Two finalists have been selected for the prestigious 2019 Oklahoma Leopold Conservation Award.

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Chuck and Ruth Coffey (Courtesy photo.)

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers, ranchers and foresters who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land. 

The finalists are: 

  • Chuck and Ruth Coffey Family of Springer in Carter County: The Coffeys managed, rotational grazing plan for their beef cattle has increased perennial grasses while reducing soil erosion. They host tours promoting grazing management and the importance of prescribed fires to promote biodiversity. Over the past decade 20 solar wells, above ground water storage, and piping systems were installed to ensure livestock and wildlife have reliable water. Chuck serves as chairman of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Board.
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Grant Victor (Courtesy photo.)

  • Victor Ranch of Afton in Ottawa County: Grant and Donna Victor raise beef cattle and grow wheat, oats, soybeans, corn and pecans with their three sons. Their early adoption of no-till on their cropland earned them the National Soil and Water Conservation Award by the National Endowment for Soil and Water Conservation in 1986. They converted 600 acres of highly erodible cropland to native pasture. Re-establishing pecan groves to their ranch has provided an additional income stream, and quality wildlife habitat. Grant Victor is a director at the Ottawa County Conservation District.      

This year’s recipient will be revealed on Feb. 24, 2020, at the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts’ Legislative Evening in Oklahoma City. Award applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders. 

“We are proud to once again partner with the Sand County Foundation to recognize exceptional stewardship and conservation practices among Oklahoma’s private landowners,” said Chad Ellis, Nobel Research Institute’s industry relations and stewardship manager. “The finalists for the 2019 Leopold Conservation Award are extraordinary and demonstrate a land ethic and passion for conservation.”

“Leopold Conservation Award recipients are at the forefront of a movement by America’s farmers and ranchers to simultaneously achieve economic and environmental success,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer.  

"Natural resource conservation in Oklahoma has always been about legacy and leadership," said Trey Lam, Oklahoma Conservation Commission Executive Director. "This year’s finalists both exemplify those traits to the highest degree. Leaving the land and water better for the next generation means so much more when you are working side by side with your children and family. We want to congratulate the Coffey and Victor families! All of Oklahoma should thank these folks for making our state a better place to raise our families."

“Oklahoma’s conservation efforts are continually strengthening. It is an effort rooted in the heritage of many family farms,” said Gary O’Neill, Oklahoma Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist. “The examples that Chuck Coffey and Grant Victor provide in terms of soil health and water quality are creating a bright future for conservation in Oklahoma.”

The first Oklahoma Leopold Conservation recipient, Jimmy and Ginger Emmons, was selected in 2017. The 2018 recipient was Russ and Jani Jackson of Mountain View. 

The Leopold Conservation Award in Oklahoma is made possible thanks to the generous contributions from Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Noble Research Institute, Oklahoma Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, ITC Holdings Corp., Oklahoma Conservation Commission, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, McDonald’s, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, and Oklahoma State University.

Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 20 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation.

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.”  

For more information on the award, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.

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