After waiting much of his life to acquire the ranch of his dreams, 56-year-old Mike Ellig said he has no time to waste as he strives to revitalize the well-worn property.
Clint Campbell owns a Gallatin Valley stream restoration company and has been contracted by Ellig to revive Randall Creek, a spring-fed stream that crosses the property before emptying into the West Gallatin River.
Located northeast of Manhattan, the Oyler Ranch was protected from development by its previous owners, Enos and Bette Oyler, with a conservation easement.
“This is not a pristine property; it has been utilized for many, many years,” said Peter Brown, stewardship manager for the Gallatin Valley Land Trust, which holds the easement.
Just past the planted ground, Ellig said the ranch’s vegetation was bristling with invasive weeds like thistle and hounds tongue.
“We had to carpet bomb it, basically,” he said. “When you first get started, you have to do something severe to get going.”
In other areas, though, native vegetation like buffaloberry and chokecherry has survived to provide habitat as well as food for wildlife.
Anglers will benefit, too, as the restoration of Randall Creek provides more spawning and rearing habitat for Gallatin River trout, as well as a place to escape the heat of low summer river flows as the Gallatin is dewatered by irrigation.