Six Regional Environmental Stewardship Awards Announced
WASHINGTON - Paul and Beth Wingard, owners of Sunrise Club Calves of Shippenville, Pennsylvania, have been selected as regional winners of the 2007 Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP). The Wingard family is one of this year’s regional ESAP winners nationwide.
The prestigious award program recognizes cattle producers across the nation who utilize innovative and extensive environmental stewardship practices on their operations. The program, now its 17th year, is administered by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and sponsored by Dow AgroSciences L.L.C. and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Sunrise Club Calves represents NCBA’s Region I, which includes nine states spanning from Kentucky to New York. They were nominated by Pennsylvania Cattlemen’s Association. The cow/calf operation specializes in producing club calves, which are calves purchased to be shown as project animals.
”The Wingards are dedicated to environmental stewardship and educating the many youth groups within their region about the importance of conservation and sustainability,” explains Dave Petty, Chairman of the selection committee. ”This family has taken proactive steps to ensure an environmentally sustainable operation while educating the leaders of tomorrow through field days, tours and their annual sale. They demonstrate how environmentally friendly practices can also make for a profitable business by positioning their customers for success.”
The farm has been in the family since 1942, when it was operated by Paul’s parents. In 1978, Paul and Beth purchased the operation and began to implement innovative conservation practices. As of today, the farm dedicates around 125 acres for grazing and has 200 leased acres for hay production and 25 acres of woodlots. Seventy cow/calf pairs and about 10 yearlings graze on the 125 acres, which are intensively managed with a small heard of boer goats utilized for weed control.
“The family’s innovative practices of using hog slats for river crossings and using boer goats for weed control and a source of additional income are excellent examples of stewardship that makes their operation sustainable,” explains Petty. “More than 15,000 ft. of high textile fencing has been installed to promote rotational grazing and to keep the cattle off of the stream corridors.”
The Wingards are currently participating in a Pennsylvania Growing Greener program that will help provide funding to stabilize areas where portable troughs are located by installing geotextile and crushed limestone. Sunrise Club Calves also partners with the PA Game Commission, the Farm/Game Project, which offers seedlings to be planted for wildlife food and cover and keeps the property open to public hunting and trapping.
“The environmental enhancements made throughout the many facets of their farm, make them a model for other farms and ranches to emulate,” says Petty.
The Wingard’s ongoing work with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the NRCS has allowed them to seek technical assistance planning and implementing water resources for both cattle and wildlife, reduce erosion, preserve pasture forage, woodland improvement, and animal waste management.
“A key point indicative of the Wingard’s commitment level is their endeavor to farm within the constraints imposed by nature rather than in spite of them,” says Timothy Elder, Grazing Specialist, NRCS.
The Wingards are actively involved in their local community and often open their farm to groups for educational tours. Paul and Beth are active in numerous associations and governing boards that assist in implementing sound environmental and conservation practices including the Pennsylvania Project Grass, Clarion County Graziers, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and local 4-H Clubs.
“What is good for the environment is also good for the farmer, his cattle, his neighbors and the rest of the planet,” explains the Wingards. “The great part is that with management intensive grazing we can raise cattle in a low cost manner that is not too labor intensive. It is healthy for the cattle, good for the environment and enjoyable for us.”
“This environmental stewardship award program acknowledges cattlemen who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to preserve natural resources,” says Petty. “For this Pennsylvania family, conservation is a family affair that is being passed on to the next generation of agriculturalists.”
Sunrise Club Calves is being recognized at the 2007 Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver, Colorado on July 18, 2007.
The Dee family of Aliceville, Alabama has been selected as one of the Regional Winners of the 2007 Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP). The national award program is administered by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and sponsored by Dow AgroSciences L.L.C. and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The award recognizes cattle producers across the nation who utilize innovative, cost effective stewardship practices that contribute to environmental conservation.
Located on the Alabama – Mississippi line, Dee River Ranch was nominated by the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association and represents NCBA’s Region II, which includes eight southeastern states spanning from Louisiana to North Carolina.
“The Dee family exhibits tremendous stewardship with regard to erosion management, forage preservation, crop implementation and water quality improvement,” explains Dave Petty, Chairman of the selection committee. “They’ve utilized the resources available to them to partner in developing stewardship and conservation goals and objectives.”
Dee River Ranch is a family owned and operated farming operation, run by Mike Dee and his sister Annie. The ranch includes 10,000 acres: 2,500 acres for forages and cattle, 4,000 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program, and 3,500 acres devoted to corn, wheat, and soybeans. In 1989, the Dee family sold their Florida ranch to the State of Florida as part of the “Save the Rivers” program and purchased their current operation.
