Monarchs on the ranch
By: Jonathan Baxter, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Biologist
Diamond TR Ranch is a 340-acre working ranch located on Arkansas Highway 10 west of Little Rock. The ranch is divided by the Maumelle River which provides 95 percent of the input for Lake Maumelle, a source of drinking water for about 450,000 residents of central Arkansas. When I first pulled up to the ranch I was greeted by a man who had clearly been up since before sunrise. When I shook Ray Vogelpohl’s calloused hand, it was obvious he is a hard-working, family-first farmer. We sat under the covered porch and he offered sweet tea (Southern hospitality at its finest) while we waited for his wife, Theresa, to finish chores in the horse barn.
While we waited, he began to tell me the history of the ranch and how they came to love the land. It was the diversity of flowers and abundance of monarchs that gave rise to his interest in conservation. Theresa joined us and they shared with me their desire to do their part for conservation. I had done my research on the land and the Vogelpohls’ goals for the property, and I was impressed by the passion and commitment they expressed. Their need to see the land they steward be protected and function as a healthy ecological system was a top priority for them.
The couple was named as 2018 Forest Stewards of the Year by the Arkansas Forestry Commission.
The Vogelpohls have collaborated with many partners to preserve and enhance their beautiful ranch: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, Arkansas Forestry Commission, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Arkansas Wildlife Federation, Quail Forever/Pheasants Forever, and even a metropolitan water system, Central Arkansas Water. What started as a 3 to 4-acre pollinator patch on an unproductive pasture quickly turned into a 44-acre planting as talks of benefits to pollinators monarch butterflies and rattlesnake-master borer moths (both current candidate species) and concern over landscape-level habitat loss grew. A custom native species mix with a high concentration of flowering plants and specific host plants was created to use for this project. Additionally, this pollinator patch project included other conservation practices including prescribed fire, timber stand improvement, conservation easements, and enrollment into a forest stewardship program. The ranch is one of only three private properties where rattlesnake-master borer moths are found in Arkansas
The most notable conservation benefit from the Vogelpohls’ efforts reaches far beyond their property boundary. They have committed to public outreach by hosting field tours to demonstrate successful land management efforts to wildlife professionals and private landowners that highlight the partnerships of conservation agencies on working lands. The ranch has trails that allow people to tour the property via horseback or hiking. Additionally, because of their commitment and passion for conservation and affection for monarch butterflies, the Vogelpohls were featured in the short film, “Wings of Hope-Monarchs in the Natural State.”
In the video one can see their passion for conservation come to life as Theresa Vogelpohl describes the wonder of having hundreds of monarchs around her in a field of native sunflowers, and as Ray Vogelpohl explains how the ecological connection between the habitat created through their conservation actions benefits their ranching operation. Diamond TR Ranch is an example of what can be accomplished when partnerships, programs and professionals work together to accomplish the landowners goals.