Late in the fall of 1976, Dee Morris and Kay Hawkins drove from Big Piney and Jackson Hole, respectively, to meet for their first date at the Corral Bar in Pinedale. Thirty-four years later, the two returned to Sublette County and purchased the Mountain Springs Ranch. The property’s rolling glacial moraines and sprawling sagebrush steppe merge into the mixed forests of the adjacent Scab Creek Wilderness Study Area (WSA), a wary name for a stunning and remote landscape. The Morris’ ranch is a haven for wildlife, notably mule deer and sage-grouse, although other characters like black bears and a few stubborn moose occasionally amble through. Inspired by the conservation standards of the neighboring WSA, Kay and Dee partnered with the Green River Valley Land Trust, and later the Green River Valley Program of the Jackson Hole Land Trust, to protect more than 550 acres of their ranch. With those conservation easements, the Morrises ensure that critical wildlife habitat and working lands persist for future generations.
In 2017, with invasive plants on the rise and cheatgrass creeping in, the Morrises joined with their local National Resource Conservation Service and Sublette County Weed and Pest offices to steward the ecological integrity of their property. The Sage Grouse Initiative provided funding for prescribed aerial treatments that by 2020 had achieved an impressive 90% efficacy on all test plots. Their pilot project is now a successful collaborative model for other ranches.
From the belief that the future of wild places and open spaces depend on today’s youth, Kay and Dee helped establish Camp GROW (Green River Outreach for Wilderness) in 2009. Nearly a decade later the next generation of Morrises, Wesley and Natasha, have stepped into management roles. For the new directors, wilderness experiences and outdoor adventures are vital for kids learning to balance and navigate the tangible and virtual worlds in an increasingly digital age.
At Camp GROW, kids and young adults learn conservation ethics and develop outdoor skillsets through catch-and-release fishing, horseback riding, and Leave No Trace principles. Campers also discover the cultural past and learn about the region’s earliest inhabitants. For more information on 2021 programming and camp dates, please visit www.greenriveroutreach.com.