Three finalists have been selected for the prestigious Montana Leopold Conservation Award®.
Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land.
Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 27 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In Montana, the $10,000 award is presented with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and the Rangeland Resources Committee.
“For generations, Montana’s farmers and ranchers have been dedicated stewards of our land and water resources,” said Governor Greg Gianforte. “Through the Leopold Conservation Award, we recognize the farmer, rancher, or forested landowner who has set the standard as a caretaker of our working landscapes.”
The finalists are:
- Goggins Ranch of Ennis in Madison County: Goggins Ranch is two properties owned and managed by family members Pat Goggins, Janet Goggins Endecott, and Rachel Endecott. They’ve established a diversity of plant species along the riparian areas of two perennial streams to provide habitat for fish, aquatic and pollinator insect species, migratory birds, and wild game. They invest in water conservation practices that maximize forage production for their beef cattle and minimize waste of irrigation water.
- Kurt and PJ Myllymaki of Stanford in Judith Basin County: The Myllymakis use cover crops to graze their beef cattle and to improve soil health. Wind and water erosion are greatly reduced when soil is continuously covered with a living crop. Having the option to graze cover crops gives their native rangeland pastures more time to rest. Wildlife populations have increased in diversity and numbers with the improved wildlife habitat and winter cover that cover crops and healthy rangeland provide.
- Peterson Angus Ranch of Drummond in Granite County: Randy and Sue Peterson’s approach to land management prioritizes stewardship of soils, native grasslands, wetlands, forests, and other high quality wildlife habitat on their cattle ranch in the Flint Creek Valley. They employ rotational grazing to distribute livestock across their land. Known for its high-quality wildlife habitat, the Peterson Angus Ranch is part of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ reintroduction effort of the sharp-tailed grouse.
Earlier this year, Montana landowners were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders.
The award recipient will be recognized at the Montana Range Tour on July 6. Last year’s recipient was Pete and Meagan Lannan’s Barney Creek Livestock of Livingston in Park County.
The Montana Leopold Conservation Award is made possible through the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Rangeland Resources Committee, Sand County Foundation, Sibanye-Stillwater, TC Energy, AgWest Farm Credit, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, C Lazy J Livestock Inc., Ducks Unlimited, Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, McDonald’s, Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Ranchers Stewardship Alliance, Soil and Water Conservation Society, Western Sustainability Exchange, and World Wildlife Fund.
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.”
“These award finalists are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO.
“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Montana award finalists,” said John Piotti, AFT President and Chief Executive Officer. “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.”
For more information on the award, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org