The Christen family of Steinauer, in southeast Nebraska, has been named the 2007 recipients of the Leopold Conservation Award.
The Nebraska Cattlemen, in collaboration with Wisconsin-based Sand County Foundation, sponsor the program in Nebraska.
Family members will be recognized Nov. 29 during the Nebraska Cattlemen Convention & Trade Show in Kearney.
Rod and his wife, Amy, together with Rod's father, Richard, and sister, Kay, run a 275-head cow/calf operation. Their operation has grown and evolved over the years, but the idea of being good to the land so that it will be good to you and future generations will not change. Changing their grazing management, moving the calving date later, adding stockpiled grass and cross fencing, and developing multiple water sources have increased the productivity of their land and contributed to increased revenue.
Says Rod, "We used to ask ourselves, 'Can we afford to do this?' Now we ask the question, 'Can we afford not to?'"
"I know all of the nominated ranches and each is certainly deserving of the recognition of effort this award provides," says Jay Wolf, immediate past NC president from Albion. "We are proud, and everyone in Nebraska can be, to have the Christens represent the commitment to conservation cattle producers across this state have."
David Allen, Sand County Foundation vice president of operations, says judges had a difficult task of recommending a winner from among the highly qualified nominations.
"All of the nominations were strong," he says. "While they each represent Nebraska well, perhaps the item that helped the Christens get named as this year's winner is the commitment at their young age to sharing their ideas and successes with others, from fellow producers to school children."
Nominations were evaluated and finalists selected by a panel of judges consisting of: Bobbie Kriz-Wickam, Nebraska Department of Agriculture; David Sands, Nebraska Land Trust; Jim Van Winkle, Sand Hills Task Force; and Mark Brohman, Nebraska Environmental Trust. Sand County Foundation chose the final winner.
Given in honor of Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award consisting of $10,000 and a Leopold crystal, recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In his book, A Sand County Almanac (1949), Aldo 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."
Sand County Foundation (www.sandcounty.net) is a private, non-profit conservation group dedicated to working with private landowners to improve habitat on their land. The organization backs local champions and places incentives before regulation to create solutions that endure and grow. The organization encourages the exercise of private responsibility in the pursuit of improved land health. In 2007, Sand County Foundation will present Leopold Conservation Awards in five other states: California, Colorado, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.