Chuck & Ruth Coffey Family Receives Oklahoma Leopold Conservation Award
February 24, 2020
EDMOND Okla. – The Chuck and Ruth Coffey family of Springer have been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Oklahoma Leopold Conservation Award®.
Sand County Foundation created the Leopold Conservation Award to inspire American landowners by recognizing exceptional farmers, ranchers and foresters. The prestigious award, named in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, is given in 20 states.
In Oklahoma the $10,000 award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Noble Research Institute, Oklahoma Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, ITC Holdings Corp., Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Enel North America Inc. and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The Coffeys were announced as this year’s recipient at the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts’ Annual Meeting. The Carter County cattle ranchers will receive $10,000 and a crystal award.
“The Coffeys put their passion for conservation to work on their ranch and by promoting it through leadership and outreach,” said Chad Ellis, Noble Research Institute Manager of Industry Relationships and Stewardship. “Success is not just what you accomplish in your life; it’s about what you inspire others to do. The Coffeys inspire others to be better tomorrow than they are today.”
“The Coffeys are an excellent example of a deeply committed, tireless devotion to conservation efforts beneficial to today as well as generations to come. We are thrilled that they have received this prestigious award and are so proud to call them our friends,” said Gary O’Neill, Oklahoma State Conservationist for the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“When you look closely and really appreciate the conservation efforts of the Coffeys, you are able to see that their actions today will be reflective for generations to come,” said Trey Lam, Oklahoma Conservation Commission Executive Director. “We are thankful for the example they set for other producers, and congratulate them on this most deserved prestigious award.”
“We are pleased to partner with the Sand County Foundation to bring the Leopold Conservation Award to Oklahoma and congratulate the Coffey family on their achievements in landowner stewardship,” said Brett Leopold, ITC Great Plains President.
“Enel Green Power congratulates our friends Chuck and Ruth Coffey on this well-deserved recognition of their family,” said Clayton Fenton, site supervisor of Enel Green Power’s Origin wind farm in Hennepin, Okla. “As Origin landowners hosting wind turbines on their property, the Coffeys have integrated sustainable, clean energy generation into their innovative land stewardship efforts. We are grateful for their participation in the project.”
Victor Ranch of Afton in Ottawa, an award finalist, was among the many outstanding landowners nominated for the recognition. The first Oklahoma Leopold Conservation Award was presented to Jimmy and Ginger Emmons of Leedey in 2017. Russ and Jani Jackson of Mountain View received the 2018 award.
The Leopold Conservation Award in Oklahoma is made possible thanks to the generous contributions from Enel Green Power, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Noble Research Institute, Oklahoma Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, ITC Holdings Corp., U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Sand County Foundation, McDonald’s, Oklahoma State University and the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts.
For more information on the award, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.
ABOUT THE COFFEYS
Chuck and Ruth Coffey are a driving force behind Oklahoma’s emerging land stewardship movement.
The fifth-generation ranchers, who obtained rangeland ecology degrees and married in 1986, share a desire to protect, conserve and regenerate natural resources for future generations. They settled in south central Oklahoma, where Chuck was Murray State College’s Agriculture Director before accepting a position with what would become the Noble Research Institute. In addition to advising fellow ranchers and farmers on pasture and range issues, he co-authored two books on plant identification before retiring in 2013.
Chuck is described as a “fearless pioneer” in trying new things that will protect soil and grass, and is widely known for his generosity in sharing time and knowledge to benefit others.
The Coffey’s three children, Aaron, Seth and Sarah, are involved in the family’s 30,000-acre cattle ranch in the Arbuckle Mountains. Cooperating with state and local agencies on innovative grazing strategies has sped up the return of perennial grasses to their landscape. In addition to providing the forage for their herd of 800 to 1,000 beef cows, the ground cover provides wildlife habitat, adequate fuel for prescribed fires, and reduces soil erosion from wind and water. Their grazing strategies have improved the ranch’s profitability by lowering labor, equipment, fuel and feed costs.
Not every conservation practice has worked, but the setbacks only fuel their passion to protect and rebuild the soil and share their experiences. Coffey Ranch regularly hosts tours on soil health, brush control, wildlife management, water development and distribution, and how coupling grazing management and prescribed fires promotes biodiversity. The goal of the tours is to inspire others to see the importance of managing livestock, wildlife and environment as one big system.
