Cattlemen’s Corner: Mortenson Ranch wins Leopold Conservation award | TSLN.com

Cattlemen’s Corner: Mortenson Ranch wins Leopold Conservation award

In my neck of the woods, we seem to be pretty lucky so far this spring, getting just about the right amount of moisture without any hail, tornados, etc. But, you don’t have to travel far to see both ends of the spectrum – flooding or extreme drought and fires. In times like these, it’s nice to have some good news. A big “congrats” goes out to the Mortenson Ranch of Hayes on receiving the Leopold Conservation Award (LCA).

Last week, the Sand County Foundation in partnership with the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association (SDCA) and the South Dakota Grassland Coalition, announced the Mortenson family as the 2011 winners of the South Dakota Leopold Conservation Award. The Mortenson brothers, Todd, Jeff and Curt, have embraced the management approach begun by their father, Clarence, and continue to expand upon his vision. During the 1940s, Clarence Mortenson learned that what then was treeless land with barren hills and large gullies, had once been tree-lined with grassy-bottoms and water holes about every mile that never went dry. He then began to wonder how all of the water originating on his ranch could be kept there for use over an extended period of time. This idea sparked his effort to restore the ranch to its natural state.

During the 1980s, Todd learned about holistic management that moves cattle across the land similar to the movement of buffalo hers. In the spring, the herds graze on lush grasses in riparian areas. While there, the cattle stamp seeds into the ground which helps speed the establishment of trees and grasses. In summer, the cattle are moved to the uplands. The Mortensons have been able to raise cattle, manage native grasses and plant trees all at the same time. More than 90 percent of the 19,000-acre ranch is back to native grasses, forbs, shrubs, and trees. They have not only installed practices to support their grazing operation, but are also developing other enterprises that diversify their operation while also promoting good land stewardship. These enterprises include native grass and forbs seed sales, prairie restoration and an upland game hunting business.

During the 1990s, many people were taking close note of what the Mortensons had achieved on their ranch. The ranch was featured in several conservation books and publications. They’ve served as a model for holistic management, prairie restoration and for teaching grassland ecology. Students from South Dakota State University visit the ranch to personally observe the transformation of the land. The Mortenson Ranch was also featured in a 1993 South Dakota Public Television special as a documentary on range restoration. The ranch has also received many state and national award, including the Chevron-Times Mirror Magazine Conservation Award and the National Arbor Day Foundation Good Stewardship Award.

Through their conservation efforts and management practices, the Mortensons have also seen an increase in wildlife populations in and around their ranch. In addition, their efforts have led to a significant decrease in sediment flowing through creeks on the ranch.

The Mortenson Ranch has been involved in land management for over 50 years and their dedication shows. Their ranch serves as a model of profitable ranching working in harmony with nature. The Mortensons are also a great example of how a conservation philosophy can be successfully passed along from one generation to the next.

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The Mortensons will be presented with the $10,000 Leopold Conservation Award and crystal at this year’s SDCA Annual Convention on Dec. 7 in Pierre. Todd is a past president of SDCA and we extend our congratulations to the Mortensons who are so deserving of this award.

In my neck of the woods, we seem to be pretty lucky so far this spring, getting just about the right amount of moisture without any hail, tornados, etc. But, you don’t have to travel far to see both ends of the spectrum – flooding or extreme drought and fires. In times like these, it’s nice to have some good news. A big “congrats” goes out to the Mortenson Ranch of Hayes on receiving the Leopold Conservation Award (LCA).

Last week, the Sand County Foundation in partnership with the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association (SDCA) and the South Dakota Grassland Coalition, announced the Mortenson family as the 2011 winners of the South Dakota Leopold Conservation Award. The Mortenson brothers, Todd, Jeff and Curt, have embraced the management approach begun by their father, Clarence, and continue to expand upon his vision. During the 1940s, Clarence Mortenson learned that what then was treeless land with barren hills and large gullies, had once been tree-lined with grassy-bottoms and water holes about every mile that never went dry. He then began to wonder how all of the water originating on his ranch could be kept there for use over an extended period of time. This idea sparked his effort to restore the ranch to its natural state.

During the 1980s, Todd learned about holistic management that moves cattle across the land similar to the movement of buffalo hers. In the spring, the herds graze on lush grasses in riparian areas. While there, the cattle stamp seeds into the ground which helps speed the establishment of trees and grasses. In summer, the cattle are moved to the uplands. The Mortensons have been able to raise cattle, manage native grasses and plant trees all at the same time. More than 90 percent of the 19,000-acre ranch is back to native grasses, forbs, shrubs, and trees. They have not only installed practices to support their grazing operation, but are also developing other enterprises that diversify their operation while also promoting good land stewardship. These enterprises include native grass and forbs seed sales, prairie restoration and an upland game hunting business.

During the 1990s, many people were taking close note of what the Mortensons had achieved on their ranch. The ranch was featured in several conservation books and publications. They’ve served as a model for holistic management, prairie restoration and for teaching grassland ecology. Students from South Dakota State University visit the ranch to personally observe the transformation of the land. The Mortenson Ranch was also featured in a 1993 South Dakota Public Television special as a documentary on range restoration. The ranch has also received many state and national award, including the Chevron-Times Mirror Magazine Conservation Award and the National Arbor Day Foundation Good Stewardship Award.

Through their conservation efforts and management practices, the Mortensons have also seen an increase in wildlife populations in and around their ranch. In addition, their efforts have led to a significant decrease in sediment flowing through creeks on the ranch.

The Mortenson Ranch has been involved in land management for over 50 years and their dedication shows. Their ranch serves as a model of profitable ranching working in harmony with nature. The Mortensons are also a great example of how a conservation philosophy can be successfully passed along from one generation to the next.

The Mortensons will be presented with the $10,000 Leopold Conservation Award and crystal at this year’s SDCA Annual Convention on Dec. 7 in Pierre. Todd is a past president of SDCA and we extend our congratulations to the Mortensons who are so deserving of this award.

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