and that was built specifically for wildland firefighting to help resupply those fire trucks when needed. So we're also used as a fire lookout because we're at one of the highest points in the county, right? And we're used as a staging area for those fire responders. We have, you know, a maintenance building and we have gravel parking areas for their trucks, and we have restrooms and a kitchen for their use. So I think both the wind farm and the grazing help reduce that risk of wildfire in the area.

>> Ryan, I haven't given you much of a chance to talk, but what's --

>> Very all right with that.

>> You have been the one doing most of the on-the-ground management of livestock grazing in this area for the last five to 10 years.

>> Correct.

>> How has that worked out for livestock production?

>> Yeah, I would say between just me and my family, I have been the one that damn sure be out here more than anybody else. So I've probably got to see a side of it that not everybody gets to see. And I would say, like you guys mentioned earlier, the wildlife. And for the most part, not knocking anybody else, but to go see wildlife, you have to, I guess, almost interfere with them to some degree. You know, like a guy walking afoot doesn't look natural out there, whereas I cover all the ground, usually on horseback for whatever reason, a guy on a horse does not scare anything. So I've got to see, you know, like I can walk right up on deer, and the elk, and the bears that you talk about. The cougar and the bobcat, that was a little scarier than, you know -- and obviously the wolves that we had following us this last year, I mean, that was a first, but it damn sure -- I don't want to say it gives you the 30,000-foot look, but I believe it gives you a different look than walking afoot because you have to, I guess, pay attention to where you're walking, you're down in the plants. And I mean, I get it might only be 10 feet up there, but the horse is walking and you get to look down on -- and it gives them kind of a unique perspective. When my dad took this -- took where the PSE is now, when he took that lease over, I remember the old grazing theory was, if you left a piece of grass or a blade of grass, you left too much, you left feed. So I mean this, I don't want to say rehabilitation or lack of one, started then and then since then is like, to me, has grown into like the -- like in the spring, I mean, this is beautiful country as there's ever going to be, you know, like everything that's growing out there. And I mean, part of that is this grazing plan that we're following. And like Jeff said, that was put on the table and we followed it, and I think the cool part about it now is the tweaks and the amendments that we make to it, like on a year-to-year basis. I feel like that's kind of the cool part is, it's not just a clear-cut thing that, you know, was wrote five years ago that we're following, you know. I feel like to just to truly manage it, we're going to have to make those tweaks on a day-to-day kind of on-the-fly situation. But -- -- to see like what Jennifer said where she -- we stopped the fire on the, or I shouldn't say we, they stopped the fire on the fire break or whatever, I was actually there that morning and got to see it. And it is -- I mean, it was maybe a minute detail, but when it came across Fish and Wildlife, when it was kind of roaring up the hill and then when it did hit the PSE ground, I mean, it was coming still, but it slowed up. And then to go back now and see the difference of that ground right across the fence where it wasn't grazed versus what was grazed and what's coming back and what's not; I mean it -- I mean, kind of staggering. And then with that, I mean, we have had a few cows get out before and head onto Fish and Wildlife, very few, very few. And so I've got to go out onto their ground and ride across it and I remember calling our area manager today and telling her after the Vantage fire that I have no desire to ever go to the moon because I'm pretty sure I'm looking at it [brief laughter]. And she said, "It was that bad?" And I said, "In spots it's bad. It flat got hot and it smoked some stuff." And I said, "The other thing that nobody thinks about is there's kind of some old homesteads and like wagon yoke that were part of those that were kind of laying in the grass that nobody thought of. You know, you could see the wood house that somebody had -- did some trees." And I said, "Those are all gone." You know, I said, "There's a whole bunch of that country that'll never -- nobody will ever get to see what I got to see, you know, 10 years before that." The one neighbor to the east, you know, it was private ground and it was a cool place. And I mean, I'd heard rumors that the little house was built by the ferry that used to cross it right there, you know, west bar that you talked, and that was there and I got to ride through it, you know, the couple years before that. And then when that hit, you know, like that's all gone now. And I feel like, you know, I mean fires are great restart because it's not prejudice; it takes everything. And, I mean, I just feel like if it doesn't -- if we don't fight it before it happens, we're going to lose it quite a bit faster just because of like some of the things I've seen this last year after watching that fire is, you know, we don't -- I guess with being on horseback, you don't follow the roads, you don't follow the canyons. I mean, you cross country you see kind of every acre that -- and some of it's some down rock slides that you don't want to be in, and some of it, you know, some hillside that you really regret in your decision, but you do get to see it all. And I just feel like if grazing is going to save the world, I guess is pretty microcosm way of saying it is just there're just -- it looked -- like after riding through that fire that was like total annihilation in my mind, I guess, you know, of the landscape. I mean, it's coming back and it's green, but it just, you know -- like now there's some mudslides and this and that that you're -- it's too bad, you know. I guess at the end of the day, because I mean, yeah, we're ranchers and all that, but pretty personal about that ground out there. I mean, it's kind of born, raised, you know, that's all we've ever known. So I don't want to see it go away, so. And with that, you know, I mean like you said, the wildlife or whatever, I mean man, there's days that you're up on top of point, your cell phone doesn't work. There isn't a better place on earth, you know. Nobody can find you, so I don't know.

