Montana Ranch Honored for Outstanding Environmental Stewardship

The Hahn Ranch, in Townsend, Mont., has been selected as one of six regional honorees of the Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP). The award, announced during the 2018 Cattle Industry Summer Business Meeting Aug. 1, 2018, recognizes the operation’s outstanding stewardship and conservation efforts. This year’s regional winners will compete for the national award, which will be announced during the Annual Cattle Industry Convention in New Orleans, La., in February 2019.

Established in 1991 by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to recognize outstanding land stewards in the cattle industry, ESAP is generously sponsored by Corteva Agriscience, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont, McDonald’s, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation.

“Cattlemen and women everywhere understand that the land, air and water resources in their care are the cornerstone of their success and they are only stewards of those resources for a short time,” said NCBA President Kevin Kester. “Each of us understands the importance of improving those resources and leaving them better for future generations. This year’s nominees are outstanding examples of what is possible for the beef industry and they serve as an inspiration for producers everywhere to continue improving their stewardship practices.”

Operated by the Hahn family, the Hahn Ranch raises 550 cattle across nearly 28,000 acres of public and private land and has been doing so for nearly a century. Today multiple family members work together on the Hahn Ranch.

“I’m the third generation on the ranch,” Chuck Hahn said, “and my sons are the fourth. The fifth generation is coming up with nieces and nephews.”

With fewer than 12 inches of rain each year, the Hahns have installed more efficient irrigation systems and have added new stock water tanks to allow them to fence their cattle out of riparian zones.

“We’re looking at ways to maintain water quality in those watersheds to maintain a healthy ecosystem and also to do things to improve the streambank health,” said Dusty Hahn, Chuck’s son and the fourth generation on the ranch.

The Hahn family was also part of the restoration of Deep Creek, the Missouri river tributary that crosses the Hahn Ranch. The family worked with private and public partners to install the Montana ditch siphon, rerouting irrigation water under instead of through the creek, reducing sediment issues, improved water flow, and allowed fish to return.

“Immediately after that project was done, we started having fish move up from the Missouri river into Deep Creek here to start spawning,” said Ron Spoon, a fisheries biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

“There’s more grass on the range units due to the rotational grazing system that the Hahns are implementing, getting stock water away from the creeks and the springs so those areas can be left for wildlife with less livestock impacts,” said Justin Meissner, a district conservationist with USDA NRCS.

The Hahn Ranch also grows wheat, barley and hay crops, extending the grazing season to allow for longer rest periods on the range. Additionally, reduced tillage and cover crop rotations have had a positive impact on soil health.

“I want to do things better and leave the land in a better condition than I found it for the next generation who will hopefully take as good or better care of it than we have,” said Dusty.

‘Benefits beyond the ranch’ 

Montana ranching family honored with Environmental Stewardship Award for enduring efforts to care for water, wildlife, soil and ranching business.


“I hope they slow down every once in a while,” Chuck Hahn says, nodding at the steady line of boaters, anglers and campers streaming north to Canyon Ferry Lake.

He’s not talking about their speedometers, either.

“I just see people so rushed,” he says. “If they’d just take the time to slow down, look, observe, take what they see here into consideration, they’d see: this all interacts together, and we’re all here to try and make things better.”

While a 360-degree view of their Townsend, Montana ranch could probably flash through his mind in a millisecond of memories, the scope wouldn’t fit in a passenger window at 65 mph.

To the south, Deep Creek meanders west to its end in the Missouri River. It cuts its path from the east through the Big Belt Mountains, providing water for Blue-Ribbon fisheries, essential crop irrigation, recreation and stock water along the way. The gently sloping Elkhorn Mountain rise up to the west, where, thanks to conservation efforts in recent decades, the mountain island lives up to its name as a wildlife destination. There, the Hahn family’s cattle graze on the rangeland that holds its ground as open space buffering the public land from the subdivisions sprawled through the valley.

Standing in their irrigated pasture in the middle of it all, Chuck pulls the bill of his ball cap down a little. He squints at the sun bearing down on this landscape his family has known through every season for more than 100 years. Above all else, he says, he hopes the passengers speeding by on the busy highway see the same thing he sees here: patience.

