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Trumler Ranch Receives Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award

Trumler Ranch of Rockville has been selected as the recipient of the 2023 Nebraska 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 resources in their care.

Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 27 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In Nebraska, the award is presented with Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (AFAN), Cargill and the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

Chris and Jenifer Trumler and their sons raise beef cattle and own the 930-acre Trumler Ranch in Buffalo, Howard, Hall, and Sherman counties. The Trumlers will be presented with $10,000 and a crystal award at the AFAN annual meeting in November.

“Most times, the belief in conservation is passed from generation to generation which we see in action today at the Trumler Ranch. Chris’s conservation practices at this ranch along with the care he has for wildlife is a testimony to his stewardship of the land,” said Steve Martin, Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (AFAN) Executive Director. “We find that those who care for the land reap the benefits for generations to come. Congratulations to the Trumler Ranch on a well-deserved award.”

“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Nebraska recipient,” 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.”

“The recipients of this award 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.

“Trumler Ranch exemplifies how a cattle ranch can be economically viable while providing environmental benefits for all. The Trumler family leads by example in utilizing Nebraska’s grasslands to produce exceptional cattle and quality wildlife habitat,” said Sammy Renteria, General Manager of Cargill’s facility in Schuyler, Nebraska.

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

The first Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award was presented to Wilson Ranch of Lakeside in 2006. The 2022 recipient was Wine Glass Ranch of Imperial. To view profiles of each award recipient visit

The Leopold Conservation Award Program in Nebraska is made possible thanks to the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Cargill, AFAN, Nebraska Environmental Trust, Sand County Foundation, Farm Credit Services of America, Audubon Great Plains, Lyle Sittler Memorial Fund, McDonald’s, Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Nebraska Game and Parks, Nebraska Land Trust, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, Sandhills Task Force, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, World Wildlife Fund-Northern Great Plains, and Green Cover Seed.

In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Aldo 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.”

Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 27 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. For more information on the award, visit


Chris Trumler traces his conservation ethic to his grandfather and father.

Chris’ grandfather grew up loving the outdoors on a farm near Munich, Germany. Following World War II, hunting was prohibited, and fishing was costly, so he moved his family to Nebraska in 1950 in search of a better life. By the 1970s, Chris’ father was a German and industrial arts teacher who dreamed of raising cattle and owning a place to hunt and fish.

After purchasing an overgrazed piece of the Sandhills range, his father improved areas where erosion had formed “blow outs” by fencing them off and planting trees to stabilize the sandy soils. Chris carried countless jugs of water to those trees as a child. He passion for wildlife conservation took root after noticing the trees were attracting deer, quail, and grouse.

Chris is still planting trees today on Trumler Ranch’s 930 acres of native grasslands and wetlands. To create shelter belts for cattle and wildlife, he planted enough trees to stretch more than one mile.

Although a full-time cattle rancher, Chris says he also sees himself as a wildlife manager after working as a conservation technician for Nebraska Games and Parks’ wildlife and fisheries divisions. He rotationally grazes his cattle herd using wildlife-friendly cross fencing.

A “deferred grazing” system of not grazing part of the ranch until July allows it to reach “climax vegetation.” This provides excellent conditions for deer to fawn, and for upland birds to nest. By timing their calving season for summer, this system matches the cows’ nutritional needs to when the pasture is at its highest nutritional stage.

Limiting his cattle herd’s access to natural waterways has also produced conservation benefits. Wetlands and former stock ponds offer habitat for migratory and shore birds. During dry years, these areas support prairie chicken, grouse, and quail. Fencing cattle away from streambanks has improved water quality by reducing erosion. Chris is experimenting with hinge-cutting trees along streambanks to slow the water and provide habitat for fish and invertebrates.

Cold, clean drinking water is delivered to cattle tanks through a series of pipelines fed by solar wells and windmills. The tanks have corrugated escape ramps for wildlife that fall in the tank.

Although the harvesting of hay is timed to avoid nesting and fawning seasons, Chris takes extra precautions to protect wildlife by attaching a flush bar to his hay mower. He also provides an escape route for rabbits and birds by not initially cutting a hayfield’s perimeter. This allows wildlife the option of not crossing barren cut areas to reach cover or adjacent uncut fields.

Crop rotations, no-till practices, and cover crops are used on Trumler Ranch’s irrigated and dryland crop fields. Cover crops of rye and turnips are grown each fall to build the soil’s organic matter. This practice also reduces the need for commercial fertilizers and prevents nitrates from leaching into groundwater. Regular soil sampling of each field also prevents over-application of fertilizer.

Chris reduced his ranch’s water usage and eliminated runoff concerns by updating to a pivot and sub-surface drip irrigation system. He planted the corners of his pivot irrigated field with pollinator-friendly vegetation. In addition to helping pollinators, the additional ground cover and prevalence of insects provides more quality bird habitat.

Among his many volunteer and outreach activities, Chris mentors youth pheasant hunters on the value of having a conservation ethic. On and off the ranch, Chris is living the better life that his immigrant grandfather envisioned decades ago.

Watch their conservation success story

Nb Trumler

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, Maryland, 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).

AFAN (Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska) was formed in 2005 by the leading agricultural organizations in Nebraska to support and grow the livestock industry. Growing the livestock industry adds value to Nebraska’s abundant feedstuffs and creates economic opportunities on farms and ranches and in rural communities. AFAN provides one-on-one services to producers to help them understand opportunities, works with companies to help overcome challenges, and supports the recruitment of ag-based businesses. AFAN works with our partners to inform consumers about where their food comes from. Developing a vital rural economy is the overarching goal of AFAN.

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.

CARGILL provides food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services to the world. Together with farmers, customers, governments, and communities, we help people thrive by applying our insights and 150 years of experience. We have 149,000 employees in 70 countries who are committed to feeding the world in a responsible way, reducing environmental impact and improving the communities where we live and work. We are passionate about our goal to be the global leader in nourishing people and operating responsibly across the agricultural, food, industrial and financial markets we serve.

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.

THE NEBRASKA ENVIRONMENTAL TRUST was established in 1992 to conserve, enhance and restore the natural environments of Nebraska. It was created on the conviction that a prosperous future is dependent upon a sound natural environment and that Nebraskans could collectively achieve real progress on real environmental issues if seed money were provided.