Earlier this year, Utah Farm Bureau announced the finalists for the 2018 Leopold Conservation Award. During the 2018 Utah Farm Bureau Federation meeting, Ercanbrack Livestock of Coalville, Utah, was selected as this year’s recipient.
The Leopold Conservation award was created by the Sand County Foundation to inspire American landowners by recognizing exceptional farmers, ranchers and foresters. The award was named in honor of Aldo Leopold, a well-known conservationist, and is given in 14 states.
In Utah, the $10,000 award is presented by the Sand County Foundation, Western AgCredit, Utah Farm Bureau Federation and Utah Cattlemen’s Association.
Ercanbrack Livestock’s story started during the Depression, with a handshake deal for a purchase of land at $12 per acre. Since that purchase, four generations of ranchers have ridden the land’s trails and shared a passion for the operation.
Today, the operation is run by Ed and Dixie Ercanbrack and their adult children, Dane and Dusty. The family works at making the land productive by targeting areas in need of water, regeneration and soil support. In addition to the $10,000 award, they received a crystal depiction of Leopold.
As part of its work on the operation, the family has engaged a range of management projects that have improved wildlife habitat, beef cattle pastures and the ranch’s springs and ponds. By restoring native grasses and concentrating on soil health, the family is working to reverse decades of damage caused by sheep grazing and coal mining. Prescribed rotational grazing also lowers the threat of wildfires, as native grasses and vegetation are allowed to reseed, producing healthier forests.
Here are some of the projects in which Ercanbrack Livestock has engaged to restore the land:
• Cattle watering facilities were retrofitted so birds and bats can safely drink. Those clean water supplies also benefit performance of livestock and wildlife.
• Vegetation, warm coal soils and cliffs found at a reclaimed coal mine offer unique habitat for wildlife. And 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, developed with the Utah Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, encourages regeneration of aspen tree groves. The work also eradicates musk and Canada thistles, and helps limit other invasive species.
Putting land to work
While conservation is important to the operation, the Ercanbrack family’s work has also improved the financial health of the business. Conservation and grazing land has helped the cattle business.
Two generations of Ercanbracks see more profit with fewer cattle by adopting innovative practices, such as a fence-line weaning system. In addition, they work to seek niche markets for their Angus and Simmental cattle.
And they’re working to tell agriculture’s story by hosting youth groups on the ranch. The family has also participated in pro-conservation videos for fellow ranchers and consumers, and it has advocated for conservation issues to legislators and ag organizations.
Sponsoring groups for the Leopold Award shared their thoughts on the recipients:
“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, the finalists were Basque Cross Ranch of Park Valley, and JY Ferry & Son Inc. of Corinne.
The 2017 recipient was Fred Thurston of Morgan.
The Leopold Conservation Award in Utah is made possible thanks to 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 leopoldconservationaward.org and view the video below.
Source: Utah Farm Bureau Federation