He hopes they understand the patience it takes to see conservation efforts pay off beyond the ranch and their personal bottom line; patience to witness the tenacity of his father and grandfather touch his sons and nephews’ desire to care for the land for future generations; patience for one short lifetime of work to preserve resources timelessly treasured by ranchers, recreational users, hunters & anglers alike.

“The thing this family really understands is the kind of give and take that goes into the bigger picture,” Denise Thompson says. “They understand there are going to be sacrifices, but the overall benefit and reward of these efforts outweigh the sacrifices.”

The Broadwater County Conservation District administrator helped recommend the Hahn Ranch as the 2018 Montana Environmental Stewardship Award winners. The award recognizes cattle ranchers who are exemplary stewards of the land, livestock, wildlife and natural resources. In addition to cattle, the diverse family ranch supports hay, small grains and forage crop farming, a trucking company, and a pheasant hunting enterprise. The multi-generational team included Chuck, his sons Dusty and Buck, his brother John Hahn, sister Bev Bird, her son Cory and his wife Jennilee and matriarch Dorothy Hahn.

The ranch was also nominated by collaborators with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) for their partnership on projects that have benefited fisheries and water quality on the ranch and for downstream users. But their conservation practices stretch far beyond the creek beds of the southwestern Montana ranch.

Ron Spoon, a FWP fish biologist, has worked with the Hahn family since 1990.

“Folks that collaborate with Chuck know he thoroughly protects the function of the ranching operation, but they know he also genuinely pushes for solutions that benefit resources beyond the ranch,” Spoon says.



“This really is the lifeblood to our main farming and ranching operation here, along with the Missouri River itself,” Dusty says, standing in the nearly waist-high grass on the banks of Deep Creek. Between 1,000 and 3,000 brown trout annually migrate out of Deep Creek into the Missouri River. The waterway also provides irrigation and some stock water on the Hahn Ranch.

They’ve been working in partnership with the FWP, Natural Resources and Conservation Services (NRCS), Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), their local conservation district and other water users in the valley for nearly 30 years to improve the creek and re-establish it as a free-flowing tributary to the Missouri River.

In 1991, they were a part of the first of many efforts to get Deep Creek off the state Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) list of impaired waters. The installation of the Montana Ditch siphon was one major step to restoring Deep Creek’s function as a nursery too and cold water refuge on this blue ribbon fishery.

“As we become more conservation-minded all the time, we’re working harder and harder to improve water quality and water flow rates,” Dusty says. “That means we’re able to leave a little something more for downstream, and it’s of a higher quality. That’s just the right thing to do.”

Back when they started in 1991, there was an average of less than 10 brown trout spawning redds at many locations along the creek. In 2016, one location on the Hahn Ranch noted as many as 75 redds. More recent projects to relocate irrigation diversions and pumping have now tripled streamflow in a commonly dewatered reach of Deep Creek. All streams naturally increase in water temperature as water travels downstream, Spoon explains. Deep Creek used to warm up by 8 degrees Fahrenheit in the lower 13 miles of stream but now warms by 2.5 degrees as a result of changes in irrigation practices.

“Water is probably one of the most precious resources, especially in the West,” Dusty says. “So anything that we can do to conserve and enhance that resource, we’re interested in. It helps everybody along the watershed of the Missouri and ultimately that drains into the Mississippi, and that’s important for us as agriculturalists.”

Clean, cold, connected waters with healthy fisheries indicate a healthy watershed, which is a nod to those who manage the land and livestock around it, Spoon says: “Chuck and his family provide a valuable example of how a long-term ranching operation can simultaneously create agricultural products and foster clean water.”

The Hahns are quick to point out it’s a nod to the entire community.

“To enhance the watershed, you’ve got to be able to pull all the pieces together. It takes everyone in the valley,” Chuck says. “It’s one of those things that just won’t happen without all the right people involved.”

He points back to the conservation district and FWP leaders they worked with, and the other landowners who came forward with the same patience to work through 25 years of negotiations and hard work to see an entire watershed blossom. It was recently the first of its kind to be removed from the DEQ’s “Total Maximum Daily Load” listing thanks to its plan to reduce nonpoint source sediment pollution.

