Outfitted in mud boots and work gloves, a group of students from the Hailey, Idaho Sage School came out to the ranch a few weeks ago to help us with our on-going stream restoration work. Under the tutelage of Farm Manager Tim Bennett, the group of students cut and planted 100 willow stakes and planted some native grass seed. After the work was done, they checked out the lambs and got to meet the Lava Lake Great-horned Owl.

The Sage School is a new, independent school that strives to create meaningful experiences for its students, engage them in the “real world,” assist them in becoming self-aware, connect them to their community, bring out their natural compassion, and engage them in actions to make the world a better place. The school believes that their environment assists its students in becoming fully engaged citizens who are committed to community action, and humanitarian and ecological responsibility. What better opportunity to connect students with their community, and take on ecological responsibility than to contribute to Lava Lake’s restoration work?

When the group arrived at the ranch, Tim showed students how to identify the different willow species, and how to cut stakes from the existing trees. Students then cut 100 willow poles and planted them along our “Phase II” restoration area. We’ve planted some willows here in the past, but needed the Sage School students to help us fill in the gaps from past efforts. After the willows were planted, the group cut each willow pole just above ground level, so that all of the plant’s energy goes into the roots, increasing the chance of survival.

The group then spent some time scattering native grass seeds in an area that was disturbed last year. We hope this leads to new growth and recovery.

The students had a great time checking out the ranch. We really appreciate their help in contributing to our restoration efforts and look forward to working with these awesome kids again in the future!

Great Horned Owl


As further evidence that spring is here, sage grouse are displaying at Lava Lake Ranch! Ranch manager, Tim Bennett, has already seen record numbers of these unique birds this year.
photo by Michael Edminster

Sage grouse are in trouble, with numbers down by 90% over the past century. Ken Salazar recently listed the species in the category of warranted, but precluded from an endangered species status. The Department of the Interior hopes that voluntary efforts funded by increased resources will help improve sage grouse habitat. For example, the NRCS announced a sage grouse initiative, which helps private landowners voluntarily conserve sage-grouse populations and habitat on their working lands.

Jen and Jeni do some planting

Lava Lake has been working hard over the past several years to restore habitat for sage grouse and other wildlife at the main ranch. We’ve been restoring stream corridors and springs, by planting a diverse mix of native plants that provide hiding cover for sage grouse and their broods. With the help of many partners, a 22 acre area has been transformed into important habitat for sage grouse and will continue to improve over time as the wetland plants and native perennials become better established. The use of leks (breeding grounds) by sage grouse this year is an indication that all of the hard work in planning and replanting is paying off.

We recently invited the talented photographer, Michael Edminster, to document some of these amazing species. He captured both of these fantastic sage grouse shots.

Originally uploaded by Mountain Mike


Here’s another staff favorite, this week from Tess O’Sullivan. Tess oversees our ambitious science and conservation program, which includes wildlife and habitat surveys, conservation projects, and the implementation of restoration and land stewardship activities. She works closely with contracting scientists, agency officials, our ranch staff, and conservation partners. She and her two adopted ranch dogs, Buddy Boy and Osso, love joining her on field work expeditions. Whether it’s a day of planting willows or hiking up steep shadeless sagebrush slopes to assess grazing use, they are always up for a ranch outing. She is hopeful that 7 month old son Duncan becomes a big fan of riding in a backpack.

The lamb curry is my favorite recipe, using shoulder. I love coming in from an outing on a cold day and serving up a big bowl of this hearty meal. If I can get organized enough, I prefer to make the recipe a day in advance because I think it tastes even better the next day. I often make this curry without all of the ingredients on hand and it still turns out well with a few substitutions and omissions. I rarely cook with beef stock, so will typically make the curry with chicken or veg stock. The marmelade, mango chutney, coconut, and golden raisins definitely add to the recipe, but I won’t make a separate trip to the store, just to track these items down.



Maurice Hornocker, one of our Science and Conservation Advisory Board members, was recently featured in the local Wood River Valley paper. The article describes how Maurice’s long career in wildlife biology has accomplished great conservation for big wild cats (like mountain lions) in Idaho and throughout the world. He pioneered field science research methods in the 1960’s, such as the use of radio-telemetry to track carnivores. Maurice’s work is impressive in its global reach, and we were pleased to see him recognized in this article.


You can read the full story here at the Idaho Mountain Express.


Forest Service, Rangeland Manager, and local botany expert John Shelly, kept telling me that we had to go out to Fish Creek to look at what he suspected was a Champion aspen tree. I have to admit, I didn’t initially jump at the suggestion. We have sagebrush that look like they’ve been hitting the steroids, but the aspen don’t generally pop to mind as monstrous.

On an aspen related field trip a couple of summers ago, John and I made a side visit to check out the big trees. When he pointed them out from a distance, I was still quite doubtful that any of those trees were champions. That was until we got up close, where the trees suddenly seemed enormous. Three trees stand together, with one that is clearly the largest.

We got out the measuring tape, submitted the records a couple of days later and anxiously awaited some news. It turned out it to be a champion for Idaho!

It wasn’t the tallest tree on record, but it had the largest diameter. We’re hoping no ambitious beavers decide to take it down as supplies for a second home project. Thanks to John for helping us to figure it out. I promise to listen to any further suggestions he has on trees.


We’re grateful for the wide open spaces and beautiful places we are fortunate enough to work in.

Photo by Glenn Oakley

Photo by Glenn Oakley

We are grateful for our hardworking & loyal ranch dogs.