Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes ranchers, farmers, and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife habitat management on private, working lands.
In Colorado the $10,000 award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, American Farmland Trust, Colorado Cattlemen's Association, Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The finalists are:
Fetcher Ranch of Clark in Routt County: Respect for native species has long been a priority of the Fetcher family. A rotational grazing system and wildlife-friendly fencing allow beef cattle to share pastures with elk, deer, and Sand Hill Cranes. Hay meadows are managed with flood irrigation which create a wetland ecosystem for a variety of waterfowl and insects. Jay Fetcher was an early adopter of conservation easements. His family regularly opens their land for educational, cultural, and recreational events.
LK Ranch of Meeker in Rio Blanco County: The innovative grazing management, fencing, and livestock watering systems implemented by the Klinglesmith family have made their ranch more ecologically and economically resilient. Conservation easements on the ranch ensure that water rights will remain for agriculture and wildlife in perpetuity. New irrigation equipment reduces the amount of water needed to irrigate hay fields, and any late season hay growth is left standing to feed mule deer and elk through the winter.
May Ranch of Lamar in Prowers County: From a carbon credit offset program and rangeland health assessments, to how cattle are cared for, rancher Dallas May and his family utilize a variety of third-party verifications to measure and manage conservation success. In addition to managing the grasslands for grazing, the Mays have installed wildlife-friendly fencing, improved wetlands and streams, restored playas, and planted native trees. They work with a number of conservation groups by hosting surveys of bird species, tours, and biological inventories on the ranch.
This year's recipient will be announced in April. The formal award presentation will take place June 21, 2021, at the Colorado Cattlemen's Association's Annual Convention, which will be held at the Double Tree by Hilton in Grand Junction.
"As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation's Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Colorado award finalists," said John Piotti, AFT President and Chief Executive Officer. "At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three."
"Colorado farming and ranching families proudly produce the food that feeds the world and provide invaluable benefits to their communities and the environment," said Janie VanWinkle, Colorado Cattlemen's Association President. "CCA celebrates the Leopold Conservation Award recipients and applicants for their contributions, including outstanding stewardship practices and conservation achievements."
"The Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust is proud to celebrate the voluntary conservation accomplishments of Colorado's farmers and ranchers," said Erik Glenn, Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust Executive Director. "The 2021 Leopold Conservation Award nominees and applicants showcase the diversity of agriculture in Colorado and the dedication that farming and ranching families have to the lands they steward, their communities, and their families."
"Recipients of this award are real life examples of conservation-minded agriculture," said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer. "These hard-working families are essential to our environment, food system and rural economy."
To learn more about previous recipients, including the 2020 recipient, Collins Ranch of Kit Carson, Colorado, visit https://www.sandcountyfoundation.org/colorado.
The Leopold Conservation Award in Colorado is made possible by generous contributions from the American Farmland Trust, Colorado Cattlemen's Association, Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust, Sand County Foundation, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Stanko Ranch, American AgCredit, The Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, The Nature Conservancy in Colorado, and McDonald's.
The first Leopold Conservation Award was presented in Colorado in 2003. Since then the award has been presented in 22 other states. Sand County Foundation and national sponsor, American Farmland Trust, present the award elsewhere with state partners.