“Seeing that watershed thriving; that’s been a real bright spot in my lifetime,” Chuck says. “Water is such an important thing in these valleys, especially to us as irrigators. But to work with the general public through some of these programs so we can maintain our water and still add some benefit for recreation, too – that’s good for everybody.”




That’s one way to describe the events caused by the wave of floodwater in the valley in the 1950s. Canyon Ferry Lake was formed with the completion of the Canyon Ferry Dam in 1954. It flooded the small town of Canton and 37 ranches along the Missouri River, including the 1,100 acres Chuck’s grandfather, Stephen Arnold Douglas Hahn, had established in 1908.

Today, the recreation destination is the third largest body of water in Montana and the source of much of the traffic that passes by on the busy Highway 287. Chuck’s parents, Paul and Dorothy, purchased a fresh 347 acres after the original ranch was condemned, and they started over with the same determination and optimism that prevails in the current generation.

“To say that was a devastating time for many ranchers in the valley would be an understatement,” Thompson says. “But somehow, they made it a positive and came out stronger.”

Half a century later, the family saw another man-made surge threatening the area.

“This valley has grown so fast because we’re so close to population areas and it’s an attractive area for recreation,” Chuck says.

Subdivision and development were sprawling out from the lake and surrounding areas, threatening grazing lands and cherished open landscapes.

“We’re working to utilize the resources that are available to us while maintaining this environment,” Dusty says. “Part of that is just preserving open spaces, and maintaining that for agricultural purposes.”

In 1998, the ranch enrolled in Broadwater County’s first conservation easement with the FWP to maintain 1,680 acres for agricultural purposes in perpetuity. The land sits next to the nationally unique Elkhorn Wildlife Management Unit and now provides a critical link between blocks of federal land to prevent further urban development.

“If we’re not able to have a viable land base for livestock grazing, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of these arid landscapes being put into development,” Chuck says. “So the easement keeps those areas open, and it gives us a chance to have our grazing.”

The easement allowed the ranch to expand a more efficient rest-rotational grazing system between their private and publicly leased ground, while also providing financial flexibility for expansion, allowing more family members to have a place on the ranch.



“When we’re up there gathering the cattle, we find elk in the same area as the cattle,” Dusty says. “They tend to follow them around and graze the regrowth that the cattle had grazed down, so it’s definitely a mutually beneficial relationship.”

They’ve been enrolled in the Block Management Program for nearly 25 years, where each year, the FWP estimates 900 hunter days are recorded on the Hahn Ranch to pursue elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, white-tailed deer, black bear, mountain lion and upland bird.

“This wide diversity of wildlife indicates how well the land and vegetative communities occurring on the Hahn Ranch are being managed as a whole,” FWP Conservation Technician Fred Jakubowski says.

It’s a part of their Montana heritage they want to see through to future generations, too, Dusty says: “I grew up hunting and fishing, and we like the opportunity, for kids especially, to do that and have a good experience at it.”

The family has further diversified by raising pheasants and offering a shooting preserve.

“It’s nice to be able to share a little of this open space with people who aren’t so lucky to have that every day. By allowing hunters to come out and see our operation, we hope it helps educate people as to what we’re doing and how things work,” Chuck says. “Hopefully, that interaction between us and them gives them a much brighter picture of the agriculture operations around the state.”

They’ve adapted their farming practices to take care of the biodiversity underground, too. They grow both cash crops and forage crops to extend their grazing season, allow for longer rest periods on the rangeland and enhance the health of their farmed soil. After hay barley is baled, a combination of radishes and turnips are planted to burrow into the ground and break up soil compaction. In other rotations or fields, legumes like peas are planted to naturally add nitrogen back into the soil. In both scenarios, incorporating cattle grazing into the cropping system is essential to its success.

“By using cover crops and no-till to enhance the soil health, we’re able to keep the soil organisms alive as long as we can during the year,” Chuck says. “The livestock are there to help incorporate that plant mass back into the soil. It’s just really interesting to go out and dig up a shovel full of that dirt, look at it and see all the differences in the soil structure from when we were turning the soil every year.”

