- ABOUT US
From her perch at the Selman Guest Ranch near Buffalo, preservationist Sue Selman has found her true calling in ecotourism.
By BLAIR WALTMAN
Published March/April 2012
Every spring, a group of bird enthusiasts from around the country deploy into Oklahoma’s northern plains. They flock to Woodward for the weeklong Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival, and every morning they volunteer for a mission: placing white cards on fencerows to keep the festival’s namesake bird from crashing into the barbed wire. Spearheading the efforts is a woman whose life’s work is the preservation of the prairie and everything in it: Sue Selman.
Selman is a dynamo for local tourism and a firebrand for prairie conservation, two efforts she has combined to make her century-old homestead, the Selman Guest Ranch in Buffalo, into an ecotourism mecca.
Selman began offering hunting leases in 1994, allowing hunters to take a crack at the abundant white-tailed deer, turkey, pheasants, and quail dotting the area. But it was one small advertisement that brought a different type of hunter to Selman’s door: those who wanted only to look at the many types of birds found in northwestern Oklahoma.
“Years ago, I put an ad in a birding magazine,” Selman says. “I had a photographer, Jeff Rich, who was interested in bringing out a workshop, but he wanted to check out the ranch first.”
Today, guests can sign up for wildlife viewing expeditions, fishing, birding, dog trial training, and photography sessions with wildlife blinds and guides. Lodging is fifty dollars per person per night, and camping is ten bucks per group per day. Selman provides hearty breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for thirty dollars per day.
“There are millions of birders in the world,” Selman says. “They will travel, and they will spend money to see birds.”
Birding has kept Selman’s bunkhouse full of visitors, especially after the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival began in 2009.With her help, the festival has grown in renown. But the quirky little bird is more than a star attraction for the bird watching community—it’s also a creature on the verge of extinction because its small habitat is constantly being chipped away.
“People don’t understand why quail or prairie-chickens are important,” Selman says. “I want to instill the love for taking care of this part of the world.”
Get There: Selman Guest Ranch is located twenty-five miles north of Woodward on State Highway 34 and a half-mile west on County Road 16. (580) 256-2006 or selmanguestranch.com. The Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival, a part of which occurs at the Selman Guest Ranch, is April 26 to May 2. (918) 809-6325 or lektreks.org.