Wyoming 2007 Golden Willow Ranch Wyarno Leopold Conservation Award Recipient

Paul and Catherine Kukowski and their family raise more than 800 beef cattle on their 20,000-acre Golden Willow Ranch in Sheridan County.

Golden Willow is a true family-run ranch. Daughter Bridget and grandson Ben help manage the daily operation, and the Kukowskis’ other children assist when they are able. Laura is one of their main horse handlers. Matthew works on weed control, fence and corral maintenance, and livestock handling and processing. Peter and Anna, not only assist with the ranch, but also provide expertise and perspective from their experiences in the agricultural industry. Anna works as assistant manager at a beef plant and Peter owns an irrigated farm and feedlot.

The Kukowskis’ many conservation practices keep their operation economically and environmentally sustainable. One of the first major projects was installation of a water delivery system. This allowed a change in grazing patterns, which enabled them to withstand drought without drastically reducing the herd's size. The altered grazing patterns improved native plant life, riparian areas, and wildlife habitat. The ranch attracted growing populations of mule deer, antelope, elk, and many bird species. The ranch offers hunting opportunities to effectively manage wildlife populations.

The Kukowskis are very open to sharing their experience with others. They regularly participate in the Wyoming Game & Fish Walk-in Program, which allows the public to visit and learn about their ranch.

Most importantly, however, the Kukowskis view their conservation efforts as essential for those who will follow.

"Our resource management goals will continue to be long-term improvement of water, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, and ranching sustainability for future generations,” Paul Kukowski said.