They conduct soil tests on farmland each year to monitor organic matter and determine the precise amount of fertilizer needed to not only reduce inputs but to prevent over-saturation that could cause runoff.

In the years they’ve been monitoring organic matter in their farmed soil, it’s moved from an average of three percent to closer to five percent. According to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, native grassland range in the state is typically comprised of about four percent organic matter.

This too goes beyond the borders of the ranch. Jim Beck, the association supervisor at the Broadwater Conservation District, works with Chuck on the management of public lands, where he’s eager to share ideas about improving soil health and wildlife habitat there, too.

“He’s helped us with soil health and transforming non-productive land into productive land, and then into agriculturally productive land as well,” Beck said. “He’s often able to extend the scope of those improvements to include other producers and community interests, too.”

That just takes time, no matter how quickly the world turns.

“Longevity is what makes an impact,” Thompson says. “It’s folks who are willing to hunker in for the long haul and build relationships with agencies or partners or different landowners who get things done; short-term work doesn’t get big picture things done.”

That big picture can easily be missed flying by at 65 mph, but not when Mother Nature dictates the speed of reaping what you sow. In her world, patience takes the lead.

“It’s what I’ve relied on my whole life, to be patient, to be steady. You’re always trying to swing for that home run, but you rarely hit it,” Chuck smiles. “So instead, you hit singles and keep loading the bases, keep things coming in and getting a little better one step at a time. Patience is just knowing what we look around and see here took millions of years, and we’re just a snap of a finger in it all.”

Watch a video about the Hahn Ranch.

Find out more about the Environmental Stewardship Award.

Meet the American Fork Ranch | Environmental Stewardship Award Winners

American Fork Ranch Environmental Stewardship Jed Evjene David StevensMontana’s ranchers depend on the land and its resources to be successful business enterprises. As such, it is imperative to be good stewards of their environment and its resources, implementing practices that promote sustainability and conservation. Since its inception in 1991, the Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) has honored ranchers across the United States who implement these practices and are great examples of being stewards of their resources.

For the past 25 years, Montana Stockgrowers Association has proudly sponsored the Montana ESAP program, and with support of the Montana Beef Council, recognize this year’s Montana recipient, the American Fork Ranch of Two Dot, as a ranch going above and beyond to implement good stewardship practices for their land, resources, wildlife and community.

The American Fork Ranch (Facebook), a commercial cow-calf operation in Wheatland and Sweet Grass counties, is owned by the Stevens Family and is managed by Jed and Annie Evjene. Jed is a long-time active member of the Montana Stockgrowers Association and currently serves as Director of the South Central district for the Association.

American Fork Ranch Environmental Stewardship Annie Evjene“The Stevens family, Annie and I, along with all of our crew could not be more proud to receive this recognition,” says Jed Evjene. “Over the past 17 years, we’ve worked hard to preserve the legacy of this ranch, improve its pastures, croplands and cattle. Making a ranch like this work while being conscious of the environment around us takes a good team and we’re honored to be Environmental Stewardship Award recipients.”

The ranch, established in 1882 as a sheep operation, was purchase by Colonel Wallis Huidekoper and designated “The American Ranch”. An idealistic soldier, Huidekoper built a series of whitewashed and red-roof structures along a plumb line, to form an orderly village that still stands today. In 1945, Col. Robert T. Stevens purchased the operation and renamed it as “The American Fork Ranch”. Steven’s vision was that the ranch would remain as a consistent and economically viable unit in the community, rather than a vacation or leisure home for future generations of the family.

As current ranch managers, Jed and Annie Evjene, joined the ranch in 1998, a consensus among the owners had already began to refocus the ranch’s efforts to be better stewards of the land, conserve their natural resources and ensure the ranch’s economic and environmental sustainability. The changes focused on the principles of utilizing the best available scientific knowledge and business practices, enhancing stewardship values with long-term perspectives to invest in the land and environment, and to preserve the ranch’s historic value and beauty.

