Reading a landscape

Ethnobotany on HF Bar Ranch

Just a few miles from the Western Washington University campus, Coast Salish peoples like the Lummi Nation have lived along the Puget Sound into British Columbia as fishermen and marine  hunters for generations and developed a rich connection with their environment.

More than 1,000 miles away, the HF Bar Ranch calls students and visitors to 7,500 acres of valley land along the Bighorn National Forest, encouraging those eager to learn about the cultural roots of plant life to experience a unique, Wyoming landscape, where native peoples developed their own distinct connection to their surroundings.

Lily Bliss studied environmental studies at WWU in the early 2000s. Her mother, Margi Schroth, operates HF Bar Ranch in Saddlestring.

Senior instructor Wendy Walker at WWU’s Huxley College of the Environment — Bliss’ former instructor — worked with Bliss a few years after graduation to plan a transition for HF Bar from a strictly historic guest ranch to an environmentally-focused operation. Soon, they developed a plan to bring WWU students out to the ranch for a summer travel course option.

Fifteen students from a variety of majors joined the first trip in 2015 — first creating a 40-page transition plan for the ranch and then returning annually to perform research and work on projects. One project included a small museum now featured on the ranch, filled with environmental history and ethnobotanical knowledge.

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Editor's note: This feature was originally printed in the spring/summer 2020 edition of Destination Sheridan, the official lifestyle and tourism magazine of Sheridan County created by The Sheridan Press. Pick up a copy, free of charge, at The Press (144 Grinnell Plaza in Sheridan).

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