South Dakota 2017 Blue Bell Ranch Clear Lake Leopold Conservation Award Recipient

Photo Credit: Joe Dickie, Generations Photography

Blue Bell Ranch

When you ask Herb Hamann about his conservation ethic and why he goes the extra mile to improve the land, he will simply give a shrug of the shoulders and say that “it’s just the right thing to do.”

Herb and Bev, and their children, Breck and Arla, own and manage Blue Bell Ranch. The family believes their base asset is the grassland, and the cows are simply the tool to harvest the grass.

Working with nature is an important component to the Hamanns’ adaptation strategy. Moving their calving season from March to May reduced labor needs during a critical time and ensured improved calf survival by avoiding harsh early spring weather. Early calving also has the added benefit of controlling early season invasive Kentucky bluegrass and smooth bromegrass with grazing.

The Hamanns’ grazing rotations are done with the consideration for their impacts to wildlife and nesting birds. The family is proud of the ranch's sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie chicken populations, as these iconic grassland birds are increasingly rare in their area.

For the first time in memory, more than 1,100 acres of the ranch were treated with fire in 2012 for weed control. They saw long-lasting, positive effects from fire on the grasslands, cattle, and wildlife.

Over 5,000 acres of the ranch are protected under permanent easements. This makes Blue Bell Ranch an ecological anchor for the southern end of the Prairie Couteau Hills, which is the largest remnant of northern tallgrass prairie in the lower 48 states.

The Hamanns, who donated 270 acres of valuable land to an easement, were motivated by the idea that for every acre they donated to the program, up to three acres might be protected through additional easements on other ranches.

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