Over the past 17 years, the Stevens and Evjenes families have focused on establishing relationships among all key aspects of the ranch: rangeland, water, crop production, cattle herd, wildlife, cottonwood forests, employees, family, community and the beef industry to integrate a model of sustainability. These cooperative efforts have led to relationships and projects in coordination with professionals from numerous universities, state and federal agencies, area and state Stockgrower organizations, and several youth programs.

The Evjenes have a knack for intensive record management, allowing them to use that information to tract what works and what does not when managing the ranches resources. The results have been implementing grazing practices, with the use of more than 25 miles of interior fencing, 15,500 feet of stock water pipeline, spring water development, and weed control to develop grazing systems that better utilize resources in a manner that complements the landscape and environment.

American Fork Ranch Environmental Stewardship Jed EvjeneThe cowherd at the American Fork has been managed to adapt to its environment over the past two decades. Reducing cow size, along with management of grazing and water systems, has allowed for better and more uniform utilization of forage supplies, increased calf weaning weights, minimized cow inputs and overall improvements in cow efficiency and operation sustainability. The calves are raised and marketed without the use of artificial hormones or supplements, and have shown consistent adaptations to market demands using improved herd genetics. A severe drought in 2012 threatened feed supplies for the herd, but thanks for foresight in grazing management and temporary herd reduction, the ranch survived the drought period with minimal negative impacts.

Today, the American Fork Ranch is home to a diverse population of plant species and managed wildlife populations. Intensive record keeping, over a decade of range monitoring, water development projects and weed management have led to pasture conditions that promote diverse plant species and thick stands of stockpiled forage for year-round grazing. A heavy focus on riparian area management has allowed for recovery of plant species, Cottonwood forest regrowth, improved water quality and enhanced wildlife habitat, even in the presence of livestock grazing.

“Even though the Stevens family may not live here year round, they are all involved in the ranching operation,” says Annie Evjene. “Especially the third and fourth generations of the Stevens family know a lot about the ranching business and are trying to carry on to the next generation.”

“The Stevens kids are like our own. When they come to the ranch, they jump right in with the crew, can run any piece of equipment, move cattle and are excited about sharing the experience of this ranch with others. It’s an all-around team effort,” says Jed.

MESAP logo PNGAs recipient of this year’s Montana ESAP recognition, the American Fork will submit an application this month for the regional ESAP awards, to be announced in July 2015. Throughout 2015, Montana Stockgrowers will continue to share more about the American Fork Ranch, the Stevens and Evjene families, and their work as examples of Environmental Stewardship within the Montana ranching community.

To learn more about the Montana Environmental Stewardship Award program, click here. The Montana ESAP program is partially sponsored by the Montana Beef Checkoff programs.

Importance of Environmental Stewardship with Padlock Ranch’s Wayne Fahsholtz | Montana Rancher Q&A

Wayne Fahsholtz Padlock Ranch

Wayne Fahsholtz

Each year, the Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Beef Council and the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s Foundation, honors a Montana ranch that exemplifies environmental stewardship and demonstrates a commitment toward improved sustainability within their communities. This award recognizes Montana ranchers who are at the forefront in conservation and stewardship and are willing to serve as examples for other ranchers.

The Padlock Ranch, located in both Montana and Wyoming, has won both the respective state awards, and received the Regional ESAP recognition. Ranch manager Wayne Fahsholtz has worked with the ranch crew and family owners to implement outstanding stewardship practices and continues to strive daily to create an environmentally sustainable beef cattle operation. Wayne answered a few questions for us about winning the award and some advice for other ranchers:

Why do you think the Environmental Stewardship Program is important for Montana (and Wyoming)? 

The award is a way to communicate with others about good practices that are occurring on the land.  With rancher to rancher communication, we learn from each other and can improve or avoid costly mistakes.  With rancher to customer, it allows us to visit about what is happening and help dispel some of the myths about land management.  

In your opinion, what makes a Montana/Wyoming rancher a good steward of the land?

Good stewards know what condition their resource is in and have plans that will maintain or improve those resources.  

Can you give us a few examples of innovations and projects you are most proud of at the Padlock Ranch? 