>> Ryan, you did such a great job right then of describing why I've always believed that ranchers, rangeland ranchers, and wildlife advocates should be natural allies. Because a person who loves wildlife like myself, would describe the world almost exactly the way, except for the horseback part, but exactly the way you did and care about the same things you just described. And the fact is, in Washington state, both if you care about shrub-steppe or rangeland, whatever you want to call it, whichever you want to call it, there isn't that much left. So if we don't work together to save what is left, it's going to be gone. And I would say, you know, shrub-steppe wildlife struggles in Washington state because most of the shrub-steppe is gone. Cattle ranchers struggle in Washington state because most of the rangeland that's that elevation is gone; so it just seems natural to me that we come together. And it doesn't always work, but when I hear a rancher -- and most honestly, most ranchers do describe the world similarly to what you just did, Ryan, and they care about wildlife. You know, that's part of the lifestyle in my mind anyway, and that's, I believe what I've heard down through the years from ranchers time and again. In fact, I, you know, one of the local ranchers here in Kittitas County, we were doing an eagle survey and the eagle disappeared, left the ranch not long after our biologists did the survey. And the rancher, the wife of the rancher, was absolutely convinced we had chased the eagle away; and she's still mad. She's still mad at me, I think, because she loved that eagle and wanted it to be there. And that is a value both for the land, the landscape, and for the wildlife that spells partnership and, you know, alliances and working together to me.

