Sharing the common bond of conservation
Ranch nominations open for Environmental Stewardship Award Program
Montana’s ranchers, conservationists, wildlife biologists, water quality experts, range scientists and hunting advocates share an incredible common bond: they each love the land and care about the animals and natural resources that depend on it.
“There’s no doubt we have more in common than most of us think,” Jesse Tufte, the program officer for World Wildlife Fund’s Sustainable Ranching Initiative said. She’s especially keen on the state’s cattlemen and women who put in much of the legwork to conserve and steward the health of grasslands. “We need to learn from, listen to and understand how we can keep ranchers ranching, because they contribute so much to conservation.”
For more than 25 years, the Montana Stockgrowers Association has proudly sponsored and honored ranchers across the state with the Environmental Stewardship Award Program. Today, they partner with the Montana Beef Checkoff and conservation organizations like the World Wildlife Fund to share the full picture of the impact ranchers have with their environmental stewardship practices.
The program recognizes the role ranchers and private landowners play in the stewardship and conservation of healthy ecosystems in the state. Nominations for the award are now open.
Lon and Vicki Reukauf, from Terry, Montana, were one of seven ranches in the nation recently recognized in the award program at the National Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville. They were the 2016 Montana Environmental Stewardship Award Program honorees and 2017 Region IV winners.
“We don’t have a show place for a ranch,” Vicki said. “We’re just doing what we’ve always done to take care of the land and make sure this place is better for the next generation. We just realized that if we didn’t step forward to share our story about stewardship and conservation, someone else would tell that story for us, and it might not be accurate.”
The Environmental Stewardship Program is an opportunity to honor and showcase those ranchers who go the extra mile in the conservation, preservation and enhancement of the natural resources on their land. Ranches can be nominated for the award before May 15 at www.mtbeef.org.
The Reukauf’s Cherry Creek Ranch was recommended for the award by their Prairie County District Conservationist, a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks coordinator of landowners/sportsman relations and their local Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist.
Sidney, Montana rancher Jim Steinbeisser chairs the state’s Environmental Stewardship Award Program committee. The committee consists of a team of ranchers with the Montana Stockgrowers Association who are focused on showcasing how innovative stewardship and good business go hand-in-hand. He says the award program is a place to start an open, honest dialogue in ranching communities and Montana cities about how ranchers care for their land and livestock.
“Ranchers in general are just humble people. We don’t want to brag or pat ourselves on the back, but that’s not what this award is about,” he said. “It’s about sharing the facts of environmental stewardship and the story behind why it matters so much to us. We know it’s imperative to our livelihoods that we reach out to our customers and show them what we do and how we do it, and to encourage our fellow ranchers to do the same.”
The award nomination process is an opportunity for county conservation districts, water districts, wildlife organizations or other local and state agencies focused on conservation and multiple land use to recognize partnerships with ranchers who help them accomplish mutual goals. Any Montana Stockgrowers Association member who is actively working to leave the land better for the next generation would be an ideal candidate.
“The Environmental Stewardship Program has now gone far beyond encouraging fellow ranchers to improve the management of our resources,” Steinbeisser said. “Now we want to focus on reaching out to our customers and consumers so we can share what we do on our ranches and how we manage our resources to provide safe, healthy food while caring for the land.”
Nominations may be submitted online at www.mtbeef.org before May 15. The winning ranch will then have the assistance of a professional writer and photographer to capture their ranch’s story – their family’s legacy of caring for the land and livestock – to represent Montana in the regional Environmental Stewardship Award Program. The winner will be recognized at the Montana Stockgrowers Annual Convention and Trade Show in Billings this December.
Pictured above (top left) is 2016 Montana Environmental Stewardship Award and 2017 Region IV winners Lon and Vicki Reukauf of the Cherry Creek Ranch near Terry, Montana.
Pictured above (right) Jim Steinbeisser, Sidney, Montana rancher, Montana Environmental Stewardship Award Program committee chair and Montana Stockgrowers Foundation board member.