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Finalists Selected for 2019 Kansas Leopold Conservation Award

WICHITA, KS – Four finalists have been selected for the prestigious 2019 Kansas Leopold Conservation Award®.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes those who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife resources in their care.

In Kansas the $10,000 award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, Kansas Association of Conservation Districts and the Ranchland Trust of Kansas.

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The finalists are:

  • Ted Alexander of Sun City in Barber County. Native plant and wildlife diversity have flourished thanks to conservation practices implemented at Alexander Ranch. Removing thousands of acres of invasive Eastern Red Cedar trees through cutting and prescribed burning has improved water quality in the ranch’s creeks. Researchers have documented an influx of reptiles, amphibians and diverse vegetation to the ranch. Habitat for lesser prairie chickens have been restored, and the ranch’s beef cattle benefit from a managed-intensive rotational grazing system.
  • Vance and Louise Ehmke of Healy in Lane County. To remain profitable while conserving soil and water, these fourth-generation farmers experiment with crops like triticale. This cross between wheat and rye is popular as cattle feed and produces enough crop residue to protect fields from soil erosion. With more than 50 playas on their land, the Ehmkes are involved in research, education and outreach on playas’ contribution to recharging the Ogallala aquifer. They have also enrolled hundreds of acres into conservation program for migratory bird, butterfly and pollinator habitat.
  • Dwane Roth of Manhattan in Riley County. Roth owns Big D Farms near Holcomb in Finney County. He uses cover crops to build soil health and combat wind erosion on sandy soils. As one of Kansas’ first Water Technology Farmers, he is passionate about addressing the declining water levels, and extending the life of the Ogallala aquifer. His participation involves researching and testing new irrigation strategies and technologies that maintain crop production with reduced water usage.
  • Z Bar Ranch of Lake City in Barber County. Managed by Keith and Eva Yearout and owned by Turner Enterprises, this ranch is a self-supporting enterprise managed under a philosophy of economic sustainability and ecological sensitivity with a focus on maximizing habitat potential for native species like the lesser prairie chicken. The ranch produces enough grass forage to sustain a 1,200 head bison herd. Improvements in water infrastructure, grazing management, and fire prescriptive have allowed range and soil health to recover from decades of uneven, season-long grazing.

The Kansas Leopold Conservation Award will be presented at the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts’ 75th Annual Convention in Wichita in November. The award recipient will receive $10,000 and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold.

“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 would like to congratulate this year’s finalists for the 2019 Leopold Award. Sharing their stewardship successes is critical to spreading the word about how sound conservation practices are good for business,” said Cade Rensink, Ranchland Trust of Kansas Chairman.

“Leopold Conservation Award recipients are at the forefront of a movement by America’s farmers and ranchers to simultaneously achieve economic and environmental success,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer.

The first Kansas Leopold Conservation Award recipient was named in 2015. The 2018 recipient was Hoeme Family Farm and Ranch of Scott City.

The Leopold Conservation Award in Kansas is made possible thanks to the generous support of Kansas Association of Conservation Districts, Ranchland Trust of Kansas, Ducks Unlimited, Farm Credit Associations of Kansas, ITC Great Plains, Westar Energy, Clean Line Energy Partners, Kansas Department of Agriculture (Division of Conservation), Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism; Kansas Forest Service, USDA NRCS of Kansas, McDonald’s, and The Nature Conservancy in Kansas.

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.”

Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 20 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. For more information, visit

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The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. Sand County Foundation presents the award in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont).


Sand County Foundation inspires and enables a growing number of private landowners to ethically manage natural resources in their care, so future generations have clean and abundant water, healthy soil to support agriculture and forestry, plentiful habitat for wildlife and opportunities for outdoor recreation.


The Kansas Association of Conservation Districts is a voluntary, non-governmental, non-profit, incorporated organization composed of members from the conservation districts located throughout Kansas’ 105 counties. Through partnerships with federal, state, and local entities, the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts has brought together groups that share the common goal of wise and efficient conservation practices that protect Kansas’ natural resources. The Kansas Association of Conservation Districts promotes and supports the establishment of programs dedicated to conservation and the organized development of Kansas land, water and related resources.


The Ranchland Trust of Kansas is a private, non-profit organization founded by members of the Kansas Livestock Association in 2003. The organization was created to provide assistance to ranchers and landowners who desire to conserve their land with conservation easements. Guided by their mission to preserve Kansas’ ranching heritage and open spaces for future generations through the conservation of working landscapes, the Ranchland Trust of Kansas values a commitment to conservation, respect for private landownership, integrity, organizational excellence and collaboration with those who share their values. The Ranchland Trust of Kansas remains an affiliate of the Kansas Livestock Association.