Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
The recipient of the 2012 Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award is the Buell family of Bassett. The award is given annually to private landowners who practice responsible land stewardship and management.
Each year as we prepare to celebrate Earth Day, we acknowledge the conservation efforts of Nebraska landowners, including this year's award recipients, the Buell family. More than ninety percent of Nebraska's land is used for farming and ranching. It is being well cared for by those who take on the responsibility of leaving things better for future generations. Conservation on private land is something Nebraskans do very well. We all benefit from the work of private landowners who are preserving the natural beauty of our state.
The Leopold Conservation Award is named in honor of world-renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold. Sand County Foundation, Nebraska Cattlemen and Cargill present the award annually to agricultural families in Nebraska.
The Buell family is part of the fabric of the Nebraska Sandhills. For nearly 130 years, they have ranched in the region, while caring for the land, water and wildlife that each Buell generation passed on to the next.
The Buell family's legacy in the Sandhills began when Benjamin Franklin Buell settled in the Sandhills in 1882 and began a ranch tradition that included the preservation and enhancement of the unique landscape of the Nebraska Sandhills. Today, the Buells' Shovel Dot Ranch is owned and managed by brothers Larry and Homer Buell and their wives, Nickie and Darla, respectively, who carry on the commitment to conservation they inherited from their predecessors.
The Buells continue to maintain and expand upon an environment in which water quality and the region's native plant life and animal habitat can flourish alongside livestock and crop production.
With the help of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) the family installed high tensile electric cross fencing and over fifty miles of pipeline, watering close to one hundred pastures. This allows for more effective cattle distribution, giving pastures more rest between grazing periods, which leads to improved recovery, better ground cover, and increased production.
Many of the Buells' management decisions are made to benefit wildlife habitat. Approximately fifty acres is fenced off around two lakes on their land to provide space for deer, turkey, swan, ducks, and geese. Abundant vegetation along two creeks on the ranch attracts several native wildlife species and trees are planted to provide windbreaks for cattle and habitat for turkey and deer.
Previous recipients of the Leopold Conservation Award in Nebraska include: the Mathewson family located in Cheyenne County in 2011; the Kalkowski Family Ranches located near Lynch in 2010; the Bluestem Valley Farms near Martell, owned and managed by the family of Lyle and Alice Sittler and Todd and Kristen Eggerling in 2009; A.B. Cox of Mullen in 2008; Rod and Amy Christen of Steinauer in 2007, and the Wilson Ranch in Lakeside in 2006.
In 2012, Sand County Foundation will present Leopold Conservation Awards in California, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The awards are presented to accomplish four objectives: First, they recognize extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation on the land of exemplary private landowners. Second, they inspire countless other landowners in their own communities through these examples. Third, they provide a visible forum where leaders from the agricultural community are recognized as conservation leaders to groups outside of agriculture. Finally, the award program brings representatives from agriculture, environmental organizations, government, industry and academia together to advance private land stewardship.