California Leopold award finalists announced

Oct 2, 2009
by WLJ
California Leopold award finalists announced

Sand County Foundation, the California Farm Bureau Federation, and Sustainable Conservation are proud to announce the finalists for the 2009 Leopold Conservation Award in California.

“Year after year, the finalists in California are exceptional stewards of the land, water and wildlife that are part of their farms and ranches,” said Dr. Brent Haglund, Sand County Foundation president. “The Leopold Conservation Award serves as an annual reminder of the tremendous work California farmers and ranchers are doing for agriculture and conservation.”

The 2009 finalists are: Howe Creek Ranch, Steve and Jill Hackett—Ferndale, CA (Humboldt County) Montna Farms, Alfred G. Montna—Yuba City, CA (Sutter County) Bill and Kay Burrows— Red Bluff, CA (Tehama County) Red Rock Ranch, John Diener—Five Points, CA (Fresno County) The fourth annual Leopold Conservation Award for California will be pre sented Dec. 7, 2009, at the California Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in Anaheim, CA.

A distinguished panel of experts must now make the difficult decision of selecting the 2008 Leopold Conservation Award recipient in California: Gayle Norman, state conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Cornelius Gallagher, senior vice president, Bank of America; Ben Higgins, state director, USDA Rural Development; A.G. Kawamura, secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture; Sopac (Soapy) Mulholland, executive director, Sequoia Riverlands Trust; Tom Tomich, director, Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education Program, University of California - Davis.

The 2009 award finalists include:

Howe Creek Ranch

Steve and Jill Hackett have taken a proactive approach to integrating ecological sustainability into their 4,000 acres of forests and cattle pasturage where the family has ranched and produced forest products for 95 years. Their forestry practices, cemented by a conservation easement, create corridors of mature forest and healthy watersheds that support salmon, spotted owls and other wildlife.

Their work in developing the California Rangeland Water Quality Management Plan is credited with injecting incentives and cooperation into ranch planning and program implementation, and with engaging environmental groups, industry groups, and federal and state government agencies effectively. The plan now involves more than 1 million acres of private California ranchland.

Montna Farms

Rice grower Al Montna has created extensive habitat for wildlife, particularly waterfowl, through his 2,500-acre farming operation. He also led the way in replacing the practice of burning rice stubble with environmentally safe alternatives and reducing pesticide runoff into the Sacramento River by 90 percent.

Known for bringing people together, he has held leadership positions in numerous organizations and public policy boards such as Northern California Water Association, California Bay-Delta Authority, and State Board of Food and Agriculture. This year, he installed a solar power system to power the Montna Farms Rice Dryer.

Red Rock Ranch

John Diener farms approximately 5,000 acres of an array of high value row crops using innovative approaches to land, water and wildlife management. Among other achievements, Diener pioneered work on conservation tillage for his crops that reduces the number of tractor operations, dust emissions and diesel fuel. He is now coupling conservation tillage with water-efficient irrigation systems. He has also led the charge in addressing saline drainage water management issues with the West side

Resource Conservation District, a group of which Diener is a charter member who brings conservation and resource management services to landowners. Diener continues to work with several educational institutions and state and federal agencies to achieve a sustainable system for managing the salt load from irrigation drainage.

Bill and Kay Burrows

Bill and Kay Burrows employ Holistic Management techniques in the operation of their ranch. Their family works to improve the biodiversity on their land, increasing the productivity of the soil, plants and animals. They run cattle, as well as meat goats and sheep for brush control. The family diversifies its operation through agritourism, including hosting hunting and fishing tours. Bill and Kay also engage in community outreach, hosting an annual Stewardship Day at the ranch where local residents, agencies and organizations are invited to their ranch to learn about sustainable resource management.

In California, the Leopold Conservation Award is presented by Sand County Foundation, California Farm Bureau Federation, and Sustainable Conservation. The California award is supported in part with generous contributions from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation and The Nature Conservancy.

In 2009, Sand County Foundation will present Leopold Conservation Awards in California, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming and Utah. The awards are presented to recognize extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation on the land of exemplary private landowners; inspire countless other landowners in their own communities through these examples; and showcase conservation leaders in the agricultural community to people outside of agriculture. For more information, please visit www.leopoldconservation — WLJ