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MT7 Ranch Receives Texas Leopold Conservation Award

MT7 Ranch is the recipient of the 2024 Texas Leopold Conservation Award®.

The award honors farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners who go above and beyond in their management of soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat on working land.

Mike and Mary Terry, owners of the MT7 Ranch located near Breckenridge, will be presented with the state’s highest honor for private land conservation and its $10,000 award at the Lone Star Steward Awards banquet later this month.

Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present Leopold Conservation Awards to private landowners in 27 states. In Texas the award is presented in partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Lone Star Land Steward Awards program.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to environmental improvement. In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for “a land ethic,” an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.

The Texas Leopold Conservation Award is made possible thanks to the generous contributions from American Farmland Trust, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Lee and Ramona Bass, Dixon Water Foundation, Sand County Foundation, and McDonald’s.


Mike and Mary Terry’s passion for conservation, cattle ranching, and the outdoors led them to do something spectacular.

The Terrys invested in a weathered piece of land in 2008. Although the land had been overlooked for decades, they saw an opportunity to revive it to benefit the environment, wildlife, and people. With patience, hard work, expert care, and a mix of traditional and innovative agricultural practices, the landscape began to transform to its natural state and flourish.

After the purchase of 20 adjacent parcels, their MT7 Ranch now encompasses more than 19,300 acres of rolling plains, cropland, wetlands, and rangeland in north central Texas.

MT7 Ranch’s approach to land stewardship is overseen by longtime ranch manager Ty Bartoskewitz. He employs a variety of habitat, grazing, crop, water retention, and wildlife population management practices.

Wheat, sorghum, and sunflowers are grown on cropland, but most of the ranch is devoted to restoration of rangeland for pastures and wildlife habitat. A prescribed burning schedule coupled with a rotational grazing system for MT7 Ranch’s herd of Red Angus beef cattle encourages the revitalization of native, cool season grasses.

Thoughtful restoration of wetlands and riparian areas attracts a variety of wood ducks and other migratory waterfowl. More than 3,300 feral pigs have been removed to reduce potential damage to habitat. Such efforts earned MT7 Ranch the Texas Wildlife Association’s Landowner of the Year Award in 2015.

Perhaps most notable has been the creation and maintenance of 55 quail management areas scattered across the ranch. They range in size from 10 to 100 acres and are situated within riparian corridors and ridges where mesquite and other shrubs could not be easily cleared in the past. Each area provides quail with cover and food sources of seeds and insects from a patchwork of disked strips planted annually with a mix of grains and forbs that mature at different times of the year.

The restoration of habitat for quail and Rio Grande turkeys is among a long list of topics studied at MT7 Ranch.

Whereas some landowners fear opening their land to others, the Terrys have taken the opposite approach. They use their ranch as an outdoor classroom for other ranchers, local school and civic groups, state and federal conservation agencies and nonprofits, and graduate students conducting research.

Because they want others to learn about sound land management practices, research requests are met with a “yes”. They also want to foster a new generation of young professionals engaged in conservation, natural resources, and ranching.

MT7 Ranch has an active relationship with the local school district. It hosts an annual spring field day for fifth graders, and the ranch’s daily activities are incorporated into the science curriculum. High school students are employed for summer jobs. An internship program was created in 2009 for college students interested in natural resources, ranch management and agribusiness careers. Since then, MT7 Ranch has employed more than 100 interns, several of whom have returned to the ranch after graduation to work full-time.

Mike credits his wife Mary, ranch manager Ty, and his father-in-law, all avid outdoors enthusiasts, with influencing his evolving land ethic. He is thrilled to have youth coming to the ranch to learn about conservation, catch their first fish, or see a cow up close for the first time. His MT7 Ranch shows what’s possible by opening the beauty of rural Texas to the rest of the world.


“The MT7 Ranch and its owners, Mary and Mike Terry, exemplify everything we look for when selecting a winner for this prestigious award,” said Kevin Mote, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Private Lands and Public Hunting Director. “The Terrys and ranch staff are not only dedicated to being great land stewards inside the MT7 fences but have been excellent ambassadors for wildlife habitat conservation to other landowners as well as great partners to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department over the years. Their willingness to implement new management practices, learn from their successes and failures, and share that knowledge with other like-minded conservationists are all qualities we are proud to recognize and honor.”

“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.

“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Texas 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 first Texas Leopold Conservation Award was presented to Richards Ranch of Jacksboro in 2005. Brown Ranch of La Grange received the 2023 award.

Watch the inspiring story of MT7 Ranch

LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD 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, Minnesota, 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 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 6.8 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally sound farming practices on millions of additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.

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.

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT manages and conserves the natural and cultural resources of Texas to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.