A Midland couple was honored with the inaugural Leopold Conservation Award at the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association Annual Convention and Trade Show earlier this month in Aberdeen.
Rick and Marlis Doud were given the award, named for conservationist Aldo Leopold. It recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation and helps the public understand the important role private landowners play in conservation efforts. The Douds received $10,000 and a crystal award.
The award is given in eight states. It's sponsored by the Sand County Foundation, a Wisconsin-based conservation group, with the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association and the South Dakota Grassland Coalition.
Rick and Marlis Doud are exceptional, innovative stewards of the natural resources that are under their care, but it is to their credit that their efforts don't stop at their ranch's borders, said Dr. Brent Haglund, Sand County Foundation President. They reach out to others through a great deal of community involvement and educational opportunities that promote the importance of sustainable agriculture.
The Douds operate 6,000 deeded acres and 2,500 leased acres on which they run nearly 400 cow-calf pairs. They made a significant switch in their management technique when they transitioned to rotational grazing and a summer calving program at the beginning of the decade, which the Douds credit as the catalyst for tremendous improvement in the productivity and diversity of the grasses in their rotated pastures even in the face of severe drought. The family has installed cross-fencing, more than 15 miles of water pipeline and 20 water tanks. Rick and Marlis have also planted three shelterbelts to catch snow for runoff and provide nesting cover for wildlife. Their land and water management techniques have led to an abundance of wildlife, which is managed through a hunting program. The Douds believe in lifelong learning, and Rick has passed his knowledge on as a mentor to young ranchers who have an interest in summer calving and rotational grazing.
Everything we have has truly been a gift from God and we're grateful for all we've been given and grateful we can give back, Marlis Doud said. We're humbled and honored to be the winners of the 2010 Leopold Conservation Award.