Four finalists have been selected for the prestigious 2019 Kansas Leopold Conservation Award®.
Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes those who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife resources in their care.
The finalists are:
- Ted Alexander of Sun City in Barber County. Native plant and wildlife diversity have flourished thanks to conservation practices implemented at Alexander Ranch. Removing thousands of acres of invasive Eastern Red Cedar trees through cutting and prescribed burning has improved water quality in the ranch’s creeks. Researchers have documented an influx of reptiles, amphibians and diverse vegetation to the ranch. Habitat for lesser prairie chickens have been restored, and the ranch’s beef cattle benefit from a managed-intensive rotational grazing system.
- Vance and Louise Ehmke of Healy in Lane County. To remain profitable while conserving soil and water, these fourth-generation farmers experiment 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 have also enrolled hundreds of acres into conservation program for migratory bird, butterfly and pollinator habitat.
- Dwane Roth of Manhattan in Riley County. Roth owns Big D Farms near Holcomb 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 the 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 with reduced water usage.
- Z Bar Ranch of Lake City in Barber County. Managed by Keith and Eva Yearout and owned by Turner Enterprises, this ranch is a self-supporting enterprise managed under a philosophy of economic sustainability and ecological sensitivity with a focus on maximizing habitat potential for native species like the lesser prairie chicken. The ranch produces enough grass forage to sustain a 1,200 head bison herd. Improvements in water infrastructure, grazing management, and fire prescriptive have allowed range and soil health to recover from decades of uneven, season-long grazing.
The Kansas Leopold Conservation Award will be presented at the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts’ 75th Annual Convention in Wichita in November. The award recipient will receive $10,000 and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold.