Sand County Foundation, the nation’s leading voice for private conservation, created the Leopold Conservation Award to inspire American landowners by recognizing exceptional farmers, ranchers and foresters. The prestigious award, named in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, is given in 14 states.
Ercanbrack Livestock is operated by Ed and Dixie Ercanbrack, and their adult children, Dane and Dusty. The family works together at making their land productive by targeting areas in need of water, regeneration and soil support. They were revealed as the award recipient at the Utah Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting in Layton. They were presented with a $10,000 award and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold.
Ercanbrack Livestock’s story began amid the Great Depression with a hearty handshake and $12 an acre on the front steps of the Summit County Courthouse. Since then, four generations of ranchers have ridden the same trails and shared a passion for the land.
A variety of range management projects have improved the quality of wildlife habitat, pastures for beef cattle, and the ranch’s many springs and ponds. By restoring native grasses and the health of the soil, they are reversing damage from decades of sheep grazing and coal mining. Prescribed rotational grazing lowers the threat of wildfire, as native grasses and vegetation are allowed to reseed, producing healthier forests.
Cattle watering facilities have been retrofitted so birds and bats can safely drink. Supplying a clean water supply benefits the performance of livestock and wildlife.
The vegetation, warm coal soils, and cliffs found at a reclaimed coal mine provides unique habitat for wildlife. With an influx of elk, deer, ruffed grouse, mountain lions, bobcats and bear, the 2,400-acre ranch offers limited big game hunting to others.
A Forest Stewardship Plan was developed with the Utah Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. It encourages regeneration of aspen tree groves, and eradicates musk and Canadian thistles, and other invasive species.
Conservation of grazing land works hand-in-hand with success in the cattle business. Two generations of Ercanbracks are achieving more profit with fewer cattle, by adopting innovative practices (like a fence-line weaning system) while seeking niche markets for their Angus and Simmental cattle.
The Ercanbracks host youth groups on their ranch, have participated in pro-conservation videos for fellow ranchers and consumers, and advocated for conservation issues to legislators and agricultural organizations.
“Give to the land, it will give back” is more than just a motto for those who live and work at Ercanbrack Livestock.
“Western AgCredit congratulates Ed Ercanbrack for winning this prestigious award in recognition of his impressive conservation efforts on his ranch. Conservationist Aldo Leopold challenges stewards of the land: ‘Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and aesthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient.’ Ed has achieved this critical balance,” said David Brown, Western AgCredit President.
“We are extremely proud of the Ercanbrack family and the pride they take in the land and natural resources in their care,” said Ron Gibson, Utah Farm Bureau Federation President. “They represent the conservation ethic found in Utah’s farmers and ranchers, and we salute them for their efforts.”
“It is exciting to see the passion, along with the amount of effort and investment that landowners put towards good land stewardship. Ed and his family have a rich history of caring for the land and water resources, and of encouraging others” said Brent Tanner, Utah Cattlemen's Association Executive Vice President.
Among the many outstanding Utah landowners nominated for the award were finalists: Basque Cross Ranch of Park Valley, and JY Ferry & Son, Inc. of Corinne.
The 2017 recipient was Fed Thurston of Morgan.
The Leopold Conservation Award in Utah is made possible thanks to the generous contributions from Western AgCredit, Utah Farm Bureau Federation, Utah Cattlemen’s Association, Utah Association of Conservation Districts, The Nature Conservancy, Utah Wool Growers Association, Producers Livestock Marketing Association, and the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
For more information on the award, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.
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Matt Hargreaves, Utah Farm Bureau
Casey Langan, Sand County Foundation
608.663.4605 ext. 32, email@example.com