Maintaining productive soils is a top priority on the Dee River Ranch, which is witnessed in the three components of their ranch: cropland; highly erodable, environmentally sensitive land; and hay/grazing land. Improvements in pasture management and implementation of erosion control practices have maintained valuable resources while maximizing production. On-surface water monitoring now indicates little if any soil erosion from pastures.
“The Dee family pays careful attention to the health of their pastures,” says Petty. “By keeping accurate and concise records, Dee River Ranch ensures that the pastures and crop land are sustainable for years to come.”
In cooperation with the NRCS and Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), Mike developed a comprehensive plan to reduce sedimentation and erosion and improve water quality that served as an example for fellow producers. Mike identified three types of high-use problem-causing areas: gates, water troughs, and working facilities. A combination of geo-textile cloth and gravel was applied around all water troughs and under all gates. In 2006, Mike completed construction of new working facilities away from surface water.
In addition, Mike incorporated cross-fencing on all pastures, and implemented an intensive rotational grazing program to preserve ground cover.
The Dee River Ranch has been home to many partnerships that include producer tours, educational studies and conservation programs. One of the greatest impacts they have on the cattle industry is their activity with the Alabama Rural Medicine Program. Dee Ranch serves as a learning laboratory for medical students enrolled in the University Of Alabama School Of Medicine.
“The extensive research and data collected on the ranch makes the Dee River Ranch an operation of influence and a model of innovation and cooperation,” says Petty. “Mike and Annie have developed a self-supporting ranching operation that incorporates the community and educational sector.”
Dee River Ranch’s experience in preventative moisture loss conservation practices has especially proved valuable this year, due to the severe drought in the southeastern U.S.
“Mike is truly one of those rare individuals who has the insight and motivation to make an environmental difference for his legacy to follow,” say Terry Williamson, NRCS District Conservationist. “He is never hesitant when asked to host a field day or training seminar for the surrounding producers in west Alabama and east Mississippi. The Dee River Ranch is a deserving operation that has an open-door policy and is always willing to share their knowledge and experiences.”
The Environmental Stewardship Award Program, now in its 17th year, is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences LLC and USDA’s NRCS and is administered by NCBA. Missouri Ranch Wins Top Environmental Award.
The Kreisler family of Oak Knoll Ranch in Salem, Missouri is one of the Regional Winners in the 17th annual Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP). The award program recognizes cattle operations that are proven stewards of the land, dedicated to natural resource conservation through the use of innovative, cost effective stewardship practices.
Located in south central Missouri, Oak Knoll Ranch was nominated by the Top of the Ozarks. They were selected from entries submitted within the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA)’s Region III, which includes Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“Our program acknowledges producers who realize the importance of stewardship and conservation, and recognizes operations like Oak Knoll Ranch for their efforts in these areas,” explains Dave Petty, Chairman of the selection committee. “The Kreisler family demonstrates how today’s cattle operations can utilize cooperative partnerships to problem-solve while maintaining an environmentally-friendly business.”
Leon and Helen Kreisler own and operate Oak Knoll Ranch, a 100 head cow/calf operation which runs on 360 owned acres and 120 acres on long-term lease. Their commercial Angus herd is ran on 380 acres of grass, and the remaining 100 acres are in timber production. In addition to the cattle and timber production, the Kreisler’s also provide limited hunting leases.
“The Kreislers set personal environmental and stewardship goals and then evaluate their effectiveness on a regular basis,” says Petty. “Their commitment to the land and their cattle is evident in their work ethic and commitment to do 100 percent of the labor on the farm. Their thirst for knowledge allowed them to build valuable partnerships for which they utilize today.”
A partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation provided the initial funding to set up a grazing system, years ago. They have spent years utilizing Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) technical assistance in designing a water system and prescribed burns. The Kreislers became one of the organizing members of the Advanced Graziers Group, a multi-county producer-driven network. Leon and Helen have solicited the knowledge of guest speakers and implemented a farm tour program within this group to actively learn more about potential conservation practices.
“Oak Knoll Ranch’s continued partnerships in the community in the efforts on environmental practices make them an exceptional representative for the industry,” say Petty. “Their participation in joint programs allowed the Kreislers to have an open farm approach to educating fellow producers and the community about the importance of agriculture and conservation.”
