Three finalists have been selected for the 2023 New Mexico Leopold Conservation Award®.
Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the prestigious award recognizes farmers, ranchers, forestland owners, and other landowners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife resources in their care.
Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 27 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In New Mexico, the award is presented with New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts, Quivira Coalition and New Mexico Coalition to Enhance Working Lands.
The New Mexico Leopold Conservation Award will be presented this fall. The award recipient receives $10,000 and a crystal award.
The finalists are:
JX Ranch of Tucumcari in Quay County: Tom and Mimi Sidwell have adopted grazing practices that create a resilient landscape and mitigate drought. These efforts have increased ground cover, which means more forage for livestock and wildlife, and less sediment in the air and water. It also pulls carbon out of the atmosphere and increases soil’s ability to infiltrate and store water.
Lanford Livestock of Truth or Consequences in Sierra County: Dick and Meagan Lanford rotationally graze beef cattle and raise pastured poultry to improve their soil’s health. They have installed bat boxes, stacked large brush piles for quail habitat, and planted wildlife-friendly legumes in their farm fields. The Lanfords installed solar pumps to conserve electricity while providing drinking water for livestock and wildlife.
Philmont Scout Ranch of Cimarron in Colfax County: Since its inception in 1938 the Philmont Scout Ranch has hosted 20,000 youth and championed wise use of water, timber, wildlife, and fisheries. The ranch works to eliminate noxious weeds in pastureland and riparian zones. Since 2018 more than 1,000 acres of forest land have been hand-thinned and cleared to allow regrowth of native forbs and grasses.
Earlier this year, New Mexico landowners were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders. Last year’s recipient of the New Mexico Leopold Conservation Award was Sid Goodloe of Capitan in Lincoln County.
The New Mexico Leopold Conservation Award is made possible through the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Sand County Foundation, New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts, Quivira Coalition, New Mexico Coalition to Enhance Working Lands, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services of New Mexico, American AgCredit, John Duncan and Anita Sarafa, and Taos Ski Valley Foundation.
In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”
“We at Quivira and New Mexico Coalition to Enhance Working Lands aim to celebrate the work of ranchers and farmers who really steward the land. We are thrilled to highlight producers across New Mexico who foster health for communities, watersheds, and ecosystems,” said Sarah Wentzel-Fisher, Quivira Coalition Executive Director.
“The New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts (NMACD) is proud to work through our local Soil and Water Conservation Districts along with the Quivira Coalition to recognize the hard work that our New Mexico farmers and ranchers do every day to improve our natural resources,” said Willard Hall, NMACD President.
“These award finalists are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO.
“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the New Mexico award finalists,” said John Piotti, AFT President and Chief Executive Officer. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”