PIERRE - The Wisconsin-based conservation organization Sand County Foundation, in partnership with the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association and the South Dakota Grassland Coalition, has chosen the Mortenson family of Stanley County as the recipient of the 2011 Leopold Conservation Award in South Dakota.
The Mortenson brothers have embraced the management approach begun by their father and continue to expand upon his vision, said Brent Haglund, president, Sand County Foundation. Their innovative methods for grassland, water and wildlife management are truly exceptional. The Mortensons are an example of how a conservation philosophy can be successfully passed along from one generation to the next.
At the end of the 1940s, Clarence Mortenson began to wonder how all of the water originating on his ranch could be kept there for use over an extended period of time. This idea sparked his effort to restore the ranch to its natural state. His sons, Todd, Jeff, and Curt, who currently operate Mortenson Ranch, have embraced Clarence's vision. In the 1980's, Todd learned about holistic management that moves cattle across the land similar to the movement of buffalo herds. In the spring, the herds graze on grasses in riparian areas while stamping seeds into the ground to help establish trees and grasses. In summer, the cattle are moved to the uplands. In the 1990s, researchers observed a substantial increase in native tree and shrub species along the ranch's streams, as well as an impressive increase in wildlife populations. In addition, the Mortensons' efforts have led to a significant decrease in sediment flowing through creeks on the ranch. Due to practices like these, the family has come a long way since Clarence began his quest. More than 90 percent of the 19,000-acre ranch is back to native grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees.
The $10,000 Leopold Conservation Award will be presented to the Mortensons at the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association's Annual Convention on December 7 in Pierre. Anyone interested in learning more about the Leopold Conservation Award in South Dakota is invited to attend. Please RSVP by November 29 by calling 605-945-2333 or e-mailing email@example.com.
The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. The award consists of an Aldo Leopold crystal and a check for $10,000.