When designing their management intensive grazing system, water location and availability were limiting factors. Therefore, the Kreislers installed seven fountain waterers, five tire tanks, and two freeze-proof concrete waterers off two wells and thirteen ponds. All ponds are fenced to allow limited access. Due to the rotation of animals and non-confinement, manure is evenly distributed throughout the acreage. To provide wildlife habitat, Leon and Helen have diversified the forage base, installed a multitude of bluebird and purple martin birdhouses, and leave brush-piles from forestry thinning.
The Kreislers are proactively involved in local, regional, state, and even national leadership organizations to promote stewardship and conservation. The list is long. At the state level, Leon is Vice Chair of the Missouri Soil and Water District Commission, directing hundreds of state conservation districts. Leon is a leader on the Missouri Beef Council, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, and a long-term board member of the Missouri Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative Committee. Nationally, Leon represented Missouri producers on the U.S. Meat Export Federation for more than seven years.
“The Kreislers are very involved, and the environmental enhancements made throughout the Oak Knoll Ranch make it a model for other farms and ranches to emulate,” says Petty. “And many nearby ranchers are taking notice. Following the Kreisler’s lead, local area operators have adopted similar approaches to soil and water management.”
The family operation has been able to accomplish their goals of increasing their cattle herd while not increasing their acreage or fertilizer inputs. Utilizing the available resources, Oak Knoll Ranch only feeds hay for 20-40 days/year, and has diversified the forage base to support a variety of wildlife.
“The Kreislers have been very proactive in promoting sound grassland management that is economically viable and ecologically sustainable,” says Eric Bright, of the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative. “They are true stewards for both the cattle industry and conservation.”
Roaring Springs Ranch of Frenchglen, Oregon has been selected as one of seven Regional Winners in the 2007 Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP). The Annual ESAP Awards recognize ranchers who demonstrate innovative and cost-effective approaches to land stewardship on their working cattle operations.
Located in southeastern Oregon, Roaring Springs Ranch was selected to represent the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s (NCBA’s) Region V, which includes Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. They were nominated by the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.
“The Roaring Springs Ranch has proven their commitment to range and resource preservation on their Oregon cattle operation,” explains Dave Petty, Chairman of the selection committee. “We are honored to recognize them for their outstanding commitment to the land on which they operate and the community in which they reside. Not only does their commitment embody the true meaning of environmentalism, but it serves as an exceptional example for ranchers throughout the region and across the nation.”
Roaring Springs Ranch was purchased in 1992 by the Bob and Jane Sanders and Rob and Carla Sanders families. They have operated the ranch as a cow/calf-stocker operation, which sustains more than 6,200 head cow/calves, 150 horses, and harvests 2,500 acres of meadow hay and 1,200 acres of alfalfa. Roaring Springs Ranch’s operations utilize a total of 1,011,792 acres of diverse lands, including 249,798 deeded acres, 735,359 acres lease from the Bureau of Land Management, 22,000 acres of private leases, and 4,640 leased from the State of Oregon.
The Sanders’ family main goal for the operation, as implemented by Stacy Davies, Ranch Manager, is to be economically, ecologically and socially sustainable. The vast size and elevation variance of the ranch provides high-quality forage for year-round grazing. By matching the livestock production cycle with the native plant nutrition provided by stewardship efforts, they eliminate the use of stored feeds.
“One of the most important natural resources for Roaring Springs Ranch is the native range,” says Petty. “Their pioneering efforts in pasture management, prescribed burnings, reseeding efforts, dual purpose use on public lands and preservation of the Steen Mountains have become an example for public lands ranchers to follow.”
With a diverse ecosystem of forage and wildlife, Roaring Springs Ranch initiated and implemented the nationally recognized Catlow Valley Fishes Conservation Agreement, which sought to remove threats to the native fish species and reestablish them to their native range. Creating partnerships and cooperative agreements has become a major focus of the operation in stopping the spread of evasive species, improving wildlife habitat, educating future agriculturalists and implementing proper management techniques.
“Members of the Sanders family have been active supporters of stream restoration effort in southwestern Washington for years,” says Doc Hatfield with Country Natural Beef. “They purchased Roaring Springs in large part because of its ecological value.”
“Utilizing partnerships has helped the Roaring Springs Ranch become spokespeople for the environment, conservation and the cattle industry,” says Petty. “Mr. Davies and his crew understand what it takes to be stewards of the land. Roaring Springs Ranch makes full use of the ranching industry’s technological advances where operationally appropriate, but the basic operations are founded in traditional western methods that are not often seen in today’s livestock industry.”
Roaring Springs Ranch has managed environmental challenges that come with utilizing multi-use public lands. In cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management, the Roaring Springs Ranch instituted a prescribed fire program on over 100,000 acres to restore upland watershed health. This partnership has not only benefited the watershed, but has increased forage for wildlife and livestock.
