For the love of the land: The Leopold Conservation Award
Named in honor of world-renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award recognizes exemplary environmental stewardship. In California, Sand County Foundation presents the award in partnership with Sustainable Conservation and California Farm Bureau Federation.
2007 Winner: Sierra Orchards, Craig McNamara
Winters, Calif. (Yolo County)
Craig McNamara’s 450-acre Sierra Orchards demonstrates both stewardship and prosperity, integrating habitat conserving practices with bottom line results. His proactive investments have significantly enhanced the watershed on his land, improved water quality downstream and established thriving wildlife habitat. He has removed invasive plants, built tail water ponds, installed sediment traps and added hedgerow plantings to help ensure that no irrigated or natural water is wasted. In addition, McNamara founded the Center for Land-Based Learning in 1993 to teach young people about agriculture and the environment. These programs now reach more than 2,000 students each year.
Finalist: Prather Ranch, Jim, Mary, and James Rickert
Shasta, Calif. (Shasta County)
Managing cattle ranches and agricultural land in Northern California, the Rickert family works to promote biodiversity through their day-to-day operations, providing habitat for waterfowl during the migration and other wildlife year-round. They have planted more than eight miles of riparian habitat across nearly a dozen ranches.
Finalist: Three Creeks Ranch, Chet Vogt
Elk Creek, Calif. (Glenn County)
Chet Vogt’s 5,300-acre ranch nourishes more than 500 beef cattle, and they in turn help restore the land. He moves the herd around the rangeland in a systematic way that creates intensive grazing for a short period of time, followed by a long period of rest and regrowth. He has protected clean water through fencing and troughs, which have fostered abundant vegetation around the ponds for birds and other wildlife.
Finalist: V6 Ranch, Jack Varian
Parkfield, Calif. (Monterey and Fresno counties)
Jack Varian and his family have been raising cattle on the17,000-acre V6 ranch for nearly 50 years with the intention to be good caretakers of the land. For example, to prevent erosion and support wildlife, he planted hundreds of willow and cottonwood trees along the creek that runs through the ranch. His system of rotating cattle through 50 pastures keeps the grass and the cattle healthy. To share their passion and expertise, Varian and his wife Zera host public cattle drives, round-ups and ecological tours.
Finalist: Zylstra Dairy, Andy Zylstra
Turlock, Calif. (Stanislaus County)
Second-generation dairyman Andy Zylstra has introduced numerous environmentally friendly farming techniques to his 750-cow dairy farm. For example, conservation tillage cuts dust pollution (by up to 80%), fuel costs and labor costs, while enabling him to grow three crops a year instead of one or two – thereby utilizing more manure for fertilizer and keeping any excess nutrients out of the waterways.
For more information, please visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.