Gov. Heineman & Nebraska Cattlemen Mark Earth Day by Recognizing Conservation Efforts
Gov. Dave Heineman was joined by the Nebraska Cattlemen to announce the 2010 Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award recipient. The award is presented to private landowners who practice responsible land stewardship and management.
The 2010 award will be presented to Kalkowski Family Ranches, near Lynch, which was founded by the late Larry Kalkowski and his wife, Kay Lynn Kalkowski. Today the family's ranchland is owned and managed by sons Jeff, Tim, Chris, and John Kalkowski.
"As we celebrate Earth Day, it is important to acknowledge the conservation efforts of Nebraska landowners," Gov. Heineman said. "Ninety-three percent of Nebraska's total land area is privately owned, which contributes to a strong commitment to maintaining our natural resources for the benefit of our residents and future generations. I congratulate this year's honorees on their successful partnership and for maintaining a strong Nebraska tradition of good stewardship."
The Leopold Conservation Award honors world-renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold. Six states, including Nebraska, honor landowners for their work to conserve and preserve private land. In Nebraska, the award is presented by the Nebraska Cattlemen and the Sand County Foundation with sponsorship from a diverse group of agriculture and conservation organizations and businesses.
Nebraska Cattlemen President Bill Rishel said, "Five years ago, we worked to bring this award to Nebraska because we believe that landowners should be recognized for their stewardship. Farmers and ranchers have a good story to tell. This is an opportunity to share that story with Nebraskans."
Kalkowski Family Ranches in Boyd County was started when Larry Kalkowski purchased his first 160 acres in 1957. Additional purchases made by Larry and his family over the years extended the main ranch to include areas along the Niobrara River. The Kalkowski family has owned and managed the land for 53 years.
Kay Lynn Kalkowski said, "Larry taught his sons about the value of natural resources and that the land should always be left in better shape than it was when acquired. We think about the land we care for in five basic parts: the land itself, water, trees, wildlife, and the people entrusted as caretakers. Each of these is an essential component of good stewardship."
As the ranches expanded, land was cleared and restored by removing old homesteads, buildings and fences. Terraces and berms were added, ditches reshaped and the ground reseeded with native grasses. Land that had been farmed for many years was returned to natural grassland. Larry Kalkowski was a pioneer in rotating pastures, a practice that has been expanded by his sons who have added prescribed burns as a land management tool.
In 1998 the family outlined priorities that would guide their management decisions, which are reflected in the following statement:
"We will commit ourselves to excellence, striving to carry on family traditions while creating new ones. We will remember that nurturing our children in a rural setting was a focal point in acquiring the river ranch and that the safety and well-being of our children is of prime importance. We hope that they will learn the satisfaction of hard work and the joy of relaxation in the outdoors.
"We will remember that we are only stewards of the soil and have a grave obligation to conserve all natural resources and do everything possible to protect and preserve the land.
"We hope to maintain a reputation that is synonymous with honesty and integrity and to produce a quality product.
"We recognize the obligation to give back to Boyd County by supporting church and community and to share the gift of the land with others."
Dr. Brent Haglund, Sand County Foundation President, said, "This award recognizes the importance of private landowners who care for the land, water and wildlife. The Kalkowski family's approach to private land stewardship is truly exemplary. They represent the many landowners who are dedicated to the enhancement of Nebraska's natural resources."
The Sand County Foundation created the award to serve as a visible way to honor agricultural leaders for their conservation efforts. Other states presenting the award include California, Colorado, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.
A panel of judges selected the 2010 honoree including representatives of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, the Nebraska Land Trust, the Sand Hills Task Force, the Nebraska Environmental Trust and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC).
Nebraska's Leopold Conservation Award is presented with the support of Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad, Cargill Meat Solutions, Ducks Unlimited, Nebraska Beef Industry Foundation, Nebraska Cattlemen Research & Education Foundation, Nebraska CattleWomen, Nebraska Environmental Trust, Nebraska Farm Bureau, NGPC, Nebraska Land Trust, Nebraska Natural Resources and Conservation Service, Nebraska Nature Conservancy, Sandhills Cattle Association, Sandhills Task Force, and Union Pacific Railroad.
More on the Nebraska Cattlemen is available at www.nebraskacattlemen.org.