Leopold Conservation Award Program - Nebraska 2012

Nebraska 2012 Shovel Dot Ranch Bassett, NE Leopold Conservation Award Recipient

The Buell family is part of the fabric of the Nebraska Sandhills. For nearly 130 years, they have ranched in the region, while caring for the land, water, and wildlife that each Buell generation passed on to the next.

The Buell family’s legacy in the Sandhills began when Benjamin Franklin Buell fell in love with the area while on his way from Michigan to Washington State. Needless to say, he never made it to Washington. Benjamin settled in the Sandhills in 1882 and began a ranch tradition that included the preservation and enhancement of the unique landscape of the Nebraska Sandhills.

Today, the Buells’ Shovel Dot Ranch is owned and managed by brothers Larry and Homer Buell and their wives, Nickie and Darla, respectively, who carry on the commitment to conservation they inherited from their predecessors.

Shovel Dot Ranch

The Buells continue to maintain and expand upon an environment in which water quality and the region’s native plant life and animal habitat can flourish alongside livestock and crop production.

The family installed high tensile electric cross fencing and over fifty miles of pipeline, watering close to one hundred pastures. This allows for more effective cattle distribution, giving pastures more rest between grazing periods, which leads to improved recovery, better ground cover, and increased production. Many of the Buells’ management decisions are made to benefit wildlife habitat. Approximately fifty acres is fenced off around two lakes on their land to provide space for deer, turkey, swan, ducks, and geese. Abundant vegetation along two creeks on the ranch attracts several native wildlife species and trees are planted to provide windbreaks for cattle and habitat for turkey and deer. 

It is clear that the Buells do not shy away from innovation and technology to assist in ranch management. In the early 1990’s, they became one of the first few major users of a computer-based information gathering system in the United States. The Buell family believes in community service on and off of Shovel Dot Ranch. They have provided numerous tours to domestic and international visitors. Larry has served as president of the local school board and as a member of the community hospital board. Homer has served on several boards within the cattle industry. The entire family is highly supportive of Nebraska 4-H and FFA. “For almost 130 years, generations of Buells have cared for the land, water, livestock, and wildlife entrusted to them,” wrote the Kalkowski family in their nomination letter. “They have successfully passed down a love of the land and ethic of care for it. Each generation has worked to grow and improve the operations through care, creativity, and hard work.”

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