Leopold Conservation Award Program - Nebraska 2008

Nebraska 2008 4-O Ranches Mullen, NE Leopold Conservation Award Recipient

A.B. Cox is a third generation Sandhill rancher. His family has been ranching in CherryCounty for 103 years. He and his daughter, Scout, manage their cow/calf/yearling Calf Creek and 4-O Ranches, consisting of approximately 23,000 acres, with two invaluable employees, Gerry Ashwege and Justin Duffield.

Among many other conservation practices, A.B. utilizes rotational grazing, which adds value and diversity to the meadows and pastures, extending the grazing season and decreasing the need for harvested feed. When they do hay, they mow in a mosaic pattern to leave edges for wildlife, which is abundant on A.B.’s land. Wildlife species include, among others, ducks, geese, cranes, Mule deer, Pronghorn, Sharptail grouse, prairie chickens, Golden Eagles, and Burrowing Owls.

“We take the holistic approach to conservation where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” A.B. said. “The land, cattle, and people are one. Each part of the community is important and dependant on the other, they are all of value.”

Beginning with his daughter, who will eventually take over the operation, A.B. places a high emphasis on education and outreach. He has been involved in the Nebraska Chapter for Holistic Resource Management (HRM), Sandhills Task Force, and Grazing Lands Coalition. While on the HRM Board, A.B. hosted workshops, tours, clinics and schools to promote rangeland management.

“It might be thought that people like me are rare,” A.B. said. “I really don’t feel that is the case. There is a large core of brethren who subscribe to this approach. I want to win this award to validate and encourage this core to grow and spread to others. Not just in the ranching community but other avenues, as well. It is important. We must pass the torch.”

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