The biggest impact was the implementation of a planned time rotational grazing system. This keeps livestock from being in pastures season long and it rotates the time of use for a pasture. It is fairly simple but has great results.  

Cattle on the Padlock RanchThe Padlock Ranch is a great example of how a beef cattle business and the western landscape can co-exist…how can other ranches follow this lead?  

One of the things that I have tried to do is to be transparent about how we operate.  Over 95% of our population is far removed from production agriculture.   We need to be creative in the ways we communicate and educate this population.  So, I would urge ranchers to share their stories and ranches with others around them that may not understand about agriculture.  

How did you feel when you learned that the Padlock Ranch was selected as both state and regional winner? 

It was a great honor and great to be able to share that with everyone involved with the ranch.  At the same time, it was humbling because I know what a good job my fellow ranchers do and to be singled out was an honor and hopefully I represented everyone well.  

Do you have any advice for ranches considering to apply for the award? 

Just do it! The application process can be intimidating but once you get started it flows fairly well. You can get help from stockgrowers staff and past winners.

Ranches wishing to apply for the award and recognition are asked to complete an application packet (available at; due to the MSGA office by June 30. Nominations can be submitted by contacting the MSGA office. Ranches must be a member of the Montana Stockgrowers Association to qualify for the award. A committee, which will include representatives from Montana Stockgrowers, Montana Beef Council, past Environmental Stewardship Award winners, and others invested in Montana stewardship and conservation will evaluate the applications after all applications are completed.

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Montana Environmental Stewardship Award

Montana Stockgrowers Seeking Applications for 2014 Environmental Stewardship Award

Montana Environmental Stewardship AwardHelena, MT – Do you know a Montana rancher who is a leader in stewardship, implementing conservation practices to ensure the social, economic, and environmental sustainability of their operation? Encourage them to apply for the Montana Environmental Stewardship Award, presented by the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA).  Applications for the 2014 award are due June 30.

Each year, MSGA honors Montana ranches that exemplify environmental stewardship and demonstrate commitment toward improved sustainability within their communities. This award recognizes Montana ranchers who are at the forefront in conservation and stewardship and are willing to serve as examples for other ranchers.

“Montana ranchers are leaders in this country when it comes to being stewards of our environment and conserving the natural resources that help make Montana such a great state to live in,” said Ryan Goodman, MSGA manager of communications. “We are asking the community to get involved in helping us identify ranches that really go above and beyond when it comes to environmental stewardship and conservation in their local areas.”

2013 Montana ESAP Award Winner – LaSalle Ranch, Havre, MT. Read more in a previous post.

Ranches wishing to apply for the award and recognition are asked to complete an application packet (available at; due to the MSGA office by June 30. Nominations can be submitted by contacting the MSGA office. Ranches must be a member of the Montana Stockgrowers Association to qualify for the award. A committee, which will include representatives from Montana Stockgrowers, Montana Beef Council, past Environmental Stewardship Award winners, and others invested in Montana stewardship and conservation will evaluate the applications after all applications are completed.

The ranch chosen for the award will be announced at MSGA’s Annual Convention and Trade Show in Billings, Dec. 11-13 at the Holiday Inn Grand Montana. The Montana ESAP winner will then work with MSGA staff to prepare their application for the Regional and National Award competition, which is typically due in early March of the following year.

Since 1992, Montana Stockgrowers has honored 21 state winners, ten of whom went on to win the regional award and two named national award winners. To learn more, visit, or contact Ryan Goodman at or (406) 442-3420. The Montana Environmental Stewardship Award is sponsored by MSGA’s Research and Education Endowment Foundation and funded by Montana Beef Producers with Checkoff Dollars.

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Leon LaSalle Ranch Environmental Stewardship

LaSalle Ranch of Havre Nominated for Regional Environmental Stewardship Award

Cattle Trailing on the LaSalle RanchMontana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) announced this week that the LaSalle Ranch of Havre has been nominated for the Region V Environmental Stewardship Award (ESAP), sponsored by DOW AgroSciences, funded by National Beef Checkoff dollars. LaSalle Ranch is a cow/calf and yearling operation mostly located within the boundaries of the Rocky Boys Indian Reservation. The LaSalles are members of the Chippewa Cree Tribe and are the first Native American winners of Montana’s ESAP state-level award, which was announced in December 2013.

