Sand County Foundation, in partnership with the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts (KACD) and Ranchland Trust of Kansas (RTK), has awarded Sproul Ranch of Sedan the first Kansas Leopold Conservation Award. The $10,000 award and crystal depicting Aldo Leopold was presented to the Sprouls November 23 at the KACD annual convention in Wichita. It honors Kansas landowner achievement in voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources.
     Sproul Ranch is
a 2,200-acre native grass stocker operation in Chautauqua County. When Bill Sproul and his family purchased the ranch, it had a long history of overgrazing and was rapidly transforming into woodland. After removing the invasive plants, the tall, native prairie was managed through patch-burn grazing. While the cattle graze the burned areas, the unburned grass accumulates, providing wildlife habitat and fuel for future burning.
     When the drought reduced forage production, Sproul cut stocking rates to help the land recover. This meant deferring grazing on some rangeland altogether. This is part of Sproul’s approach to conservation, which is “letting the prairie dictate what I do.”
     “We know firsthand the conservation and stewardship of the Sproul family,” said RTK Board Chairman Bill Eastman. “It is with great pleasure we see their efforts and leadership recognized with an award that epitomizes the conservation movement in America.”
     The Leopold Conservation Award is named in honor of renowned conservationist and author Aldo Leopold, who called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage. Award applicants were judged on their demonstration of improved resource conditions, innovation, long-term commitment to stewardship, sustained economic viability, community leadership and multiple-use benefits.


KLA President Elect Matt Perrier, a rancher from Eureka, previews the upcoming convention and encourages his fellow ranchers to attend.