>> Yeah, that's interesting. I want to tell a story that's tied in and maybe we'll finish with this. I don't know that I've told the story in public before, but Bob Tuck was one of the, I guess, antagonists in this process that threw a monkey wrench in at the very end; he was involved with the Yakima Basin Environmental Education Project. And I'm only talking about him because I actually liked Bob quite a lot. Several times we had a debate, like a three-hour debate, on campus here at Central about the relative merits or demerits of public lands grazing. And what was intriguing about that is that if the two of us described the kind of landscape that we wanted and everything that was in it, there would be almost 100% overlap in what that is. And we both felt pretty strongly about it, which is also a significant thing that is a commonality, he just -- we had different ideas about how we can get there. And of course, a lot of people particularly of, Bob has passed on now, but a lot of people of that age were familiar with the kind of, you know, triple east grazing that resulted in some degradation. I think there's probably also some benefits to some of that grazing that remain controversial, you know? But anyway, Bob and I had a long history of disagreeing in public. And then I was out with my kids one time on a Sunday afternoon on the Cle Elum River to go see the salmon spawning. And, you know, we're all out there in our swimsuits playing around on the rocks, and I hear somebody behind me say, "Hey, get out of there." Well, evidently you weren't supposed to go in there. Well, it was Bob Tuck had come up to take a tour group to go look at the salmon spawning but not walk around on the rocks; and he was pretty upset that somebody was out there. Well, I turned around and of course Bob immediately recognized me, and there was a -- it was a turning point in how the two of us related to each other. Because I think he realized for the first time that we actually did have pretty similar values and that I was committed to trying to help the people who are actually managing that land do it in a way that produces all of these benefits for fish and wildlife. And because I truly believe professionally and personally that those two things are not mutually exclusive, and I think we can get there. And I feel like this is an example of a project where we have gotten there. And I actually think if Bob was alive to go out and take a look at what we've got going on this landscape in this Wild Horse CRM Project he would be pleased by what he sees. I think that's likely the case. He probably would still say we shouldn't be grazing it, especially if it's owned by Fish and Wildlife because it's fish and wildlife habitat. But that brings me full circle to this conversation about fire. You know, it's been a really interesting cultural history the last 50 years. You know, in the 1960s and '70s we had rivers catching fire because of industrial waste that was ruining rivers in the Midwest. And so there was a legitimate reaction to some of this environmental abuse and lack of care that resulted in a whole raft of federal legislation in the 1970s with the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act, and there's more. That all came about because of some real problems; and I think we've reacted to much of that at this point. But one of the results of that was this pristine myth; the pristine management paradigm where we just assume that if people walk away from a piece of land, it's going to automatically go back to some pre-Columbus ecological Nirvana. And we've learned that that's not the case. And, you know, in fact, Aldo Leopold was famous for saying that the same things that we use to ruin the country are the things that we need to use to fix it: the ax, the match, the cow and the plow. I disagree about the plow, but that's a topic for a different time. [brief laughter] But with regard to trying to slow down the rate of fire taking out sagebrush ecosystems, there's only so many ways to go about that. You know, you've got mechanical treatments, chemical treatments, and various kinds of biological treatments like, you know, really tightly defined prescribed grazing. And some of those are not really cost effective if you apply them on very large acreages. So again, I'm revealing my bias here, but I happen to think that we can and have shown that we are doing the kind of grazing on this project that results in that kind of fire protection without compromising these other ecosystem goods and services. Ryan, I want to say one time you told me that the calves that come off of this range ground usually have lower pharmaceutical costs than the ones that are in the valley. And I would say that's probably because they've got such a wide diet. When you have a light to moderate stocking rate and you have a really diverse plant community, the animals are selecting individual plants and plant parts that meet all kinds of nutrient requirements that we don't even know anything about. And that's been observed other places as well where animals that have free access to a wide range of food stuffs tend to select for themselves like a wild animal does, a higher plane of nutrition and have lower, morbidity is the technical term for calves that are sick. Am I recalling that correctly?

>> Yeah, you are recalling that correctly. I think there's a little bit of factors. For one, I mean, those cows got to get up and maybe walk, you know, a mile, 2 miles, to water every day. So that calf gets used to his mom not being right there by his side all day, like say a calf that was born or lived in the valley floor. So then like say, come weaning time, the stress isn't as big. They've already, they've been apart a lot. Their whole life they've had to do it. I do think that some minerals or whatever they're lacking, they can find a plant. And I guess one that always catches my mind, I have no idea why this is, I should look into it more, but in the fall when you're gathering off dry feed, there is a kind of a green thistle looking plant that stays green. And in the fall a cow will almost like disobey you and run off the trail to go eat that thistle. And so it's like the cows out in, I guess, I'm going to say the wild like that, they self-regulate. If they need something, they know what plants are whatever that they can go get to get with what mineral they're lacking. And so that's pretty healthy place for them.

