Mark & Robbie Levalley’s sons will be the fifth generation to ranch the lands. The private and federal land around the ranch is home to the Gunnison Sage Grouse, a ground-dwelling bird that is protected as an endangered species. Grazing has helped the Sage Grouse thrive and meet recovery goals set by the Endangered Species Act. They have compiled the data and it tells them that the number of forb species — what Sage Grouse depend on for nutrition – has increased significantly because of the ranch’s efforts. Their grass and shrub species provide habitat for Sage Grouse and other wildlife.
“I love when I go out and find new forbs and see the response of the land to how we are managing it. Documenting the rangeland health and showcasing that with pictures is very fulfilling. Grazing from livestock can coexist with – and benefit – the Sage Grouse, and our ranch has shown that, ” says Robbie.
The water supply for their public land allotment originates on the Levalley’s private land. The ranch has built 17 miles of pipeline, allowing the water to flow from her private supply to the ponds on the public lands. If it were not for the water on their private land, the public land and the Gunnison Sage Grouse would not have water.
“Managed grazing improves the health of the land. That’s what makes it sustainable. All we have to do is look to other places where grazing is not sustainable — where there is a decrease in vegetation and production and where management is not as keen – to know that we have an increase in understanding of our lands. We have improved millions of acres of rangeland and managing that land provides a food source for an ever-increasing population.”
“I love riding the land and seeing how happy and healthy the animals are because of their environment. All of the work the family does together on the range – it’s pretty special.”