Sand County Foundation in partnership with Western AgCredit, Utah Farm Bureau Federation, and the Utah Cattlemen’s Association are proud to name Fred Thurston as the recipient of the prestigious Utah Leopold Conservation Award®. Mr. Thurston owns a cattle ranch in Weber River Valley, Morgan County where his great grandfather settled.   Mr. Thurston received a crystal award and $10,000 at the Utah Farm Bureau Federation’s recent Annual Convention in Layton.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. It inspires other landowners through these examples and provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders. 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.”

Fred utilizes and promotes innovative and resilient methods to maintain land health and enhance productivity, often at his own expense. An early-adapter, he has participated and partnered with agencies to test, develop and implement practices that protect and enhance land, water and wildlife resources. Partnering with Utah Department of Natural Resources and Trout Unlimited, he rehabilitated nearly a mile of the Weber River to benefit his own ranch business, as well as neighboring ranches, native fish and other habitat. Gullies were converted to grassy waterways to manage water flow and erosion while growing forage.

Thurston collects all of the manure from his corrals, in addition to manure from the 2,000 female mink enterprise to spread on the farm fields to enhance the crop growth.  The concrete corral walls also prevent effluent from reaching the creek. Installation of water systems and realignment of many miles of fences further protect the creek. He actively promotes and demonstrates conservation principles with sportsmen, youth and other agriculturalists through leadership in organizations and by sharing the ranch for fishing and hunting and youth events.

“Western AgCredit congratulates Fred Thurston for winning this prestigious award in recognition of his impressive conservation efforts on his ranch. Conservationist Aldo Leopold challenged stewards of the land to ‘Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and aesthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient.’ Fred has achieved this critical balance,” says David Brown, CEO of Western AgCredit.

“We are extremely proud of the Fred Thurston family and the pride they take in the land and natural resources in their care,” said Ron Gibson, President of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation. “Fred is an example of the conservation ethic found in many of Utah’s farmers and ranchers, and we salute them for their efforts. We’re proud of his work on proactively managing the delicate balance of livestock, wildlife, and our natural resources.”

It is exciting to see the passion, along with the individual effort, innovation and investment over the years that landowners put towards good stewardship. Fred and his family have a rich history of improving the land that is an example to others,” said Brent Tanner, Executive Vice President, Utah Cattlemen's Association.

The Leopold Conservation Award in Utah is made possible through the support of Western AgCredit, Producers Livestock Marketing, The Nature Conservancy, Utah Association of Conservation Districts, Utah Cattlemen’s Association, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, Utah Farm Bureau Federation, and Utah Wool Growers Association.

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The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. The award consists of $10,000 and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold. Sand County Foundation presents Leopold Conservation Awards in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.


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.


Western AgCredit is the leader within the agricultural finance industry with over 90 years of lending to farmers in the Intermountain West. It currently serves approximately 1,700 customers with a full range of credit and financial services, as well as providing financial and volunteer support to several agricultural and community activities, including, among others, Utah Farm Bureau, Utah Cattlemen’s Association, FFA and 4-H.


The Utah Farm Bureau is the largest general farm and ranch organization in the state with more than 32,000 member families. Its mission is to ‘Inspire all Utah families connect, succeed and grow through the ‘Miracle of Agriculture’. Learn more at


The Utah Cattlemen’s Association (UCA) has represented Utah cattle producers since 1870, preserving the heritage and strength of the industry through education and public policy and by supporting and establishing the adoption of good principles of raising and marketing cattle and caring for the land we ranch on. Efforts are made possible through membership contributions.