The vision of Elko Land & Livestock Co. is as vast as the land it manages.
Celebrating its 40th year in business this fall, the Newmont Mining Corp. subsidiary owns and operates cattle and hay ranches in northeastern Nevada. On swaths that total about 1.2 million acres, the company gains access to mineral resources, water livestock forage and wildlife habitat while upholding a lofty mission.
As opposed to the nonrenewable mining operations, Elko Land & Livestock Co. runs its ranches as renewable resource enterprises that help sustain the land for the future.
The Elko Land & Livestock Co. was established in 1978 to hold and manage land associated with Newmont’s Carlin operations. The ranching company functions as a separate, financially independent business entity that reports to Newmont’s North American operations.
“It’s our 40th anniversary,” said Hanes Holman, Elko Land & Livestock Co. manager, “and we are going to be here long past that.”
Of Newmont’s 2.7 million-acre mineral estate, much of the property is owned by the Elko Land & Livestock Co.
The ranching company employs about 30 full-time personnel plus seasonal workers. About 150 horses help the company perform its work. Most of the cattlemen and women live on the ranches with their families.
“They’re still traditional ranches. This is not a site,” Holman said while at the Horseshoe Ranch in August. He watched chickens scratching, goats grazing and mothers walking with young children and faithful dogs in tow.
“People live here,” he said. “They grow up here.”
Elko Land & Livestock Co. has 19 sole or joint grazing allotments through the Bureau of Land Management. Collectively, the five Elko Land & Livestock Co.-owned and operated ranches run 11,500 to 15,000 cattle and produce 15-20 tons of hay.
The 425,000-acre TS Ranch near Beowawe was the company’s first acquisition in 1984. The ranch runs a rangeland livestock operation, and parts of the ranch and mine overlap on the land.
Another ranch joined the portfolio in 2004 with the purchase of the Horseshoe Ranch, historically part of the TS Ranch. The Horseshoe Ranch, with 165,000 acres, serves as the company’s headquarters and provides rangeland forage and irrigated pastures. Some aggregate produced on the TS and Horseshoe ranches is used in the Carlin mining operations and underground portal mines for backfill.
Next came the 300,000-acre Big Springs Ranch in Goshute Valley in 2011. The Long Canyon Mine lies within the boundaries of the ranch, mainly a rangeland forage operation with wet meadows. Holman said it is “the wildest ranch we have,” where the cattle must be of sturdier stock for the terrain.
Elko Land & Livestock Co. also has been operating the 450,000-acre IL Ranch in Elko County since 2012, and signed a lease agreement for the Palisade Ranch in 2017.
“You can’t get from one corner of our operations in a day,” said Jeff White, Elko Land & Livestock Co. North America vice president. “It’s a big expanse of country.”
At the Horseshoe Ranch in August, White spread a large map across a conference room table. The ranchlands are concentrated in northeastern Nevada, but each is managed according to the company’s needs and surrounding ecosystem.
“This is our universe in which we play,” said White, who has worked for Newmont for about 25 years. “We have adjusted and grown over time.”
The substantial land position provides the company an opportunity to affect the landscape for the better. Using tools such as livestock grazing, a conservation credit system and seeding, the ranch operators strive to maintain or improve the perennial shrub state in the desert lands they manage.
“We want to have these landscapes function so that the benefits of the sagebrush ecosystem continue,” White said.
Part of the land management strategy is to enhance an “ecologically, economically and socially sustainable and diversified rangeland livestock enterprise [while] conserving biological diversity,” the company states in its objectives.
“The three values — it sounds good to say it fast but better if you slow down,” said Holman.
He explained that policies and lawsuits over the years have driven a change in the purpose of the company’s ranching operation to emphasize ecology. Newmont’s ranching operations still help protect the interests of the mines by securing land for exploration and production, providing a beneficial agricultural use for mine dewatering and offsetting effects of mine operations on sage-grouse and other wildlife. Additionally, Elko Land & Livestock Co. aims to use the land and science to improve the livestock enterprise while conserving and supporting communities.
“We are not just running cows and making mines,” Holman said.
Elko Land & Livestock Co. participates in several programs to improve and maintain the sagebrush ecosystem. Today, the main threats to the ecosystem are invasive plants and fires.
The Horseshoe Ranch is one of the state’s 11 outcome-based grazing pilots testing the use of livestock to reduce fuel for wildfires and re-establish perennial shrubs. Through the program, the Bureau of Land Management is allowing livestock operators flexibility in the timing of grazing so that cattle can feed on invasive plants such as cheat grass when it is edible.
“Livestock will eat whatever is green,” Holman said, so livestock operators need to be able to change the timing of grazing to “shift the ecological advantage to the community you want to have the advantage.”
The ranching company also tested targeted grazing on the TS Ranch to create a firebreak.
“We have a chance to do some good on the landscape,” White said.
Newmont continues its work on the protection of species and habitat for sage-grouse. If sage-grouse populations decline, then access to public lands could be limited and restrict mining.
To support the bird and habitat, the company created the Sagebrush Ecosystem Conservation Program. The program establishes an overarching ecological plan, allows for monitoring and adaptation, collaborates with government agencies and other interested parties, and offsets the impact of mining through credits. Vegetation management techniques, such as prescribed grazing or seeding, for example, are practiced on about 400,000 acres of private land and more than 1 million acres of federal grazing land.
Additionally, Newmont joined state and federal agencies in an agreement in 2016 for conservation credits. The Conservation Framework Agreement — a landmark agreement — allows the state of Nevada to use its Conservation Credit System.
“I like to think we are a leader in our values and management of our rangelands,” Holman said.
Effective land management through ranching could assist with the continuation of Newmont’s mining operations in Nevada, which has a long history in the state.
Newmont’s mining operations began on the Carlin Trend in 1965, and the company recently announced plans to expand its Phoenix Mine and extend mine life to 2063.
“That’s pretty darn close to 100 years,” White said. “We have been here a while, and we plan to be here a long time.”
More than that, effective rangeland management could mean that the next generation inherits a functioning ecosystem.
“We want to leave our children a legacy we can be proud of,” Holman said.
Newmont planned two 40th anniversary celebration events in September, one for employees and their families Sept. 1 in conjunction with the Elko County Fair, and another Sept. 27 for senior leadership at the TS Ranch.