Award recognizes landowners who exemplify outstanding stewardship

Farm Forum

PIERRE – Sand County Foundation, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and the South Dakota Grassland Coalition are proud to announce The Guptill Ranch as the recipient of the 2013 Leopold Conservation Award, which honors South Dakota landowner achievement in voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources.

“Having grown up on a farm, I know how precious the land is to South Dakotans who owe their livelihoods to our natural resources,” said South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard. “Farmers and ranchers, such as the Guptill Family, take great care to maintain those resources for generations to come.

Guptill Ranch in western South Dakota is a 7,000-acre cattle operation near Quinn. Pat and Mary Lou Guptill have owned and operated this family-run ranch for the past 25 years. With their five children, they are caretakers of this special landscape in western South Dakota. The area features grasslands with rolling hills and a main wooded creek running through the ranch.

In 2000, as their children grew older, the Guptills decided to make changes to lower production costs and enhance the health of the land to make the ranch better and bring their family home.

Innovation and change have been beneficial to the operation, according to Pat Guptill.

“The more we change, the more we learn,” Guptill said. “We hope we can help other producers bypass all the mistakes we made along the way to make their operations work. Our goal is to make the land better for future generations.”

“The foreword to A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold’s environmental classic, points out, ‘When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.’ You are unlikely to find agriculturalists elsewhere in our United States who exceed the Guptill family’s use of land with love and respect.” said Brent Haglund, president, Sand County Foundation.

The $10,000 award and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold, will be presented to the Guptills at the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association’s Annual Convention in December. The ranch will also be featured during a ranch tour this summer.

The Leopold Conservation Award is presented 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 are judged based on their demonstration of improved resource conditions, innovation, long-term commitment to stewardship, sustained economic viability, community and civic leadership, and multiple use benefits.

“The South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association is proud to recognize the Guptills for implementing responsible stewardship practices on their ranch and working to best utilize the resources required to meet the needs of a growing population,” said Cory Eich, president, South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association.

“I applaud the Guptill’s careful efforts to manage the health of their land and to hand that ethic down to the next generation,” said Jim Faulstich, chairman, South Dakota Grassland Coalition.

The Leopold Conservation Award in South Dakota is possible thanks to generous contributions from many organizations, including: American State Bank, Belle Fourche River Watershed Partnership, Daybreak Ranch, Ducks Unlimited, Farm Credit, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Millborn Seeds, Mortenson Family, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Partners for Fish & Wildlife, Professional Alliance, South Dakota’s Conservation Districts, South Dakota Department of Environment & Natural Resources, South Dakota Farm Bureau, South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks, South Dakota Grassland Coalition, South Dakota State University Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund.