Each year on April 22, we celebrate Earth Day as a reminder of the intrinsic value of clean air, clear water and abundant wildlife.
Here in South Dakota, we place a high value on the land and its bounty. Agriculture is our No. 1 industry and provides the bedrock of our economy. Tourism and outdoor activities comprise our second-largest industry and many of us enjoy hunting, fishing, camping and the great outdoors.
South Dakota's strong commitment to conservation is apparent in the interest generated by last December's Pheasant Habitat Summit and the subsequent work group, which recently held its second meeting.
More than 80 percent of South Dakota's land area is privately owned. A bit more than 17 percent is federally owned and the remainder -- just over 2 percent -- is state-owned. Because private citizens are by far our state's largest landowners, conservation efforts employed by farmers and ranchers are integral to the quality of our natural resources.
To recognize individuals dedicated to land and wildlife conservation efforts, the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, South Dakota Grassland Coalition and Sand County Foundation annually bestow the Leopold Conservation Award on a farm or ranch family that demonstrates outstanding conservation leadership. The award is named for renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold.
This year's Leopold Conservation Award recipients are Lyle and Garnet Perman and their son Luke and his wife Naomi. The Permans manage 7,500 acres, most of it grassland, near Lowry. The management practices implemented on their Rock Hills Ranch demonstrate that active conservation efforts are not only good for the land, they are good for business.
For information on the Rock Hills Ranch and the many conservation practices farmers and ranchers use, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org .
Congratulations to the Permans and thanks to all landowners across South Dakota who care for our natural resources.