>> Well, thank you. I mentioned that we could talk all day about this, but we are going to have to find a stopping point. Jeff, I'll give you a final word, but I want to publicly thank you for your involvement in getting this set up in the first place. It's been a major -- it was kind of where I cut my teeth in terms of being able to observe stuff on the ground and also have a hand in trying to help shape the day-to-day management of a large-scale grazing project. And it's been extremely beneficial to me personally and professionally, and the two of us haven't overlapped much in the last 15 years or so. So yeah, thank you for what you have done, and I see a little bit of that thinking carrying on in the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

>> Well, thanks for that, Tip. I just mentioned a couple of things in closing. One was, Ryan and Jennifer both mentioned, working with the local wildlife area manager. And one of the opportunities that we, I suppose, saw as the wind farm was developing, was that there were going to be turbines around one of the sections of the Fish and Wildlife land pretty much all the way around. Not all the way around, but almost all the way around. So whatever impacts the turbines were going to have on wildlife, we were going to have whether we were part of the wind farm or whether we weren't. And so we worked with Puget Sound Energy to incorporate one section, I believe it's one section, nine turbines into the Wind Farm on Fish and Wildlife Land. Not unlike the grazing; that was also fairly controversial but we did it, got it through, and that had to go to the -- all this had to go to the Fish and Wildlife Commission for approval, including that part. And so prior to that, we had one wildlife area manager that had the Whiskey Dick, Quilomene, the L.T. Murray and the Wenas. So that's a lot. And the chances for Ryan to pick up the phone and get the wildlife area manager on the line or be able to work with a person when, you know, in person, have somebody part of the community, low, pretty low. But we were able to use the revenue from that one section, those nine turbines, to be able to hire that wildlife area manager that's in this community that who can focus be more focused on the Kittitas County part of the wildlife area. So I just wanted to mention that, that you never, you know -- unless you're paying attention, you never know what opportunities are going to present themselves, so. And I would say couple things just in -- I got a call one time out of the blue from the director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and he said, after he introduced himself to me -- it's not common, you know, that the Eastern Washington Regional Director for Washington Fish and Wildlife is getting a call from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Director, and he said, "Hey, we've got a bunch of wind farms being developed here in Oregon. You know, we are up to our ears in this. We're not succeeding, we're failing at every turn. We have heard that the Wild Horse Wind Farm is the model that we should be following. And we want to come up and go out on the wind farm and see what happened there and try to figure out if we can follow that example." And I said, "Well, sure. When?" And he said, "How about tomorrow?" And he brought -- he came, and his deputy director, and the head of his habitat program, and the head of his wildlife program, drove up from Salem the next day and toured the wind farm to try to figure out what was the magic, the secret sauce that made the Wild Horse Wind Farm the model. And so I just wanted to share that, that, you know, here's people at the very tops of the Wildlife Agency in Oregon that look at the Wild Horse as being the model of what they want to accomplish. And not dissimilarly, I have a friend who's really involved in the hunting industry, outdoor industry, who just randomly mentioned to me when I was talking to her, and she now lives in Kittitas County, that she had been told -- she had heard that from a number of people that the example of wind farm done right is the Wild Horse Wind Farm. So, you know, I would say it's not just me [brief laughter], or Jennifer, or Ryan, or Tip, that thinks that this was a good model, but it's got quite a bit of notoriety around the northwest at least for being done the right way.

>> Hey, Jeff, it's sure nice to hear that and especially from you. I think there's a couple of right ways to do things, and this is certainly one way to do it. And I think we're unique. In fact, I think the fish and wildlife property that has the nine wind turbines on it here at Wild Horse may be the only fish and wildlife property in the state that has turbines on the property, so. And maybe you can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think we are.

>> No, I think we are. No, I think you're right.

>> Yeah. I think another super unique thing about Wild Horse is that we have a visitor center in the middle of the wind farm. And when we're talking about education, about important things like shrub-steppe habitat and traditional uses of the land like grazing and hunting and whatnot, that visitor center gives us an opportunity to educate folks about it. We have about 15,000 people that visit each year. In fact, the wind turbine tours at Wild Horse is the number one tourist attraction in Kittitas County. So people come up to see the wind farm and up close and to learn, you know, not just about wind energy, but about the importance of shrub-steppe habitat for wildlife and other traditional uses of the land. And I will say the cows are a big hit with our visitors [brief laughter]; they love to take photos of the cows grazing below the turbines. And we have a lot of school groups that come up and it's a great opportunity to teach them where their electricity comes from and where their food comes from, you know. It's not just a light switch in your house or from the grocery store, right? And then we have some pretty cool events up here throughout the year including like our star gazing parties and Run Like the Wind event where you have to run uphill both ways. But I think our most popular event out here is our native plant hikes, and that's where we take visitors out into the shrub-steppe to learn about the native flowering plants. So it's just a great resource at the wind farm, so. And we just, we do feel like this is one of the better wind farms throughout the nation for sure.

