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Three Finalists Selected for 2020 North Dakota Leopold Conservation Award

BISMARCK, ND – Three finalists have been selected for the prestigious 2020 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:

  • Dockter-Jensen Ranch of Denhoff in Sheridan County: Kerry and Brenda Dockter, and their daughter Kristi and her husband Kyle Jensen developed rotational grazing systems. This promotes a diversity of native grasses and extends their beef cattle herd’s grazing season. Partnering with researchers and conservation groups has demonstrated how grazing can support bird and wildlife habitat. Innovative crop rotations, no-till practices and cover crops have improved their soil’s health while eliminating erosion.
  • Little Eden Ranch of Wolford in Pierce County: Ansell Johnson has planted more than 10,000 trees to provide livestock shelter, wildlife habitat, and prevent erosion from wind and water. With his son Craig and grandson Matthew, the Johnsons have strategically used cover crops, smart crop rotations and conservation tillage techniques to build healthy soil and prevent erosion. Once environmentally-sensitive row crop fields have been retired as pasture or hay fields.
  • Paul Ranch of Carson in Grant County: The Daniel and Tresa Paul family has created habitat for wildlife and migratory birds with a variety of conservation, grazing and livestock management practices. By partnering with wildlife groups, the cattle ranchers have created ponds and stock dams, and preserved native grassland and woody vegetation in riparian areas. Replacing woven wire fencing with wildlife-friendly fencing has enhanced hunting opportunities. Conservation has allowed the Pauls to expand their operation without additional land.

The award recipient will be announced later this summer and recognized in November at the North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts’ Annual Convention.

"Congratulations to this year’s Leopold Conservation Award finalists and to all the outstanding farmers and ranchers in North Dakota who steward the land and the livestock and make this world a better place,” 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 private landowners play in conservation,” said Jerry Doan, 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 finalists being announced. Good luck to each contestant and thank you for your leadership in stewarding our lands.”

“Recipients of this award are real life examples of conservation-minded agriculture,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer. “These hard-working families are essential to our environment, food system and rural economy.”

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. Gene and Christine Goven from Turtle Lake received the 2019 award.

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, Sand County Foundation, Starion Bank, North Dakota Game & Fish Department, APEX Clean Energy, Audubon Dakota, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Burleigh County Soil Conservation District, ConocoPhillips, Cow Chip Ranch, Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, Emmons County Soil Conservation District, KEM Electric Cooperative, McDonald’s, Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative, North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, North Dakota Natural Resources Trust, Pheasants Forever, Roughrider Electric Cooperative, Slope Electric Cooperative, The Nature Conservancy, The Wildlife Society, 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 21 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation.

For more information on the award, visit

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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, New York, 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.

NORTH DAKOTA GRAZING LANDS COALITION 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.

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.

NORTH DAKOTA ASSOCIATION OF SOIL CONSERVATION DISTRICTS' 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.

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