“In my experience as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Aquatic Resources Coordinator for Oregon, I have observed no land and water stewardship in the state, on either public or private lands and waters, that comes close to the scale and scope of the Roaring Springs Ranch environmental stewardship efforts and successes,” says Doug Young, Aquatic Resources Coordinator for the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office. “I am now much more aware of a rancher’s economic and social costs to modifying livestock operations for environmental protection, and better understand the opportunities for balancing environmental protection and a rancher’s economic viability.”
“In all our experiences dealing with grazing management issues, we have never before encountered such a strong commitment to improve the land that has been demonstrated by the ranch owner and the ranch manager,” says Monty Montgomery, with the Izaak Walton League of America. “The many entities familiar with the history of the ranch are amazed with the results of their land-management ethics, resulting in tremendous improvement of watershed health, land productivity, and wildlife.”
The Stone families of Woodland, California are Regional Winners of the 2007 Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP). In its 17th year, the award program recognizes cattle operations that are proven stewards of the land, dedicated to natural resource conservation through the use of innovative, cost effective stewardship practices.
Located on the outskirts of Sacramento, California, the Yolo Land & Cattle Co. is a family-owned limited partnership. This cow/calf, stocker, and registered cattle operation was nominated by the California Cattlemen’s Association and the California Rangeland Trust. They were selected from entries submitted within the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA)’s Region VI, which includes California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Hawaii.
“Yolo Land & Cattle Co. has distinguished itself as a productive land and cattle operation in a location facing increased development pressure from urban sprawl,” says Dave Petty, Chairman of the selection committee. “This is an extremely diverse operation that has worked collaboratively with multiple local, state, and national groups to restore hundred of acres of grasslands, riparian habitat, and stock ponds with California native flora.”
Formed in 1976, Yolo Land & Cattle Co. was a partnership between Henry Stone and John Anderson. In 1983, the partnership was dissolved and Henry retained the headquarters, and soon after, his sons joined him in further developing and diversifying the operation. Yolo Land & Cattle Co. runs on deeded, leased and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres that encompass more than 12,000 total acres. The cattle division includes cow-calf, stocker, and registered cattle. They also operate a farming division including rinse water management, and the production of wheat, corn and hay crops.
“Yolo Land and Cattle is very highly respected and is willing to try new ideas,” says Nick Gallagher, a rangeland specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “They are some of the first pioneers to experiment with native grass seed and take the time to embrace the value of native plant restoration. Their knowledge and ability to adapt has allowed them to become great stewards of the land. Cattle graze according to a planned rotational grazing system that promotes rangeland health. The Stone family works to improve the land and leave it in better condition than when they received it.”
“To manage their operation, the Stones have developed an evaluation process that asks a series of five questions to help determine the feasibility and environmental impact of the new projects,” says Petty. “By answering these questions, the ranch can carefully determine the benefit of the project, educational value, research potential, economic viability and who can be involved in the implementation process. This evaluation process has served as a resource for other producers to use.”
A sampling of the projects that Yolo Land & Cattle Co. has implemented include: a Vegetative Management Plan (VMP), rotational grazing, grazing on CRP lands and invasive weed control. Partnering with the California Audubon Society and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection created the largest VMP in the state of California for the purpose of conducting annual spring grass burns and fall brush burns on a total 45,000 acres.
“Through their cooperation and educational measures with the state government, the Stones have been able to utilize CRP land for grazing while maintaining their CRP status, which is unusual,” says Petty. “By educating these governing bodies about the importance of using CRP acres, they have also been able to open many more doors for themselves and fellow producers in California.”
The Stone family has a long tradition of conservation work with the Yolo County Resource Conservation District and with USDA’s NRCS, as well as many other agencies and conservation organizations. They also have a long tradition of opening up their ranch for tours and conservation education opportunities.
“Yolo Land & Cattle Co. has opened their gates, quite literally, to thousands of people,” says Mary Kimball, executive director of the Center for Land-Based Learning, “including high school students, researchers, government employees, resource professionals, and the public. To top it all off, in 2006 they created the largest rangeland easement in Yolo County – over 6,000 acres were placed under easement by the California Rangeland Trust.”
Important measures that have assisted Yolo Land & Cattle Co. in their forage production and conservation efforts have included the clearing of a 30-acre parcel that was plagued with erosion and invasive weed problems. After eight years of cultivating the land, the parcel is a lush riparian area with native perennial vegetation, currently used a testing site for controlling annual grasses and invasive weeds. Carbon sequestration has been another focus of the Stones. Partnering with NRCS, UC Davis and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, the goal of the project is to measure the amount of carbon that is stored in the roots of perennial grasses and compare it to the amount of carbon stored in the roots of annual grasses. Upon test results, this data could greatly assist Yolo Land & Cattle Co. and fellow producers to diversify their operation.