>> I just, I guess in closing wanted to say, I think the reason why the Wild Horse is the model is maybe the CRM and all that, but the people that were involved. Like, I mean, obviously Jennifer, Tip, you guys, Jeff, there from the start. Jennifer and Tip are still in this thing. But like I used to hear my dad come home and talk about, you know, basically got to go to this roundtable meeting, the war. I mean, it was just, you know, you go with knives pulled basically, and then found out, you know, hear the stories of, say, Jeff and my dad that maybe at one time should have been enemies and now he considers you a friend, you know? That's I think pretty cool. I hope the succession going forward, the people have the same mindset. Because like when I said I talked to the area manager, I think there's such a openness between us anymore that even when we sit down to discuss the grazing plan to start the year, it's not like you're guarded trying to hide something so that they don't find out about that; it's like everybody says it out front. And I guess this last year, per se, when we sat down and did it, it was Jennifer, myself, I think Sean with Fish and Wildlife, Noel, Department of National Resources was on a Zoom, and Hannah, whatever, the Fish and Wildlife, but it was like we all talked for 10 minutes. We each had 10 minutes of, you know, concerns of this, that. It was over, and then it was like, "Well, should we go get a beer or what?" And I think that lightheartedness to that, you know, like there's no problem too big; like we can all just walk past or we'll figure it out in five minutes and then it's good. I think that's what's made this successful is everybody is more of a pal than an enemy anymore. And that with basically the mindset, the same mindset, how we're going to get there might be a little different, but the end goals are all the same. So I guess kudos to you guys for the marriage that's lasted this long.

>> Well, likewise, Ryan. I think having the right people, you can't underestimate the importance of having the right people in the right place at the right time. And we were fortunate to have a good core group: Jennifer, your dad, you know, the folks that wanted to see this work, Tip, and a whole bunch of other people that wanted to make it work. And if we hadn't had that, probably wouldn't have worked. And you do need to keep -- you do need to make sure you keep having that over time.

>> I remember Dave Duncan, one of the ranchers who was involved early on saying, if you don't have trust, you can't get anywhere. He also said, if you don't have water, you can't get livestock distributed the way you want to. Those things both prove to be true, and I think we have mostly succeeded in getting to both of them so that we have some success to talk about. Well, thank you all, both for your time and for your ongoing involvement in these things. These are, it's a long game and it's good to be in it with people that you can trust. Thank you.

>> Yeah. Thanks.

>> Thanks, Tip.

>> Thank you.

>> Thank you for listening to The Art of Range podcast. You can subscribe to and review the show through iTunes or your favorite podcasting app so you never miss an episode. Just search for Art of Range. If you have questions or comments for us to address in a future episode, send an email to For articles and links to resources mentioned in the podcast, please see the show notes at Listener feedback is important to the success of our mission; empowering rangeland managers. Please take a moment to fill out a brief survey at This podcast is produced by CAHNRS Communications in the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. The project is supported by the University of Arizona and funded by the Western Center for Risk Management Education through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

>> The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by guests of this podcast are their own and does not imply Washington State University's endorsement.

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Mentioned Resources

YouTube video on Wild Horse renewable energy grazing project

WSU Extension publication on science supporting Stingleys' grazing practices for ecological resilience.

Puget Sound Energy website on Wild Horse wind farm and visitor center.

More WSU Center for Sustainable Agriculture & Natural Resources case studies publications and videos on climate resiliency.

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