Duane and Nancy Pelster of the Pelster Angus Ranch near Ericson have been awarded the 2014 Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award. The award, given out annually to private landowners who practice responsible land stewardship and management, was presented to the family recently in Lincoln at the Governor's office.
"Conservation on private land is something Nebraskans do very well and we all benefit from the work of private landowners who are preserving the natural beauty of our state," said Gov. Dave Heineman said in congratulating the couple.
The Leopold Conservation Award, named in honor of world-renowned conservationist and author Aldo Leopold, includes $10,000 and a Leopold crystal. Sand County Foundation, Nebraska Cattlemen and Cargill present the award annually in the state.
"As farmers and ranchers, it is our responsibility to preserve and protect the land for future generations," said Jeff Rudolph, president of Nebraska Cattlemen. "The Pelster family is an excellent example of ranchers who are committed to living as responsible stewards of the land."
The family takes pride in seeing the progress they have made in conservation. Located along the Cedar River in Garfield County, Pelster Angus Ranch focuses on responsible and sustainable land management for the benefit of the entire community.
Duane and Nancy Pelster are third generation owners of the ranch. Generations of the Malmstens, Nancy's family, slowly grew the ranch by preserving the natural integrity of the land, and they passed down the love of the land and the ethics of caring for it to their children. Nancy said her father's theory of land management was, "If you're good to the land, the land will be good to you and will take care of future generations."
The Pelsters use a rotational grazing and have on-going weed and red cedar control measures. Those practices combine to increase grass health and provide habitat for wildlife, including prairie chickens, deer and waterfowl. Leaving standing grass for nesting and fawning allows them to provide some limited sustainable hunting on the ranch. They've installed more than 25 miles of water pipeline.
They also have planted more than 80,000 coniferous trees for shelterbelts and windbreaks.
Duane works to mentor young ranchers and help them get started on their own operations.
In 2014, the Sand County Foundation will present Leopold Conservation Awards in Nebraska and eight other states. "The awards are presented to recognize extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation, inspire other landowners by example and provide a visible forum where leaders from the agricultural community are recognized as conservation leaders to groups outside of agriculture," said Brent Haglund, president of the foundation.