Each year, MSGA honors a Montana ranch that exemplifies environmental stewardship and demonstrates a commitment toward improved sustainability within the beef industry. This award recognizes Montana ranchers who are at the forefront in conservation and stewardship and are willing to serve as examples for other ranchers. Each year the state ESAP winner from Montana works with MSGA for the Regional, and eventual National, application process.

“The whole LaSalle family is very proud to be nominated for the regional and national recognition,” said Leon LaSalle, president of LaSalle Ranch. “We understand that if we take care of the land it will take care of us. Our ancestors lived in harmony with their environment and we try to do the same. This award means a lot to me personally, not for myself, but for my father who has spent a lifetime improving the environment—not only for us, but for numerous other farmers and ranchers throughout North Central Montana.”

LaSalle Ranch is operated by the LaSalle family: Leon and his wife Shannon, his father Robert L. and mother Jenny, and brother Robert W. and his wife Susie are all involved in the operation. Leon and Robert W. represent the third generation to ranch in the area. Their grandfather, Frank Billy, was one of the first Chippewa Cree Tribal members to enter the livestock industry after World War II.
LaSalle Ranch has partnered with the Montana Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Natural Resource Department, and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to implement conservation practices and a planned grazing system to protect environmentally sensitive areas on the ranch. They have installed over seven miles of stock water pipelines, 25 wildlife-friendly watering facilities, and 10 miles of cross fences.

lasalle field wide openA major focus of the LaSalle family’s efforts has been Beaver Creek, which flows into Beaver Creek County Park, the largest county park in the U.S. This park is a very popular summer recreation area for Hill County and surrounding county residents who enjoy camping, swimming, fishing, and picnicking. The park is located on the downstream border of the LaSalle’s grazing allotment. The LaSalles have worked to keep cattle off the sensitive riparian areas of the creek by developing eight off-stream water developments, utilizing solar energy to pump livestock water to higher elevations to take grazing pressure off riparian areas and allow even grazing use of the pastures, and installing 3.5 miles of riparian area protection fences. These efforts have resulted in improved water quality in the headwaters of this watershed and a more pleasant environment for recreationalists.

The Regional ESAP winners will be announced in July at the Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver, Colorado. Regional winners will be nominated for the National award, which will be announced February 2015 at the Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio, Texas. Since 1992, MSGA has honored 21 state winners, ten of whom went on to win the regional award and two named national award winners. To learn more, visit

Leon LaSalle Ranch Environmental Stewardship


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ESAP Application logo

NCBA Environmental Stewardship Award Calls for Entries

ESAP Application logoDENVER — The 24th annual Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) has officially opened its nomination season for 2014. Established in 1991 by the National Cattlemen’s Foundation (NCF) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the program has recognized the outstanding stewardship practices and conservation achievements of U.S. cattle producers for more than two decades. Regional and national award winners are honored for their commitment to protecting the environment and improving fish and wildlife habitat while operating profitable cattle businesses.

Seven regional winners and one national winner are selected annually by a committee of representatives from universities, conservation organizations, federal and state agencies, and cattle producers. The nominees compete for regional awards based on their state of residency, and these seven regional winners then compete for the national award. Candidates are judged on management of water, wildlife, vegetation, soil, as well as the nominee’s leadership and the sustainability of his or her business as a whole.

“America’s cattlemen and women have always been focused on environmental stewardship and conservation, and these awards give us a chance to celebrate their dedication,” said NCBA President Scott George. “Over the past two decades, the ESAP program has inspired cattle producers to try new techniques, and shown the world that we are the true environmentalists. If you haven’t taken the opportunity in the past to nominate a ranch family you know, now is the time!”

Any individual, group or organization is eligible to nominate one individual or business that raises or feeds cattle. Past nominees are eligible and encouraged to resubmit their application; previous winners may not reapply. Along with a completed application, the applicant must submit one nomination letter and three letters of recommendation highlighting the nominee’s leadership in conservation.

