Utah 2008 Johnson Ranch Rush Valley Leopold Conservation Award Recipient

Darrell and Carol Johnson own and operate Johnson Ranch in Tooele County. Darrell grew up working on the ranch and planned how he would run it until he got his chance in 1962 when he began to purchase land from his uncles. He partnered with his father, Orson, until 1988.

One of Darrell’s first major initiatives was transforming his land from a juniper/sage community to grassland. This was accomplished through a combination of chaining and prescribed fire, as well as fencing to limit cattle access. This transition resulted in a significant increase in water flow, including year-round streams that have created riparian areas on the ranch. He worked with the Utah State Division of Wildlife Resources in selecting a grass seed mix that would enhance habitat for mule deer and sage grouse.

“I have had the pleasure of being on Darrell’s place and seeing first hand the accomplishments he has made in years and years of work to turn a closed community of sagebrush and juniper into a healthy and productive working landscape that not only benefits his livestock, but wildlife, watersheds, and enhances the beauty of the land,” wrote Jim Ekker, in his letter of recommendation.

Darrell places a high emphasis on agricultural education and outreach, beginning with his two sons, Bryan and Ed, who live on the ranch and contribute to the day-to-day operation. Darrell has spoken about environmental science and range management to classes at Brigham Young University, University of Utah, and Utah State University. The Johnsons also open their ranch to research, including projects on climate change, soil fertility, and erosion control.

“I believe the best way to educate everyone, from those unsympathetic to ranching operations to fellow producers, is to be willing to show them the rewards we have reaped by being good stewards of the resources we own and control,” Johnson said.

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