22 Ways We’re Reducing Our Environmental Impact

As a destination rooted in the landscape, there isn’t a day that goes by where we don’t consider the importance of the natural world that surrounds us. Each year on Earth Day, we take stock of what progress we’ve made toward being a more sustainable resort.

Each department is connected to this goal – from Owner Jim Manley to the staff members who live on-property and hike or bike to work, sometimes waking up to the sound of clashing Bighorn sheep curls outside staff housing.

Since we eliminated most single-use plastics in 2019, we’ve sought more ways to reduce our footprint. In 2021 we shared six sustainable practices. This year, on April 22, 2022, we’re sharing 22 of our initiatives.

Reducing Emissions

1. Walking and biking on property–Since Jim Manley started The Ranch at Rock Creek 12 years ago, his goal was for guests to see the property on foot or by bike, nearly eliminating vehicle traffic. He knew from experience it would be better for the eco-system and allow guests to unplug and see more wildlife.

two guests ride their bikes through the Ranch at Rock Creek arch

2. On-property staff housing & staff shuttles–We provide staff housing, greatly reducing traffic, and provide shuttles and a staff bike program.
3. Solar powered lights on walkways–After dark, these solar-powered lights allow guests to walk to their accommodations safely.
4. LED lights throughout the resort–We’ve use LED lights throughout The Ranch. When upgrades become necessary, we are dedicated to finding ways to reduce our footprint in accommodations and in public spaces.

Sourcing Locally

5. Locally sourced beverages–We love our local brewers, cider makers and distillers – Philipsburg Brewing Company is located just 20 minutes away and Western Cider, Montgomery Distillery and Black Coffee Roasting Company, based in Missoula, are just a few of our favorite suppliers. They keep us in good spirits!
6. Sourcing ingredients from 100 local purveyors–Our culinary program under Executive Chef Josh Drage sources from over 100 local farms and ranches, most notably from Western Montana Growers Co-op who works with so many local companies, and Clark Fork Organics.

A table filled with fresh produce is just a portion of the fall harvest that we'll featuring during Autumn Harvest Weekend
7. Sourcing straight from Granite County–Our culinary team sources eggs from Farmer Boy Eggs in Drummond, Montana and greens and veggies from Frost Pocket Farms in Philipsburg. Using farms in our county mean less plastic, less fuel and a fresher product.

Local sourcing means fewer plastic bags, fewer plastic clamshells of produce/fruit shipped across the country, less refrigeration in holding facilities, less fuel to transport and the list goes on… Being part of something like this over time that is bigger than us makes a huge difference in the soil, water and carbon footprint of our community. Produce with Clark Fork Organics is put into reusable farmer market bags and cardboard boxes, and not single use molded plastic container that ends up in the landfill for eternity.

~ Josh Drage, Executive Chef

8. Engineering a closed-loop cattle program–Every year our ranching team comes closer toward the goal of a closed-loop cattle program. Closing the loop means raising our own beef for use in our dining program. Our Cattle Manager Rob Laird helps teach our guests about this process and how it will reduce our footprint in our Ride Along with a Rancher activity, which is part of our all-inclusive activities program.
9. Supporting sustainable farming education in our community–2022 marks our 10-year partnership with this leader in luxury travel. To celebrate we are auctioning off a “Delicious Journey”–a once in a lifetime experience. Our bidders will help us support sustainable farming education for the children in our community.

Responsible Recreation

10. Practicing catch and release fishing–Our fly fishing program is centered in the sustainable practice of catch and release. Our mountain-fed stream is one of the few places where non-hybridized, native cutthroat exist in Montana despite coexistence with wild, non-native rainbow trout. Protecting bull and cutthroat populations is a major sustainability concern that will help future generations.
11. Using biodegradable clay pigeons & solar-powered throwers–Our five shooting ranges are hidden within the landscape, but we understand their potential impact on our area. Though we clean our ranges regularly, we also use biodegradable clay pigeons and solar powered clay pigeon throwers.

