Half Circle Cross Ranch
By: Leopold Conservation Award Program
Growing a resilient landscape in the Wasatch Mountains requires adaptation to drought, fire and flood.
Thanks to the land ethic and workmanship of the Pace family, conservation practices are benefitting the soil, water, livestock and wildlife at their Half Circle Cross Ranch.
In pursuit of ecological resilience, the Paces partnered with state and federal agencies in designing and executing conservation plans that improve water quality, soil health, rangeland conditions and wildlife habitat on their owned and leased land.
Colby Pace is a third-generation cattle rancher who raises beef cattle with his wife McKenzie, and their sons McCoy and McKayson. His forward-thinking approach to livestock and wildlife management means getting creative with how beef cattle are grazed.
A rotational grazing program has tripled the forage production on their pastures, while eliminating the negative impacts of over-grazing by giving grass ample time to rest. The grazing intensity and schedule is managed in a way that reduces noxious weeds and increases the nesting density for waterfowl and shore birds.
Rotational grazing works best when drinking water is available at multiple locations. With financial and technical assistance from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Paces are harnessing solar energy to make it happen. Water is moved through 30 miles of pipeline from six solar pumps to holding tanks and troughs across the ranch.
In addition to their 2,700-acre ranch, the Paces lease, manage and graze cattle on tens of thousands of acres elsewhere, including 12,000 acres across Davis, Salt Lake and Tooele counties. These properties are critical wetlands and uplands within the Great Salt Lake ecosystem. The Paces also manage a 70,000-acre Cooperative Management Wildlife Unit in cooperation with the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources.
On 20,000 acres owned by The Nature Conservancy, the Paces are demonstrating how managed grazing of riparian areas can remove invasive Phragmites. The absence of this non-native plant opens up important nesting and migrating habitat for birds. The Nature Conservancy considers the partnership a model of success that shows what ranching and conservation working together can achieve.
As president of the Summit Soil Conservation District, Colby often shares how his no-till cropping system has reduced water runoff and soil erosion. Half Circle Cross Ranch hosts tours for Utah legislators to demonstrate how grant funding has improved grazing management, ranch profitability and rural development. Such efforts previously earned Colby the Utah Society for Range Management’s Rancher of the Year Award.