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2023 Colorado Leopold Conservation Award Finalists Selected

Finalists have been selected for the prestigious 2023 Colorado Leopold Conservation Award®.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes ranchers, farmers, 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 landowners in 27 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In Colorado, the $10,000 award is presented with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, American AgCredit, CoBank, Farm Credit of Southern Colorado, and Premier Farm Credit.

The finalists are:

  • Chico Basin Ranch of Colorado Springs, Colorado: The Phillips family’s cattle business Ranchlands, has managed the Chico Basin Ranch, a Colorado State Land Board property since 1999. They use cattle as a tool to achieve conservation strategies and mimic the symbiotic relationship between grasslands and the great bison herds of the past. The ranch that stretches across El Paso and Pueblo counties is a crucial refueling stop for migratory birds, and more than 335 species of birds have been documented there.
  • LeValley Ranch of Hotchkiss, Colorado: The LeValley family’s rangeland conservation practices and irrigation upgrades have increased water efficiency, biodiversity, crop production, and wildlife habitat on their cattle ranch in Delta and Montrose counties. A deferred grazing system, specialized water infrastructure, and the removal of invasive trees and shrubs have all been implemented to provide critical habitat for the endangered Gunnison sage-grouse.
  • Round River Resource Management LLC of Rush, Colorado: Since establishing a land and livestock management company in 2008, Louis Martin’s team implements regenerative practices on ranches in collaboration with landowners, federal and state agencies, conservation, and community groups. RRRM manages Bret Gray Ranch and BX Ranch in Lincoln and Pueblo counties. Enhanced grazing and watering systems are reducing soil erosion, improving water quality, and mitigating flooding.

Colorado landowners were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award late last year. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders from Colorado.

This year’s recipient will be announced prior to Earth Day, April 22. The formal award presentation will take place in June at the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association’s Annual Convention.

“Colorado farming and ranching families proudly produce the food that feeds a growing society and provide invaluable benefits to their communities and the environment,” said Philip Anderson, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association President. “CCA celebrates the Leopold Conservation Award finalists and applicants for their commitment to outstanding stewardship practices and conservation achievements on working lands.”

“We are honored to celebrate and highlight the voluntary conservation efforts and resource stewardship of Colorado’s farm and ranch families,” said Erik Glenn, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust Executive Director. “This year’s nominees showcase the power of combining traditional generational knowledge with research and strategic partnerships to enhance the agricultural productivity and ecological resilience of the land.”

“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Colorado award finalists,” said John Piotti, AFT President and CEO. “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.”

“These award finalists are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO.

The first Colorado Leopold Conservation Award recipient, Capps Ranch of Walsenburg, was selected in 2003. Pankey Ranch of Craig received the award in 2022. To learn more about previous recipients, visit

The Leopold Conservation Award in Colorado is made possible by generous contributions from the American Farmland Trust, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, American AgCredit, CoBank, Farm Credit of Southern Colorado, Premier Farm Credit, Sand County Foundation, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Stanko Ranch, CKP Insurance, Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, McDonald’s, The Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, and The Nature Conservancy.

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.”

For more information on the award, visit

Ranchlands Phillips Family

Chico Basin Ranch of Colorado Springs, Colorado

Le Valley Ranch

LeValley Ranch of Hotchkiss, Colorado

Rr Team Co

Round River Resource Management LLC of Rush, Colorado

THE LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD PROGRAM is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. Sand County Foundation presents the award in California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont).

AMERICAN AGCREDIT, COBANK, FARM CREDIT of SOUTHERN COLORADO and PREMIER FARM CREDIT are associated with the nationwide Farm Credit cooperative structure that supports more than 500,000 customer-owners across all 50 states. Farm Credit supports rural communities and agriculture with reliable, consistent credit and financial services since 1916.

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.

COLORADO CATTLEMEN’S AGRICULTURAL LAND TRUST was founded in 1995 by the membership of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association to conserve Colorado’s western heritage and working landscapes for the benefit of future generations. To date, CCALT has partnered with hundreds of ranching families in the protection of more than 705,000 acres.

COLORADO CATTLEMEN’S ASSOCIATION is the state’s only nonprofit trade organization exclusively representing Colorado’s beef producers. Founded in 1867, CCA is the nation’s oldest state cattlemen’s association.

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.

USDA NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE 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.