A family sitting in the woods and writing in journals

12. Teaching conservation through our Master Naturalist program–Since 2018 our Master Naturalist program has informed guests of all ages about the unique biodiversity along Rock Creek. Through the years we’ve contributed to University of Montana’s bird ecology program, both financially and through bird banding. Taking guests along on these conservation efforts helps them find ways to help in their local communities.
13. Offering Flint’s Forest Ranger’s Program–This year we’ve relaunched our kids program as the Flint Forest Rangers. Flint is our Ranch dog and an intrepid explorer. The program, created with help from Swirl, is also focused on sustainability. Kids learn how to play a positive part in their environment as they recreate responsibly.

Continued Elimination of Single Use Plastics

14. Refilling Water Bottles–Before our concerted effort to eliminate single-use plastics in 2019, we began converting our water bottles to refillable versions. With two on-Ranch activities a day, our guests and guides need a lot of water bottles to stay hydrated. These refillable canteens are available at our Rod & Gun Club, while glass versions are available in accommodations and across the ranch.

Two refillable The Ranch at Rock Creek branded water bottles

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

15. Sipping with Hay Straws–These days hay isn’t just for horses. We switched to Hay Straws in 2019. They are created from hay crops and serve as a sturdy alternative to both plastic and paper straws. Guests have tried the straws and ordered them for their own homes. We love supporting businesses who are creatively solving problems in the hospitality industry.
16. Providing refillable in-room–Hotels are known for their single-use toiletry bottles. We realized that this was a huge part of our plastic usage. In 2019, a committee of our employees sought to convert our toiletries and coffee program to use refillable containers. Our housekeeping department keeps up this effort by creating a safe, sanitary way to provide our guests with high-quality body products and in-room coffee.

This initiative is near and dear to my heart as a group of eight of us came together, with the assistance of our mentors, to create solutions to leave less of a footprint on Mother Earth. Our refillable glass water bottles have been a huge success. We selected a design that was unique and functional with recyclable aluminum lids eliminating the use of more than 15,000 plastic water bottles annually. Once the bottles fulfilled their lifetime, we use our glass crusher to turn them into sand-like particles to be used for future projects on property.

~ Linda Walser, Assistant General Manager

17. Crushing glass–In 2020, we installed a glass crusher on-Ranch. When we use glass bottles in our dining program, we place them in our glass crusher. The sand is used for landscaping across the resort.

Environmental Conservation Efforts

18.  Installing Fish Screens–Last year, Trout Unlimited – Clark Fork Project installed the first fish screen on The Ranch.

Trout that swim into irrigation ditches on Rock Creek usually end up in irrigated hay fields. Fortunately, this fish screen saves thousands of juvenile and adult trout from mortality every year by providing safe fish passage past the irrigation ditch. The new fish screen and other fish screens being installed in Rock Creek will keep more fish in the creek and are expected to improve fish populations.

~ Tess Scanlon, TU Rock Creek Project Manager

19. Annual River Cleanup–Since 2015 we’ve hosted a Clark Fork Cleanup. Along with the Clark Fork Coalition and local Philipsburg businesses, like the Philipsburg Brewing Company and Live Montanably, we’ve been able to remove tons of trash from our watershed.
20. Launching our inaugural “Spring Greening”–Over Easter Weekend we launched a new program to plant trees. This year’s efforts were focused around the newly installed fish screen, where new trees will reduce erosion and provide nesting habitats for birds along Rock Creek.
21. Hosting bees on The Ranch–In 2017, we started our own bee hives. Apiarist Kelsey Bruns has been keeping watch over our hives and showing her progress on our blog. We use this honey in craft cocktails and other elements of our dining program. According to Kelsey, when she checked on the bees this year after the winter, they were doing well and had all survived. Bees are responsible for pollinating so much of the food we and other animals consume, so giving them more places to live helps our eco-system to thrive.
22. Annual Highway Cleanup–We adopted several miles along the Skalkaho Highway near Rock Creek Road. On April 26th we’ll host our annual cleanup effort.

Thanks to each and every member of our community, guests and Ranch family who help us to stay true to these goals and keep our eco-system thriving so future generations will enjoy it.

Read more about our sustainability goals and efforts on our dedicated page and on the blog below.