Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
This week, I look forward to sharing with you the story of the 2014 Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award -- the Pelster family of Ericson. The award is presented annually to private landowners who practice responsible land stewardship and management.
Having just celebrated Earth Day, it is the perfect time to acknowledge the conservation efforts of the Pelster Angus Ranch and all Nebraska landowners. More than ninety percent of Nebraska's land is used for farming and ranching. It is being well cared for by those who take on the responsibility of leaving things better for future generations. We all benefit from the work of private landowners who are preserving the natural beauty of our state. Conservation on private land is something Nebraskans do very well.
The Sand County Foundation, the Nebraska Cattlemen and Cargill present the award annually to agricultural families in Nebraska. The Leopold Conservation Award is named in honor of world-renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold. The recipients receive $10,000 and a Leopold crystal.
Conservation is big part of the Pelster family heritage. The operation began in 1934 and has been passed on from generation to generation ever since. Nancy (Malmsten) Pelster's father and grandfather were determined to preserve the natural integrity of the ranch from the beginning. Almost 30 years later Nancy married Duane Pelster who began ranching with Nancy's father Marden.
As the third generation to manage the ranch, Duane and Nancy Pelster still share the focus on the value of land 80 years later. Nancy's father's belief of, "If you're good to the land, the land will be good to you and future generations," still holds true today.
The Pelster operation prioritizes the importance of maintaining and caring for our natural environment. This same lesson is used when Duane works to mentor young ranchers and the younger generation to help start their own operations someday. The family's willingness to be involved in the agricultural community as well as serving on numerous boards and organizations demonstrates how they continue to work to enhance their operation.
Today, conservation and range management continues to play a crucial role in the management of the Pelster Angus Ranch. Duane's ongoing development of a management plan has increased livestock profitability and land health simultaneously. He is committed to responsible, sustainable land management and is recognized as helping to pioneer the use of rotational grazing in the area. The Pelsters' moderate and steady approach to grazing has resulted in overall good plant health across the ranch, especially during extended periods of drought. The cattle are never started in the same pasture two years in a row.
The Pelster family prioritizes longevity in their operation. By installing over 25 miles of pipeline, this effort proved advantageous when trying to reduce the risk of soil damage and make conditions better for livestock and wildlife. Nearly 80,000 coniferous trees have been planted to provide shelterbelts and windbreaks on the ranch. To benefit water quality, Duane decommissioned 27 wells and made a special effort to maintain healthy stands of riparian vegetation along the entire length of the Cedar River on the ranch.
Previous recipients of the Leopold Conservation Award in Nebraska include: the Beel family located in Johnstown in 2013; the Buell family located in Bassett in 2012; the Mathewson family located in Cheyenne County in 2011; the Kalkowski Family Ranches located near Lynch in 2010; Bluestem Valley Farms near Martell, owned and managed by the family of Lyle and Alice Sittler and Todd and Kristen Eggerling in 2009; A.B. Cox of Mullen in 2008; Rod and Amy Christen of Steinauer in 2007, and the Wilson Ranch in Lakeside in 2006.
In 2014, Sand County Foundation will present Leopold Conservation Awards in Nebraska, California, Colorado, Kentucky, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The awards are presented to recognize extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation, inspire other landowners by example and provide a visible forum where leaders from the agricultural community are recognized as conservation leaders to groups outside of agriculture.