A snowy landscape fills the screen. The camera pans slowly over the mountains.
You just have to step on this property for the first time. It’s been about two minutes here, and you’re going ‘wow.’
A man rides a snow vehicle. The mountains are shown again.
You know, the big vistas, the mountains, just so exciting to people.
The camera zooms in on a man riding a snow mobile. It can be really hard to get in here in the wintertime safely.
Where the ranch is located is an area of intense winds and a lot of snowfall. And those two make for very difficult conditions for cars.
A yellow snow plow drives across the land. The snow plow drives up and is loaded onto a flatbed pulled by a truck.
There’s years like this year where we have to park a mile down the highway at a pull out just to unload the snowmobiles and drive up.
A truck is shown driving the snow mobiles.
Bob Eckhardt speaks while driving the truck:
I’m kind of the connection between the owner of this property and the owner and everyone that works here. And there has been much thought to where we are. You know, you think about the greater Yellowstone ecosystem?
A log cabin is shown in the middle of a snowy landscape.
Yellowstone’s supposed to be wild and untested, but it’s also a great place to go and visit.
A man carries a ladder and steps across the snow. He shovels snow off the roof.
So I really feel like the best balance is where there is an effort made towards what would naturally be here and also a place that’s fun to be here as people as well.
Snow falls off the roof onto the ground.
We have a conservation effort that goes on and a hospitality effort that goes on. We have farming, and I’m hands on in all of that.
Mandy Eckhardt speaks while driving:
I think it’s super unique to have a husband and wife team working together. Just in life, that doesn’t happen all that often.
The outside of their house is shown. Photos of their children are also shown.
I feel like it’s been a huge blessing to work together, and even our kids have been such a big part of this. And it’s really why it works with so few people.
The dogs are shown. Mandy gets out of the car and walks across the snow into the house. She and her husband are shown cooking in the kitchen.
Anybody in our family can really pretty much do anything. One of the beauties of it is that Bobby grew up in it. So to him, I feel like all of this is who he is.
Family photos are shown inside their house.
Whereas for me, you know, I grew up in the city, and all of this was new to me as of 1987.
One of the things we love to talk about is what’s going on on the ranch with wildlife.
Bob takes a photo book off the shelf and flips through it.
So we just decided that every year we would create a series of the best photos, whether it’s weather, whether it’s animals, especially animals, just general landscape shots. It’s just cool, such a cool spot. Colors of sunsets, colors of sunrises just looks like, you know, rays at the center, just flowing into the valleys almost like water. So cool, you know. I just kept taking shots every so often, and I can’t remember whether that was one of the super moons or not, but it was super to me. I’m not a great photographer, but it’s a great place to take pictures.
Photos of deer and elk are shown. Photos of birds and bison are shown. Photos of mountain lions and bears are shown. Photos of the sky and the land are shown.
We’re real careful with our conservation on the farming part. Eventually, I don’t know, maybe no one will farm it, but after I get too old. When we first started it, we were farming about 4,000 acres.
Farming equipment is shown.
So each year, we’ve got less farming and more restoration.
Neil Brown is shown talking while pointing to pictures on a wall.
Probably 8,000 acres more each year to where, right now, I’m farming about 15,000 acres. It’s a good balance that lets the land take care of itself.
The snow is shown across the landscape.
I think the land use has been well thought out and will continue to be. You know, to have the farming go on and have revenue from that really allows then to have the restoration ground and to create an environment that’s so amazing for animals and birds.
A bird is shown flying across the sky.
You know, what does this mean to the Yellowstone ecosystem?
A man is shown walking across the snow toward a snow mobile and getting on to drive away.
It means that it’s part of that, it’s an extension of that. It’s a place where people can come and enjoy, and wildlife can be here and do what it wants to do, not what is forced to do. I don’t think that the highest and best use of probably any property is just totally exclude humans.
Bob is shown outside.
Having a place that’s really been constructed for wildlife and humans to interact together is the best balance. I just think without people, there’s too big a piece missing.
Directed by Bryce Reif
Produced by Bryce Reif, Eden Long, Nick Kinder, Julius Kovacs
Cinematography by Bryce Reif, Nick Kinder
Aerial photography by Nick Kinder
Location sound by Julius Kovacs
Edited by Bryce Reif, Nick Kinder, Julius Kovacs
Still photos provided by Bob Eckhardt
Additional footage by Eden Long, Julius Kovacs
Assistant editors are Eden Long, Jeremy Nutter
Special thanks to the Eckhardt family, Neil Brown, Susanne Schwibs, Steve Krahnke, Indiana University, Hutton Honors College
And an extra special thanks to our donors: Cindy Chen, Gina Elliot, Taylor Hohn, Matt Kinder, Peter Kovacs, Sydney Lambert, Chase McVean, Bob and Sharon Reif, Leslie Shepherd, Suzanne Tamasy, Blake Conner, Barbara and Brian Fox, Steve and Lori Kinder, Ingebord Kovacs, the Ladner family, Katie McCarty, Elizabeth Meyer, Alaina Schmidt, Julianne Tamasy, and Todd Meyer
Bryce Reif, BA’19, created “5,000 Acres” in his spring 2019 Advanced Documentary Production class. The film explores the relationship between people and nature and features conversations with ranch-owners in Idaho.