Partnering on conservation projects with the Noble Research Institute, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and Oklahoma State University, allows the Coffeys to stay current with the latest agricultural innovations and technologies.
Passionate about improving Oklahoma’s water quality and quantity issues, the Coffeys have developed 20 solar wells since the 2011 drought. They’ve also added watering points and maintained adequate plant height and rest times between grazings.
Between 5,000 and 10,000 acres are burned annually to control the encroachment of juniper trees onto pastures of native grasses. Experiments with prescribed burnings during the summer have shown great promise of regenerating the land. The largest trees are left on the grasslands to create a savannah effect that provides shade for the cattle.
Off the ranch, Chuck serves as chair of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Board, and is a past director for the Oklahoma Society for Range Management. Ruth is president of the Oklahoma Cattlewomen’s Association. Their children serve their community as well, including leadership roles with the Arbuckle Rangeland Restoration Association.
Chuck & Ruth Coffey Family
LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD PROGRAM 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). www.leopoldconservationaward.org
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. www.sandcountyfoundation.org
ENEL GREEN POWER is a leading owner and operator of renewable energy plants in North America with projects operating and under development in 24 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. In North America, Enel Green Power operates more than 100 power plants with a total managed capacity of over 5.11 GW powered by renewable hydropower, wind, geothermal and solar energy. www.enelgreenpower.com
ITC HOLDINGS CORP. is the largest independent electric transmission company in the United States. Based in Novi, Michigan, ITC invests in the electric transmission grid to improve reliability, expand access to markets, allow new generating resources to interconnect to its transmission systems and lower the overall cost of delivered energy. Through its regulated operating subsidiaries ITCTransmission, Michigan Electric Transmission Company, ITC Midwest and ITC Great Plains, ITC owns and operates high-voltage transmission facilities in Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, serving a combined peak load exceeding 26,000 megawatts along approximately 15,800 circuit miles of transmission line with 660 employees and nearly 1,000 contractors across its seven-state footprint. ITC’s grid development focus includes growth through regulated infrastructure investment as well as domestic and international expansion through merchant and other commercial development opportunities. ITC Holdings Corp. common shares are owned 80.1% by Fortis Inc. and 19.9% by GIC Private Limited. www.itc-holdings.com
NOBLE RESEARCH INSTITUTE LLC is an independent nonprofit agricultural research organization dedicated to delivering solutions to great agricultural challenges. Headquartered in Ardmore, Oklahoma, the Noble Research Institute conducts fundamental, translational and applied research; offers no-cost consultation and education to farmers, ranchers and land managers; operates seven research and demonstration farms; and educates students of all ages about science and agriculture. The Noble Research Institute was founded by Lloyd Noble, an Oklahoma oilman and philanthropist, in 1945 as The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation to advance agriculture and land stewardship. www.noble.org
OKLAHOMA CATTLEMEN’S ASSOCIATION represents the interests of Oklahoma's cattlemen at the Oklahoma Legislature. The OCA has continued an aggressive course of action supporting proactive legislation and challenging anti-industry legislation and regulations. The OCA exists to support and defend the state and nation's beef cattle industry. www.okcattlemen.org
OKLAHOMA CONSERVATION COMMISSION provides assistance to Oklahoma’s 84 conservation districts and the public to foster a sense of stewardship and conservation management of Oklahoma’s renewable natural resources. This is accomplished through soil and water conservation, land use planning, small watershed upstream flood control, abandoned mine land reclamation, water quality monitoring, environmental education and wetlands conservation. www.ok.gov/conservation/
OKLAHOMA FARM BUREAU FOUNDATION FOR AGRICULTURE was formed to enhance awareness and understanding of agriculture’s contribution and importance to the state of Oklahoma. www.okfbfoundationforagriculture.org
USDA NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE (NRCS) is a federal agency committed to helping private landowners care and make healthy choices for the land and water, while using them productively. Through voluntary incentive-based programs, the NRCS works directly with farmers, ranchers, forest owners and other land stewards to provide technical expertise and financial assistance to make conservation work on private lands. https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/ok/home/