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Three Finalists Selected for North Dakota Leopold Conservation Award

BISMARCK, ND – Three finalists have been selected for the prestigious 2019 North Dakota Leopold Conservation Award®.

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

In North Dakota, the $10,000 award is presented with North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition, North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts and the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association.

The finalists are:

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Joe and Patty Breker of Havana in Sargent County: Joe and Patty Breker were early adopters of no-till farming practices. As a result, they have better soil health for their corn, soybeans, and cover crops (radish, turnip, peas, faba bean and flax). The Brekers opened Coteau des Prairies, a lodge and eco-tourism learning experience that invites guests to see their farm’s conservation stewardship firsthand.


Gene and Christine Goven of Turtle Lake in McLean County: Gene and Christine Goven were early adopters of regenerative farming and ranching practices. Over 50 years their use of no-till practices, diverse crop rotations, cover crops, and livestock grazing have improved the health of their soils, wetlands and pastures. They assist their neighbors with planting cover crops.

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HJ (Chip) and Ann Fischer of Rhame in Bowman County: Cattle ranchers HJ (Chip) and Ann Fischer have improved soil health and water infiltration by seeding crop land to grass. Planting 40 acres of trees has provided shelter for cattle and wildlife, while reducing erosion. Wildlife and insects thrive in conjunction with cattle thanks to innovative fencing and water systems, coupled with rotational grazing.

The award will be presented this November 25 at the North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts’ Annual Convention in Bismarck.

“Congratulations to this year’s Leopold Conservation Award finalists and to all the outstanding farmers and ranchers in North Dakota who nurture their resources to feed and clothe the world and leave it in a better condition than it was before,” said North Dakota Stockmen’s Association President Dan Rorvig, a cow-calf producer from McVille.

“It is an honor to present the finalists for this esteemed award. Each operation has shown outstanding achievement in implementation of voluntary conservation, inspiration of other landowners by example, and outreach on the role public landowners play in conservation,” said Chad Njos, North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition President.

“We are proud to be part of the unique coalition that brought the Leopold Conservation Award to North Dakota,” said Brian Johnston, North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts Executive Director and CEO. “This prestigious award recognizes North Dakota’s best land stewards. We look forward to this year’s recipient being announced at our convention on November 25, at the Ramkota Hotel in Bismarck. Good luck to each contestant and thank you for your leadership in stewarding our lands.”

“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.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes landowners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land. In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.

Applications were submitted by landowners, or on behalf of a landowner. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders.

The Leopold Conservation Award was first presented in North Dakota in 2016. Wilson Family Farm from Jamestown was the 2018 recipient.

The Leopold Conservation Award Program in North Dakota is made possible thanks to the generous support of the North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition, North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, Starion Bank, North Dakota Game & Fish Department, APEX Clean Energy, Audubon Dakota, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Cow Chip Ranch, Dakota Community Bank and Trust, Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, KEM Electric Cooperative, McDonald’s, Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative, The Nature Conservancy in North Dakota, North Dakota Department of Health, North Dakota Natural Resources Trust, Roughrider Electric Cooperative, Slope Electric Cooperative, The Wildlife Society North Dakota, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

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

For more information on the award, 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 NDGLC is a non-profit organization that believes through voluntary actions, respect for private property rights, and providing education on the values and multiple benefits of well managed grazing resources, the goals of promoting the health and sustainability of North Dakota's grazing lands are achievable.


The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association is a 90-year-old non-profit trade organization that works to unite, protect, promote, educate and serve the beef industry of North Dakota.


The purpose of the North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts is to further the widespread application of sound and practical soil and water conservation practices in North Dakota. Our goal is to provide quality membership services and nursery products to carry out the soil conservation program of the soil conservation districts of North Dakota.