“Ranches have a long tenure. Family ranches want to stay in the family,” said Paul Bottari of Bottari Realty Inc. in Wells.
Still, families face struggles to keep ranching.
“You are not going to get rich quick,” said Sam Mori of Mori Ranch in the Tuscarora area north of Elko.
Clay Nannini, who has the listing for the Winecup Gamble Ranch for Coldwell Banker Algerio/Q Realty in Elko, said family ranches need to grow by acquiring neighboring ranches in order to survive as they pass from one generation to another.
“It’s really difficult and rare to see ranches continue beyond three generations,” he said.
As families grow, they need more land to support more family members or the surviving family member who wants to keep ranching has to buy out other heirs, and sometimes can’t make the payments, Nannini said.
Jan Petersen, a local historian, said she knows of ranches where one of several children stays on the ranch “basically for room and board,” and when the parents die, “the one who stayed with heart strings tied to the ranch has no money to buy the ranch” from siblings so the family is forced to sell.
Estate taxes also come into play when families try to hold onto a ranch, she said. Such ranches may be sold to neighboring ranchers or investors, which in northeastern Nevada may include gold producers.
“The reality is working ranches can’t compete with other interests and outside money,” said Bottari, who also operates a small ranch.
“There have been a lot of ranches change hands the last 20-25 years because of the mines,” said Sharon Rhoads of Rhoads Ranch near Tuscarora. “Most are still working ranches, but they are a huge step above family ranches. That has had a big impact on ranching.”
For example, she said labor is harder to find because potential ranch workers can often find higher paying jobs with the gold mines.
Mines buy ranches
Mining companies acquire ranches for mitigation purposes, water rights, access to mineral resources and for exploration, Jeff White, director of rangelands and vice president of Newmont Mining Corp.’s Elko Land and Livestock Co. told the Elko Daily Free Press for the summer Mining Quarterly.
Newmont owns the TS Ranch, the Horseshoe Ranch, IL Ranch and Big Springs Ranch. The company acquired Big Springs Ranch in Elko County as part of its Long Canyon mining project.
Barrick Gold Corp. currently owns the Squaw Valley Ranch, the 7H Ranch, Dean Ranch, Hay Ranch and JD Ranch in northeastern Nevada, according to Jorge Esteva, communications director for Barrick Gold of North America.
“Mining is a big part of Elko County but ranches are still a large part, and the ranches will be here when mining stops,” said Allie Bear, whose realty company specializes in ranches.
Mori Ranch has a grazing partnership with Newmont’s IL Ranch in northern Elko County, Mori said.
The Mori family also owns a farm and feedlot in Lovelock.
“We summer cattle here and winter them in Lovelock,” Mori said.
Large properties The ranches owned by mining companies are among the largest in the area, but other large ranches include the Petan Co. of NV Inc., YP Ranches, Ellison Ranching Co. and Maggie Creek Ranch.
Petersen, who is writing a book on Ellison Ranching Co., said the Spanish Ranch near Tuscarora is Ellison’s “premier ranch,” and the company also owns the PX and Laing ranches in North Fork Valley north of Elko.
Maggie Creek Ranch was owned by the Hunter Brothers starting in 1869 and is now owned by the Searle family just west of Elko.
Petersen said there are several “centennial” ranches that have been in families 100 years or more, mentioning Glaser Land and Livestock, the Krenka family and the Wines family ranches.
Gold producers offer one challenge to ranchers, but ranchers say U.S. Bureau of Land Management regulations are a major challenge.
“Everybody thinks they know more about ranches than the ranchers who live there,” Sharon Rhoads said.
Her daughter, Shammy Rodriguez, who teaches school and helps out on the Rhoads Ranch, said ranches today are “under a microscope. It used to be ranchers went about their business of ranching, but now in doing that they so often have to defend what they are doing environmentally and with agencies.”
More regulations Ranching is more mechanized today, but managing cattle grazing under BLM regulations means more work and more needed labor than in older days, Mori said.
“The biggest difference seen now compared with when my father purchased the ranch in 1958 is there are more government regulations we have to deal with. It requires more labor and capital.”
He said even with the better technology, costs are higher because of the work involved in meeting regulations.
“Increased costs versus 50 years ago have precipitated sales and smaller ranches to go out of business,” said Mori, who is president-elect of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association.
Sharon Rhoads said she remembers when horses were used in feeding hay to cattle, and she recalled when the ranch used 15 to 20 men for haying and now uses five.
She also recalls when actor and singer Bing Crosby owned the ranch “right next door. We knew him pretty well. He was a very common man. Very nice. He was a good neighbor.”
According to a timeline provided by Northeastern Nevada Museum, Crosby bought the former Jube Wright Ranch in 1943 and later acquired more land in Elko County in 1944, 1947 and 1948.
He became honorary mayor of Elko in 1948.
Crosby sold his ranch properties in Elko County in 1958. He died in 1977.
Former state Sen. Dean Rhoads said ranchers used to run their cattle with their neighbors, but they don’t do that much now.
Oftentimes, one person on a ranch has to work outside the ranch so the family can hold on, or so they can have health insurance, Petersen said.
Keeping wild horses for the BLM is one idea ranches kicked around to help meet expenses, including the Winecup Gamble Ranch, according to earlier news reports, but efforts didn’t pan out.
Madeleine Pickens still has wild horses on her land near Wells, where she bought the Warm Creek and Spruce ranches, but she also has cattle, said Nannini, who consults with the ranch. He said the wild horses are on private land.