This spring I had the pleasure of meeting a family that is helping conserve the wide open spaces, ranch and farm land that are part of Nebraska's natural resources.
Each year, the Nebraska Cattlemen join with the Sand County Foundation in honoring the work of a private landowner involved in caring for the land, water and wildlife in this state. Honorees are presented with the Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award. Named for the noted conservationist and writer Aldo Leopold, the award is presented to landowners who practice responsible land stewardship and management.
This year's award will be presented later this year to the Kalkowski Family Ranches, near Lynch which was started by the late Larry Kalkowski and his wife, Kay Lynn Kalkowski. He purchased his first 160 acres in 1957 and over the years the family expanded the main ranch to extend to areas along the Niobrara River.
For 53 years, the Kalkowski family has owned land in Boyd County and today the family ranches are managed by Larry and Kay Lynn Kalkowski's four sons and their families, who visited the State Capitol for the announcement that they were the recipients of the 2010 Leopold Conservation Award. Their family includes nearly two dozen parents and children who live and work in different communities but return to the family's ranches in Boyd County to plant trees, repair fences, care for cattle, and preserve the natural beauty of north central Nebraska.
As the ranches expanded, land was cleared and restored by removing old homesteads, buildings and fences. Terraces and berms were added, ditches reshaped and the ground has been reseeded with native grasses. land that had previously been farmed for many years was returned to natural grassland. Larry Kalkowski was a pioneer in rotating pastures, which has been expanded by the Kalkowski family who have added prescribed burns as another land management tool.
The family's story and commitment to preserving the land, water, trees, and wildlife is truly worthy of recognition. It was clear from meeting and talking with Kay Lynn and her family that they take their responsibility as caretakers of the land very seriously. They strive to be good stewards and are passing that legacy on to a third generation of Kalkowski's.
Approximately 93 percent of Nebraska's total land area is privately owned. I applaud the work of the Nebraska Cattlemen and the many sponsors of this award program for honoring the commitment to maintaining Nebraska's natural resources for the benefit of our residents and future generations.
Our state's farmers and ranchers have a good story to tell. Conservation is something Nebraskans have done very well for many years. The Leopold Award is one way to share the story of how Nebraska families are preserving the natural resources of our great state. It is an opportunity to honor agricultural leaders for their conservation efforts.
I congratulate the Kalkowski family and the previous recipients of the Leopold Award in Nebraska on their successful partnership, and I thank them for passing on a strong tradition of good stewardship.