“Rarely does one get to work with a family of farmers and ranchers as knowledgeable, progressive, and pleasant as the Stones,” says Stephen Jaouen, NRCS Range Management Specialist. “They have been an advocate of the environment and stewards of the land by pushing the conservation envelope on everything from native grass establishment, livestock pond enhancement, and prescribed fire.”
The Alexander Ranch of Sun City, Kansas has been selected as one of the regional recipients of the 2007 Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP). The annual award program recognizes cattle operations that are proven stewards of the land, dedicated to natural resource conservation through the use of innovative, cost-effective stewardship practices.
Located just a few miles north of the Oklahoma – Kansas line, the Alexander Ranch was nominated by the Comanche Pool Prairie Resource Foundation and selected from entries submitted within the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA)’s Region VII, which includes North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.
“Ted Alexander’s decades of dedication to the improvement of native lands in an area which was once a drastically over-grazed and under-watered deserves national recognition,” says Dave Petty, Chairman of the selection committee. “For Ted, improving and restoring the native forages is his number one goal. He has transformed a degraded ranch into a healthy and profitable ranch business.”
The ranch covers 7,000 acres and has flourished as a custom grazing operation for the past 23 years. Often stocking between 500-700 cow/calf pairs or 2,500 yearlings, the operation runs on a rotational grazing method. When beneficial to the management of the stockpiled forage, cattle are custom grazed during the winter months.
Environmental enhancements to the land include removal of invasive Eastern Red Cedar trees, development of livestock water sources, improvement of forage productivity, and increasing the native plant and wildlife diversity. The ranch is divided into three grazing cells, each consisting of smaller paddocks of acreage.
“The paddock system utilized by the Alexander Ranch has allowed them to continually improve the pastures and to operate with the environment in mind,” says Petty. “Cattle are able to flourish because of the range improvements and stewardship practices. In addition, the ranch has enhanced and developed several innovative water systems.”
Partnering with several agencies, the Alexander Ranch leveraged resources to optimize the land’s environmental capabilities. The ranch works with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and recently utilized the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to install a water system to expand the grazing system.
Additionally, a cooperative effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks is key to many of Alexander Ranch’s accomplishments. The ranch is home to many wildlife and aquatic species that are candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As a result of the partnership, the Alexander Ranch was able to enhance water developments, incorporate native forbs on the old cropped areas and expand the grazing system.
“Many leaders in the grazing land industry have sought Ted’s experience to test grazing drought management models due to his own implementation of a drought plan which keeps him on target – that target being the sustainability of the native rangeland resource with which he is entrusted,” says David Kraft, Rangeland Management Specialist with USDA’s NRCS.
The culmination of the Alexander Ranch’s grazing lands management practices has contributed to an increase in stocking rates of over 100 percent from the 1984 level, maintained individual animal performance, and increased the pounds of beef produced per acre while upholding the management goals to improve water quality, water quantity, soil health and native rangelands. Ted’s stewardship practices do not go unnoticed; he has received the Society for Range Management’s Excellence in Grazing Management Award, the Kansas Association of Conservation District’s Grasslands Award, and the Farmer/Rancher Wildlife Conservationist Award from the Kansas Wildlife Federation.
The Alexander Ranch has also entered into an agreement called a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA).
A CCAA is a written guarantee with the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to address the conservation needs of a species, before they become listed as endangered or threatened. The participants voluntarily commit to implementing specific actions that will remove or reduce the threats to these species, thereby contributing to stabilizing or restoring the species.
“The efforts of Ted Alexander and the Alexander Ranch are truly a success story,” continues Kramos. “This story can be considered a model for ranchers wishing to manage a profitable ranching business while maintaining a strong environmental ethic.”
“Off the ranch, Ted’s lead-by-example approach to life has proven to be a tremendous benefit to the local ranching community, as well as across the state of Kansas,” says Greg Kramos, Acting Kansas Private Lands Coordinator with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Environmental Stewardship Award Program, now in its 17th year, is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences LLC and USDA’s NRCS and is administered by NCBA. The 2007 National Winner will be selected from of the ESAP Regional Winners and revealed at the 2008 Cattle Industry Convention in Reno, Nevada next February. For additional information, contact NCBA’s Washington D.C. office at 202-347-0228.