Kansas Leopold Conservation Award finalists selected

Four finalists have been selected for the 2022 Kansas Leopold Conservation Award.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the prestigious award recognizes farmers, ranchers, forestland owners, and other landowners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife resources in their care.

Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 24 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In Kansas the award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, American Farmland Trust, Kansas Association of Conservation Districts and Ranchland Trust of Kansas.

The Kansas Leopold Conservation Award will be presented at the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts’ 78th Annual Convention in Wichita in November. The award recipient will receive $10,000 and a crystal award.

The finalists are:

• Ray and Susan Flickner of Wichita. The Flickner family farms in McPherson, Hodgeman, Dickinson and Norton counties. They installed sub-surface drip irrigation technology to become more efficient with water and nutrient applications on crops. They experiment with cover crops to improve water infiltration and suppress weeds. Their Flickner Innovation Farm is a collaboration of university, industry and agency partners where new methods to improve soil health and conserve water are demonstrated.

• Kevin Karr Family of Emporia. The Karr family raises crops and hogs in Lyon County. To reduce soil erosion, Kevin began using no-till practices in the 1980s. He credits no-till with enhancing wildlife habitat and reducing his fuel use, while building better soil structure. Weeds are naturally suppressed by planting cover crops of rye, while beneficial insects are attracted to flowering cover crops. The combination of no-till and cover crops has bolstered the farm’s resilience to drought.

• Michael Thompson of Almena. Thompson has implemented conservation practices at Thompson Farm and Ranch in Norton County, where he farms with his father Richard, and brother Brian. By rotationally grazing their beef cattle, the Thompsons are improving the landscape of native range pastures and fields of cover crops. Michael’s a vocal advocate for soil stewardship among other farmers and ranchers via speaking engagements, social media, and a program geared toward youth.

• Glenn and Barbara Walker of Brookville. The Walkers are improving soil health, wildlife habitat and water distribution on their properties in Ellsworth, Lincoln, Rice, Russell and Saline counties. By using rotational grazing to feed their beef cattle, they are also managing grassland to improve habitat for greater prairie chickens, turkeys and deer. Their investment in removing invasive red cedar trees improves water resources. Several of their properties are enrolled in the Kansas Walk-in Hunting program.

“Kansas Association of Conservation Districts is excited to recognize these outstanding landowners who are committed to conservation on their land,” said Dan Meyerhoff, KACD Executive Director. “We are proud to partner with Sand County Foundation and the Ranchland Trust of Kansas to give these families the recognition they deserve."

“The Ranchland Trust of Kansas congratulates the finalists for the Leopold Conservation Award,” said Chelsea Good, Ranchland Trust of Kansas Chairman. “RTK is proud to be a supporter of this award showcasing and celebrating the achievements of landowners who invest and succeed in conservation efforts of private lands.”

“These award finalists are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO.

“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust, celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Kansas award finalists,” said John Piotti, AFT president and CEO. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”

The first Kansas Leopold Conservation Award recipient was selected in 2015. The 2021 recipient was Dwane Roth of Holcomb.

The Leopold Conservation Award in Kansas is made possible thanks to the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Kansas Association of Conservation Districts, Ranchland Trust of Kansas, Sand County Foundation, Farm Credit Associations of Kansas, ITC Great Plains, Evergy, Kansas Department of Agriculture (Division of Conservation), Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Kansas Forest Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service of Kansas, Green Cover Seed, McDonald’s, The Nature Conservancy, and a Kansas Leopold Conservation Award recipient.

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.”

For more information, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.

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