Governor Pete Ricketts joined the Sand County Foundation and the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (AFAN) to announce the Sundstrom Family’s Broken Box Ranch as the recipient of the 2019 Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award®. The annual award honors Nebraska landowner achievement in voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources.
“Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers are the original conservationists,” said Governor Ricketts. “Congratulations to the Sundstrom family on this great honor. Their work at the Broken Box Ranch demonstrates how private landowners consistently help feed the world while caring for and conserving the land and habitat they utilize every year. People like the Sundstrom family are helping set the standard for farmers and ranchers across our state and the nation.”
The prestigious award, given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation and management of natural resources by American ranchers, farmers, and foresters in 13 states. Governor Ricketts presented Russ, Angela, and Cheyenne Sundstrom with a $10,000 award and a ranch sign recognizing them as Leopold Conservation Award recipients at a special ceremony in the Nebraska State Capitol. In Nebraska, the award is presented by Sand County Foundation, the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (AFAN), Cargill, and the Nebraska Environmental Trust.
“The Sundstroms are an excellent example of the care Nebraska farmers and ranchers put into their land,” said Steve Martin, Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (AFAN) Executive Director. “What really impressed us is not only what they’ve implemented on their own ranch, but their willingness to share the lessons they’ve learned with others. That spirit of cooperation is fundamental to continuing to improve our stewardship of the natural resources that support our number one industry: agriculture.”
“The Nebraska Environmental Trust is proud to be part of the annual Leopold Conservation Award in Nebraska recognizing families that do so much for conservation like the Sundstroms,” said Mark Brohman, Nebraska Environmental Trust Executive Director. “The Sundstroms have removed hundreds of acres of eastern redcedars on their land and thousands of acres in the region with their local prescribed burn association. Their burning and grazing practices have had very beneficial impacts to wildlife and cattle.”
“Devotion to finding balance between production and conservation in agriculture is tireless, and often unappreciated work,” said Sammy Renteria, General Manager of Cargill in Schuyler. “Cargill is proud to support the recognition of the Sundstroms through the Leopold Conservation Award. Their devotion to their land is evident by their efforts to reduce invasive cedar trees, and provide quality habitat for wildlife and livestock.”
The Leopold Conservation Award in Nebraska is made possible thanks to the generous contributions from Cargill, Nebraska Environmental Trust, Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska, Farm Credit Services of America, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, Sandhills Task Force, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, Audubon Nebraska, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, Lyle Sittler Memorial Fund, McDonald’s, World Wildlife Fund – Northern Great Plains, and Green Cover Seed.
ABOUT THE SUNDSTROM FAMILY’S RANCH NEAR MOOREFIELD
The Sundstroms are land stewards committed to productive, restorative, and sustainable conservation practices on one of Nebraska’s biologically unique landscapes. The native prairie rangelands, hardwood trees, flowering plants, and abundant wildlife found on their ranch in the Loess Canyons are testaments to their conservation ethic.
The soil beneath the scenic, hilly landscape is highly-erodible. However, Russ Sundstrom’s proactive use of prescribed burning and innovative grazing techniques have nursed back the once-tired pastures and cropland that he bought from others. Productive rangeland with diverse vegetation results in quality forage for his beef cattle, and provides an oasis for wildlife including more than 250 species of birds.
Not only has Russ removed hundreds of acres of invasive cedar trees from his Broken Box Ranch, but he and his brother Neil, cooperate and educate neighbors on conservation land management issues. They volunteer with the Loess Canyons Prescribed Burn Association, a landowner-led effort to burn invasive species from the rugged canyon landscape.
Russ is a skillful grazing manager who uses an innovative style of rotational grazing of his beef cattle. He intensely mob grazes an area to rid it of invasive species. This welcomes native vegetation to return to the landscape during the year-long rest period that follows. Intensive mob grazing around an area designated for a burn also reduces the risk of fire escape.
When Broken Box Ranch was accepted recently as a Rangeland Health Demonstration Ranch, it was further evidence of Russ’ leadership and innovation. He will be responsible for collecting data and monitoring effects of various management strategies and their impacts on wildlife, beef production, and soil and plant health. This community-driven landowner will then share his findings through public access and tours of the property.
The Sundstroms share large swaths of their ranch with the public through its enrollment in the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission’s Open Fields and Waters Program. Public hunting access provides wildlife population management of turkey, deer, prairie chickens, quail, and elk, while other areas are managed for endangered species. In addition, he has established 20 acres of flowering pollinator habitat for bees and butterflies. Sometimes conservation success comes from what you don’t do to the landscape. They do not aerially apply herbicides or insecticides out of concern that it will kill non-target species. Instead, they spot spray for noxious weeds only.
Russ has a sharp pencil when it comes to knowing the economic impacts of his decisions on his business. His tireless devotion to leaving the landscape better than he found it is making a positive impact on his ranch and far beyond the Loess Canyons.
ABOUT THE LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD
The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. The award consists of a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold and $10,000. Sand County Foundation presents Leopold Conservation Awards in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org for more information.
ABOUT SAND COUNTY FOUNDATION
Sand County Foundation is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to working with private landowners across North America to advance ethical and scientifically sound land management practices that benefit the environment. Visit www.sandcountyfoundation.org for more information.
ABOUT AFAN (Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska)
AFAN was formed in 2005 by the leading agricultural organizations in Nebraska to conduct outreach, promotion and provide information to consumers about Nebraska agriculture and where their food comes from. In 2015, these organizations saw another need, advancing livestock development and agriculture and food processing businesses in Nebraska. Since then AFAN has been primarily focused on encouraging the development of livestock and working with communities and Nebraska leaders to create opportunities for industries that add value to Nebraska’s agricultural output and energize the economy.
Cargill provides food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services to the world. Together with farmers, customers, governments and communities, we help people thrive by applying our insights and 150 years of experience. We have 149,000 employees in 70 countries who are committed to feeding the world in a responsible way, reducing environmental impact and improving the communities where we live and work. We are passionate about our goal to be the global leader in nourishing people and operating responsibly across the agricultural, food, industrial and financial markets we serve.
ABOUT THE NEBRASKA ENVIRONMENTAL TRUST
The Nebraska Environmental Trust was established in 1992 to conserve, enhance, and restore the natural environments of Nebraska. It was created on the conviction that a prosperous future is dependent upon a sound natural environment and that Nebraskans could collectively achieve real progress on real environmental issues if seed money were provided.