PIERRE, SD - (March 27, 2017) Sand County Foundation, the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association and the South Dakota Grassland Coalition are proud to announce the finalists for the 2017 Leopold Conservation Award®, which honors South Dakota landowner achievement in voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources.

The finalists are:

  • Cammack Ranch of Union Center, a cow/calf ranch with 10,000 grazing acres owned by Gary and Amy Cammack. The Cammack family has implemented rotational grazing, constructed windbreaks, and planted over 30,000 trees on their ranch.
  • Center of the Nation Cattle Company of Newell, a 106-year old, fourth generation cow/calf ranch owned and managed by Jeff and Steve Smeenk, along with their wives Kim and Kay. The Smeenks practice rotational grazing and enhance sage grouse and other wildlife habitat on their land.
  • Blue Bell Ranch of Clear Lake, a cattle ranch owned and managed by Herb and Beverly Hamann. The ranch has an excellent diversity of native vegetation, and the grazing rotations consider ecological impacts to accommodate wildlife needs at critical times, such as nesting.
  • 777 Ranch of Rapid City, a grass-fed bison cow/calf ranch owned and managed by the Hillenbrand family. The Hillenbrand's take a holistic management approach on the ranch, caring for the bison herd as well as the plants, soil, wildlife and water resources. The family also hosts a variety of seminars on holistic management and community education.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. It inspires other landowners through these examples and provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders. In his influential 1949 book, "A Sand County Almanac," Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called "an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity."

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 2017 award recipient, who will receive $10,000 and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold, will be announced in late-April and recognized at the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association's Annual Convention on November 29.


"SDCA is pleased to honor the tradition of South Dakota's leadership in voluntary conservation through the Leopold Conservation Award and we thank these farm and ranch families for making conservation a priority," said Larry Stomprud, President of the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association and a cattleman from Mud Butte.

"Our lengthy list of sponsors and partners for the SD Leopold Conservation Award indicates the broad interest South Dakotans have in preserving our state's abundant natural resources and the SD Grassland Coalition is proud of the success and sustainability we are able to achieve on our working lands through a variety of stewardship practices, including those implemented by our finalists," 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: Belle Fourche River Watershed Partnership, Bad River Ranches, South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, Daybreak Ranch, Ducks Unlimited, South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation, First Dakota National Bank, South Dakota Grassland Coalition, South Dakota Department of Agriculture Resource Conservation & Forestry, South Dakota Discovery Center, South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks, Millborn Seeds, Mortenson Family, Professional Alliance, South Dakota State University College of Ag and Biological Sciences, The Nature Conservancy Western Dakotas Program, Partners for Fish & Wildlife, South Dakota Pheasants Forever, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, South Dakota's Conservation Districts, and World Wildlife Fund Northern Great Plains.