WICHITA, Kan — Ted Alexander of Sun City has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Kansas Leopold Conservation Award®.
Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes those who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife resources in their care.
Ted Alexander was presented with $10,000 and a crystal award at the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts’ 75th Annual Convention in Wichita on November 25.
“Ted has been a leader in using innovative grazing systems to manage his rangeland and has willingly shared his knowledge and experiences with others. The Kansas Association of Conservation Districts is proud that this long-time conservation district supervisor is being recognized for his stewardship as the recipient of the 2019 Leopold Conservation Award,” said Dan Meyerhoff, KACD Executive Director.
“Ted is an exemplary conservationist of the grassland ecosystem: plants, animals, soil, insects and humans. He’s always been big-picture minded and had a passion for collaborating with others,” said Cade Rensink, Ranchland Trust of Kansas Chairman.
“Leopold Conservation Award recipients are at the forefront of a movement by America’s farmers and ranchers to simultaneously achieve economic and environmental success,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer.
Earlier this year, Kansas landowners were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders. Among the many outstanding Kansas landowners nominated for the award were finalists: Vance and Louise Ehmke of Healy in Lane County, Dwane Roth of Manhattan in Riley County, and Z Bar Ranch of Lake City in Barber County.
In 2015 the first Kansas Leopold Conservation Award was presented to Sproul Ranch of Sedan. Last year’s recipient was Hoeme Family Farm and Ranch of Scott City.
The Leopold Conservation Award in Kansas is made possible thanks to the generous support of Kansas Association of Conservation Districts, Ranchland Trust of Kansas, Ducks Unlimited, Farm Credit Associations of Kansas, ITC Great Plains, Evergy, Clean Line Energy Partners, Kansas Department of Agriculture (Division of Conservation), Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism; Kansas Forest Service, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, McDonald’s, and The Nature Conservancy in Kansas.
In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, 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 presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 20 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. For more information, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.
ABOUT TED ALEXANDER
Ted Alexander took over the Skinner Family Ranch in 1984. The young rancher was challenged with making a business out of overgrazed land covered with invasive Eastern Red Cedar trees.
His goal of maximizing production and maintaining economic viability while existing harmoniously with nature would guide him in making the ranch environmentally and economically sustainable.
Beef cattle were raised with a rotational grazing system and new piping delivered their drinking water. Thousands of acres of cedars were cut or burned. Such ideas were not widely embraced at the time. Yet his vision for the landscape not only took root, it flourished.
Rotational grazing allowed him to increase the size of his herd, while bolstering the sandy soil’s ability to handle what Mother Nature threw at it. Fewer cedar trees meant less competition for water and sunlight, which stimulated the growth of desirable forages and improved water quality in creeks. With an improved water cycle, springs and intermittent streams that had been dry for decades began to flow again.
After attending a ranch management course, Ted developed and implemented one of the first written drought plans for a Kansas ranch. Today, his management style continues to evolve with his son, Brian. They’ve embraced conservation practices that help the ranch’s profitability, soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat.
Nearly half of all known reptile and amphibian species in Kansas are found on the ranch, including the threatened red spotted toad. Rare species from pallid bats and Arkansas darters to Lesser Prairie-Chickens have all made a comeback on the ranch. Ecology diversity is thriving as well. Researchers have documented more than 160 plants on Alexander Ranch (compared to an average of 100 or less on other area ranches). Alexander Ranch has displayed resiliency since being scorched by a 2016 wildlife that burned 450,000 acres in Barber County.
Ted mentors university students and young ranchers, and was a founding member of the Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition and Kansas Prescribed Fire Council. He was instrumental in forming the rancher-led, Comanche Pool Prairie Resource Foundation, dedicated to the improvement of native prairies while maintaining the economic viability of ranches in the Red Hills. He received the National Private Lands Stewardship Award from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in 2011.
“Ted practices simple, innovative, and ethical methods of range management, and he considers it a personal responsibility to bring awareness of this philosophy to a broader audience,” said Christopher Sheil, a biology professor who brings his students to Alexander Ranch.
It is for his outreach efforts while successfully balancing the needs of the soil, water, livestock and wildlife in his care that he receives the Leopold Conservation Award.
LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD PROGRAM
The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. Sand County Foundation presents the award in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont). www.leopoldconservationaward.org
SAND COUNTY FOUNDATION
Sand County Foundation inspires and enables a growing number of private landowners to ethically manage natural resources in their care, so future generations have clean and abundant water, healthy soil to support agriculture and forestry, plentiful habitat for wildlife and opportunities for outdoor recreation. www.sandcountyfoundation.org
KANSAS ASSOCIATION OF CONSERVATION DISTRICTS
The Kansas Association of Conservation Districts is a voluntary, non-governmental, non-profit, incorporated organization composed of members from the conservation districts located throughout Kansas’ 105 counties. Through partnerships with federal, state and local entities, the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts has brought together groups that share the common goal of wise and efficient conservation practices that protect Kansas’ natural resources. The Kansas Association of Conservation Districts promotes and supports the establishment of programs dedicated to conservation and the organized development of Kansas land, water and related resources. www.kacdnet.org
RANCHLAND TRUST OF KANSAS
The Ranchland Trust of Kansas is a private, non-profit organization founded by members of the Kansas Livestock Association in 2003. The organization was created to provide assistance to rancher and landowners who desire to conserve their land with conservation easements. Guided by their mission to preserve Kansas’ ranching heritage and open spaces for future generations through the conservation of working landscapes, the Ranchland Trust of Kansas values a commitment to conservation, respect for private landownership, integrity, organizational excellence and collaboration with those who share their values. The Ranchland Trust of Kansas remains an affiliate of the Kansas Livestock Association. www.ranchlandtrustofkansas.org