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Two Finalists Selected for New Mexico Leopold Conservation Award

Two finalists have been selected for the 2021 New Mexico Leopold Conservation Award®.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the prestigious award recognizes farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife habitat management on private, working lands.

Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 22 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In New Mexico, the award is presented with New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts, Quivira Coalition and New Mexico Coalition to Enhance Working Lands.

The finalists are:

  • JX Ranch of Tucumcari in Quay County: Tom and Mimi Sidwell have adopted grazing practices that create a resilient landscape and mitigate drought. These efforts have increased ground cover, which means more forage for livestock and wildlife, and less sediment in the air and water. It also pulls carbon out of the atmosphere, and increases soil’s ability to infiltrate and store water.
  • Ute Creek Cattle Company of Bueyeros in Harding County: Tuda Libby Crews and husband Jack revitalized their ranchland by removing invasive species and adopting a rest/rotation grazing system for their beef cattle. They’ve improved wildlife habitat by restricting grazing on six miles of riparian area, and established a 23-acre sanctuary dedicated to imperiled shortgrass prairie birds in 2014.

Earlier this year, New Mexico landowners were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders. The award recipient will be recognized at an event this fall.

The recipient receives a $10,000 award and the conservation success found on their farm, ranch or forest will be featured in a professional video.

“The Leopold Conservation Award offers an opportunity to spotlight the work of farmers and ranchers who steward land, water and community. At Quivira Coalition, and as a leading member of the New Mexico Coalition to Enhance Working Lands, we’re excited to partner with the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts and others to celebrate collaborative conservation in New Mexico,” said Sarah Wentzel-Fisher, Quivira Coalition Executive Director.

“The New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts (NMACD) is proud to work through our local Soil and Water Conservation Districts along with the Quivira Coalition to recognize the hard work that our New Mexico farmers and ranchers do every day to improve our natural resources,” said Willard Hall, NMACD President.

“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.”

“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the New Mexico award finalists,” said John Piotti, AFT President and Chief Executive Officer. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”

The Leopold Conservation Award is given to farmers, ranchers and forestland owners across the U.S. in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold. In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac”, Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.

The New Mexico Leopold Conservation Award is made possible through the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Sand County Foundation, New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts, Quivira Coalition, New Mexico Coalition to Enhance Working Lands, Dixon Water Foundation, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services of New Mexico, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, John Duncan and Anita Sarafa, and Holistic Management International.

Nm Tom And Mimi Sidwell

JX Ranch of Tucumcari in Quay County

Tuda Bird Sanctuary

Ute Creek Cattle Company of Bueyeros in Harding County

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 Mexico, 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 empowers 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.

AMERICAN FARMLAND TRUST is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through its No Farms, No Food message. Since its founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally sound farming practices on millions of additional acres, and supported thousands of farm families.

NEW MEXICO ASSOCIATION OF CONSERVATION DISTRICTS' mission is to facilitate the conservation of natural resources in New Mexico by providing opportunities and quality support to local conservation districts and partners through representation and leadership.

QUIVIRA COALITION builds soil, biodiversity, and resilience on western working landscapes. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration.

NEW MEXICO COALITION TO ENHANCE WORKING LANDS is a network of groups and individuals whose purpose is to support and enhance ongoing efforts to improve the health and productivity of New Mexico working lands that support agriculture and the environment. Its focus is to increase soil health, biodiversity, and hydrologic function wherever possible.