The Mortenson Family, Ft. Pierre, S.D., will receive the 2011 Leopold Conservation Award in South Dakota.
The award carries a $10,000 prize and is given by the Wisconsin based Sandy County Foundation, a conservation organization. In South Dakota it is presented in partnership with the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association and the South Dakota Grassland Coalition and many sponsors.
"The Mortenson brothers have embraced the management approach begun by their father and continue to expand upon his vision," says Brent Haglund, president, Sand County Foundation. "Their innovative methods for grassland, water and wildlife management are truly exceptional. The Mortensons are an example of how a conservation philosophy can be successfully passed along from one generation to the next."
At the end of the 1940s, Clarence Mortenson began to wonder how all of the water originating on his ranch could be kept there for use over an extended period of time. This idea sparked his effort to restore the ranch to its natural state. His sons, Todd, Jeff, and Curt -- who currently operate Mortenson Ranch -- have embraced Clarence's vision. In the 1980s, Todd learned about holistic management that moves cattle across the land similar to the movement of buffalo herds. In the spring, the herds graze on grasses in riparian areas while stamping seeds into the ground to help establish trees and grasses. In summer, the cattle are moved to the uplands.
In the 1990s, researchers observed a substantial increase in native tree and shrub species along the ranch's streams, as well as an impressive increase in wildlife populations. In addition, the Mortensons' efforts have led to a significant decrease in sediment flowing through creeks on the ranch.
Due to these and other practices, more than 90% of the 19,000-acre ranch is back to native grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees.
The Leopold Conservation Award in South Dakota is sponsored by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, American State Bank, Daybreak Ranch, Ducks Unlimited, Millborn Seeds, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Rasmussen Leopold Fund, South Dakota's Conservation Districts, the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, the South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation, the South Dakota Grassland Coalition, the South Dakota State University Foundation, Farm Credit and The Nature Conservancy.
Source: South Dakota Cattlemen Association