The Smith Creek Ranch, located in the center of the state of Nevada, epitomizes the high desert Nevada ranch having the history, location, topography, and operation combined in one package. The ranch runs cattle outside year-round, wintering on 6,000-foot elevation valleys and up to 9,200-foot elevation mountains in the summer. Minimal interior fencing impedes cattle movement on the 195,000+ acres that make up the total ranch. The cattle operation relies on horsepower and distance from water for the yearly grazing rotation. The ranch has irrigation water from a reservoir on Smith Creek as well as numerous springs, seeps, seasonal creeks, and pipelines for stock water. There are also 500+ acres of irrigated ground used to produce hay for a grow lot or for sale.
The Smith Creek Ranch is one of the most important sage grouse habitats in the central part of Nevada. Rather than resist efforts to work with the bird, the ranch has embraced the improvement of the property for the grouse, given that what works for a sage grouse is also good for cattle. There have been years of research done on the ranch by state and federal agencies and UNR using parts of the ranch for long-term watershed studies. The Hendrix family has placed an easement on the deeded property that limits development and ensures that the ranch will remain in production as a cattle operation and place for the sage grouse to flourish.
The Hendrix family partnership has owned the ranch since 1994 and has been very active in the restoration and holistic management of the resource using grazing with a cow as a tool. The ranch and the permits are part of an outcome-based grazing plan that allows the federal land to be managed with some flexibility. This means that the grazing can be adjusted to the unique conditions each year. The feral horse numbers are also kept in check, and thousands of acres of pinion pine and juniper have been removed to help restore the watersheds.