Sand County Foundation in partnership with the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts (KACD) and the Ranchland Trust of Kansas (RTK), are proud to announce Sproul Ranch as the first recipient of the Kansas Leopold Conservation Award, which honors Kansas landowner achievement in voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources.
Sproul Ranch is a 2,200-acre stocker ranch in Chautauqua County owned and managed by Bill Sproul and his family. When the Sprouls purchased their land, it had a long history of overgrazing and was rapidly transforming into woodland. After removing the invasive woody plants, they transformed the land back into tall, native prairie grass and manage it through patch-burn grazing. While the cattle graze the burned areas, the unburned grass accumulates, providing habitat for wildlife and fuel for future burns.
Bill always considers the long-term consequences of his decisions on prairie health. When a drought reduced his forage production, he continued to reduce his stocking rates to help the land recover, even if it meant deferring grazing on some rangeland altogether. When asked about his approach to conservation, Bill said, “I let the prairie dictate what I do.”
Over the past eight years, Bill has worked with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to conduct annual breeding bird surveys on his ranch. He has also worked with Kansas State University to perform studies on the effects of patch-burn grazing on pollinator populations.
The Leopold Conservation Award is presented in honor of renowned conservationist and author Aldo Leopold, who called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage. 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 $10,000 award, and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold, was presented to the Sprouls at the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts Annual Convention in Wichita on November 23.
“The Sprouls’ ranch is an outstanding example of conservation and truly exemplifies Aldo Leopold’s land ethic,” said Jim Krueger, KACD Executive Director. “Their careful stewardship of the land will help ensure their unique landscape is preserved for generations to come. As the first recipients of the Kansas Leopold Conservation Award, the Sprouls have set the bar high going forward.”
“The Ranchland Trust of Kanas is proud that one of our charter members was chosen as the first Kansas recipient of the Leopold Conservation Award,” said Bill Eastman, RTK Chair of the Board. “We know first hand the conservation and stewardship of the Sproul family. It is with great pleasure to see their efforts and leadership being recognized with an award that epitomizes the conservation movement in America.”
The Leopold Conservation Award Program in Kansas is made possible thanks to the generous support of Clean Line Energy Partners, Ducks Unlimited, ITC Great Plains, NextEra Energy Resources, Westar Energy, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, DuPont Pioneer, The Mosaic Company and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.
Source: Sand County Foundation