The program is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the NCF and NCBA.

Applications for the 2014 ESAP award are due Mar. 7, 2014. For more information and a complete application packet visit: – See more at

Montana Padlock Ranch Environmental Stewardship

Padlock Ranch among regional Environmental Stewardship award winners

Montana Padlock Ranch Environmental StewardshipNCBA Press Release

DENVER – Seven cattle operations from across the country were recognized as 2013 regional Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) winners during the 2013 Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver, Colo., today. The seven regional winners will compete for the national ESAP award, which will be announced during the 2014 Cattle Industry Annual Convention and Trade Show in Nashville, Tenn.

ESAP, now in its 23rd year, was created to recognize beef producers who make environmental stewardship a priority on their farms and ranches while they also improve production and profitability. The ESAP award is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences; USDA-NRCS; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA); and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation.

The regional winners are Mountain Meadows Farm, Sudbury, Vt.; Kissimmee Park Properties, St. Cloud, Fla.; BitterSweet Acres, Greenville, Iowa; Frank and Sims Price Ranch, Sterling City, Texas; Padlock Ranch Company, Ranchester, Wyo.; Kualoa Ranch, Kane‘ohe, Hawaii; and Gracie Creek Landowners Association, Burwell, Neb.

Regional and national award winners have been commended for their commitment to protecting the environment and improving fish and wildlife habitats while operating profitable cattle operations. The common trait among all winners is the desire to leave the land in better shape for future generations while also inspiring the next generation of land stewards.

“America’s farmers and ranchers are passionate about their land, and it shows through conservation and environmental stewardship efforts,” said NCBA President Scott George. “The cattle industry is continually improving upon our environmental sustainability, and these seven finalists set an example that we should all strive to achieve. We look forward to naming one of these seven great cattle operations as our 2014 national ESAP award winner in Nashville next year.”

MSGA nominates Keystone Ranches of Ismay for Environmental Stewardship Award

Helena – The Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) recently nominated Keystone Ranches, Inc. and the Bill Almy family of Ismay, Mont. for the 2011 regional and national Environmental Stewardship Award sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation. This annual award recognizes the outstanding stewardship practices and conservation achievements of cattle ranchers across the nation. Keystone Ranches was the winner of MSGA’s 2011 Montana Environmental Stewardship Award, presented at MSGA’s Annual Convention in December 2010.

“Bill Almy has been a member of MSGA since 1950 and has been the driving force behind the improved environment on Keystone Ranches since 1960,” said Ariel Overstreet, MSGA’s manager of communications. “The long history of Keystone Ranches under the care of the Almy family demonstrates the positive impact that environmental stewardship can play in the profitability and sustainability of a ranching operation, as well as the health and well-being of the landscape, wildlife populations and local communities.”

Over the past 50 years, the Almys have made the best use of available resources. In partnership with various groups and agencies, they have implemented water and grazing management innovations on Keystone Ranches that have raised the carrying capacity of the land by almost 50 percent, cut their debt-to-asset ratio from 55 percent to under 15 percent, improved wildlife habitat, maintained long-term relationships with employees, and supported their eastern Montana community.

“The Almys have been great leaders in our state industry and in their local communities,” Overstreet said. “MSGA was proud to nominate the Almys for the regional and national award.”

Regional winners of the Environmental Stewardship Award will be notified in May with a public announcement to follow in July. The national winner will be announced at the 2012 Cattle Industry Annual Convention in Nashville, Tenn. To learn more about the Montana Environmental Stewardship Award and see MSGA’s nomination submission for the national award, click here. For more information on the national Environmental Stewardship Award Program, click here.

MSGA is seeking applications for the 2012 Montana Environmental Stewardship Award. Initial applications are due June 1, 2011 and final submissions are due Sept. 1. To learn more, visit the link above, or call Ariel Overstreet at (406) 442-3420. The Montana Environmental Stewardship Award is sponsored by MSGA’s Research, Education and Endowment Foundation brought to you by Montana Beef Producers and Checkoff Dollars.