Three finalists have been selected for the 2020 Kansas Leopold Conservation Award.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the prestigious award recognizes landowners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife resources in their care.

In Kansas the $10,000 award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, American Farmland Trust, Kansas Association of Conservation Districts and the Ranchland Trust of Kansas.

The finalists are:

Vance and Louise Ehmke of Healy in Lane County. The Ehmkes remain profitable while conserving soil and water, by experimenting with crops like triticale. This cross between wheat and rye is popular as cattle feed and produces enough crop residue to protect fields from soil erosion. With more than 50 playas on their land, the Ehmkes are involved in research, education and outreach on playas’ contribution to recharging the Ogallala aquifer. They also have hundreds of acres for migratory bird and pollinator habitat.

Josh and Gwen Hoy of Cedar Point in Chase County. At Flying W Ranch, the Hoys rotationally graze their beef cattle to create grassland bird habitat. Unique partnerships with conservation groups and neighbors have improved the quality of the local watershed and prevented the development of the Flint Hills. The Hoys have hosted large events on their ranch to promote the ecological value of controlled burns, and the conservation of tallgrass prairie.

Dwane Roth of Manhattan in Riley County. Roth owns Big D Farms in Finney County. He uses cover crops to build soil health and combat wind erosion on sandy soils. As one of Kansas’ first Water Technology Farmers, he is passionate about addressing declining water levels and extending the life of the Ogallala Aquifer. His participation involves researching and testing new irrigation strategies and technologies that maintain crop production while reducing water usage.

The Kansas Leopold Conservation Award will be presented at the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts’ 76th Annual Convention in Wichita in November. The award recipient will receive $10,000 and a crystal award.

“Kansas Association of Conservation Districts is excited to recognize these outstanding landowners who are committed to conservation on their land,” said Dan Meyerhoff, KACD Executive Director. “We are proud to partner with Sand County Foundation and the Ranchland Trust of Kansas to give these families the recognition they deserve."

“The Ranchland Trust of Kansas congratulates the finalists for the Leopold Conservation Award. RTK is proud to be a supporter of this award showcasing and celebrating the achievements of landowners who invest and succeed in conservation efforts of private lands,” said Chelsea Good, Ranchland Trust of Kansas Vice Chairman.

“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.”

“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust, celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Kansas award finalists,” said John Piotti, AFT president and CEO. “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.”

The first Kansas Leopold Conservation Award recipient was named in 2015. The 2019 recipient was Ted Alexander of Sun City.

The Leopold Conservation Award in Kansas is made possible thanks to the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Kansas Association of Conservation Districts, Ranchland Trust of Kansas, Sand County Foundation, Evergy, Farm Credit Associations of Kansas, ITC Great Plains, Kansas Department of Agriculture (Division of Conservation), Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism; Kansas Forest Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service of Kansas, McDonald’s, The Nature Conservancy, and a Kansas Leopold Conservation Award recipient.

In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”

Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 21 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. For more information, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.

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