Land Heroes

November 29, 2011

Ranchers/Farmers named finalists in $10,000 Conservation Award

         Prize searches and recognizes environmental heroes that work the land

Three finalists have been announced in a 10-thousand dollar award given to California farmers, ranchers and their families. Sustainable Conservation, an organization that partners with the private sector to find environmental solutions announced the finalists for the 2011 California Leopold Conservation Award. Launched in 2006, the award celebrates farmers, ranchers and their families whose efforts have protected and restored the natural resources under their care. The Leopold Conservation Award is presented in honor of famed conservationist and author Aldo Leopold, who called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.“The Leopold Conservation Award highlights outstanding examples of the stewardship that family farmers and ranchers contribute every day. Landowners play a crucial role in protecting the environment, providing habitat for wildlife, and maintaining a safe and affordable food supply for consumers.” – Paul Wenger, California Farm Bureau Federation President

Let’s meet the three finalists.

Billy Lyons, JR uses his farm, Mape’s and Dos Rios Ranch, to grow traditional crops like wheat, oats and tomatoes but also something a little different: wildlife. For more than three decades Bill worked to restore 500 acres of wetlands that border the neighboring San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge benefiting a variety of migratory birds. Now, approximately 90% of the global Cackling Goose population passes through Bill’s property during its winter migration from Alaska to California’s Central Valley. Thanks to Bill and his family, the goose was taken off the Endangered Species list in 2006. Bill says he loves showing how faming and wildlife can live in harmony.

Third generation farmers Ward and Rosie Burroughs keep things all in the family. Their farm spreads over 4,400 acres east of Modesto and they’ve involved their three grown children and their kids in the farming operation. Following son and daughter-in-law, the family established California Cloverleaf Farms, a certified organic dairy that raises its nearly 500 cows in pastures of native grasses. The grasses increased the cows health and quality of milk and decreased the family’s dependence on costly commercial feed. Their carbon footprint shrunk. Ward and his daughter Benina also installed five solar arrays that provide 80 percent of the power needed to irrigate the organic almond orchard she farms. And the Burroughs are passing it on. They’ve hosted farming students from around the world and Ward says it’s their passion that gives his family hope.

You may not think of Tim Koopman when you see the East Bay Area’s rolling hills and untouched landscape but you really should thank him. This third generation rancher runs cattle on his 850-acre property between Highway 680 to the West, an 18-hole gold course to the north and homes everywhere else. He has been called a testament to the vital role ranchers play in safeguarding the Bay Area’s remaining open space To preserve his ranch from urban expansion he established a conservation easement on 150 acres of his property. It protects his land from being developed into housing tracts or shopping centers while allowing him to raise his cattle. The easement also protects critical habitat that call his ranch home. Tim says without ranchers keeping their operations viable, McMansions would dot every hill in the Bay Area inside of oaks.

The Sand County Foundation, Sustainable Conservation and the California Farm Bureau Federation co-sponsored the 2011 California Leopold Conservation Award.