Cherry Creek Ranch wins regional award from national cattlemen’s beef association

MSGA members, Lon and Vicki Reukauf, discuss winning NCBA’s Environmental Stewardship Award with Northern Ag Network’s Lane Nordlund

This commercial cow-calf operation, located in eastern Montana, is one of the few remaining original homesteads, a fact that instills pride in Lon and Vicki Reukauf, the third generation to operate the ranch. That legacy also drives the management philosophy for the Reukauf’s, who place a strong emphasis on rotational grazing as a way to manage pastures and maintain soil health.

Cherry Creek Ranch, Terry, Mont., was honored last week as one of six regional Environmental Stewardship Award Program winners. The award, which is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation, is presented to farmers and ranchers who are working hard to protect America’s natural resources.

Recently the Northern Ag Networks Lane Nordlund spoke with the Reukauf’s on their award!

Click the video above!

Source: Northern Ag Network

Montana’s Cherry Creek Ranch Receives Regional Environmental Stewardship Award

Montana Stockgrowers Association members win Regional Environmental Stewardship Award

DENVER (July 15, 2016) – Cherry Creek Ranch, Terry, Mont., was honored this week as one of six regional Environmental Stewardship Award Program winners. The award, which is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation, is presented to farmers and ranchers who are working hard to protect America’s natural resources.

The commercial cow-calf operation, located in eastern Montana, is one of the few remaining original homesteads, a fact that instills pride in Lon and Vicki Reukauf, the third generation to operate the ranch. That legacy also drives the management philosophy for the Reukauf’s, who place a strong emphasis on rotational grazing as a way to manage pastures and maintain soil health.

“For three generations we wake up every morning with the intention to get out of bed and have great intentions to improving the land and the landscape for our cattle and always putting their needs ahead of our own,” said Vicki Reukauf, who explained that the region’s silt soils mean the family needs to pay special attention to building root mass to help improve the soil and improve the water-holding capacity of the ground.

With an annual average rainfall of about 12.5 inches, keeping water on the land is a priority. One way they do that is by employing a rotational grazing system to help improve water infiltration into the soil. In 1983, Lon instituted a rotational grazing system and today rotates herds through multiple pastures to ensure grazing pressure is optimally distributed while also allowing a stockpile of forage for dry years.

“We felt that by having cattle on land for less time and giving it longer rest periods, we accomplished an increase in both species diversity and grass production and especially root depth on the plants that existed,” said Lon Reukaf. “I think by increasing the organic root depth of the plants you increase the organic matter in the soil. And I think it increases your water holding capacity in your soil and also having significant litter and good root mass in the ground makes the plants more efficiently utilize the moisture that you’ve got and lose less of that moisture to evaporation.”

Water distribution across the ranch also contributes to the successful implementation of stewardship practices of the Reukaufs. In fact, the family has installed 15 wells in strategic locations to provide the cattle with clean, fresh, consistent water, and they are slowly converting the wells to run off solar energy. So far, they have four done and plan to complete two more each year until they are all solar-powered. These tanks also help to pull animals away from lower riparian areas,” Lon said. “Putting this water in less sensitive areas is one of the single best factors in having a lot of species biodiversity in our plant community.”

Regional award recipients will now compete for the national Environmental Stewardship Award. The winner of the national award will be announced during the 2017 Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville, Tenn., in February, 2017.

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The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) has represented America’s cattle producers since 1898, preserving the heritage and strength of the industry through education and public policy.  As the largest association of cattle producers, NCBA works to create new markets and increase demand for beef.  Efforts are made possible through membership contributions. To join, contact NCBA at 1-866-BEEF-USA or membership@beef.org.

Capturing Montana’s Ranching Legacy and Celebrating Earth Day

Nominations, applications open for Environmental Stewardship Award

 

Montana ranchers depend on the health of their land and its resources to make a living and support their families.

That means working to protect and improve the environment just makes sense to most cattlemen, Sidney, Montana rancher Jim Steinbeisser says. But ranchers often think of it as ‘good business,’ rather than a particular brand of ‘environmental stewardship.’

Jim Steinbeisser

Steinbeisser chairs the state’s Environmental Stewardship Award Program task force, a program focused on showcasing how innovative stewardship and good business go hand-in-hand to support the state’s top business. He says the award program is also a place to start an open, honest dialogue in ranching communities and Montana cities about how ranchers care for their land and livestock.

“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, environmentally friendly food.”

Each year, the Environmental Stewardship Award honors Montana ranchers dedicated to going the extra mile in the conservation, preservation and enhancement of the natural resources of their land. Ranches can be nominated or apply for the award before June 1.

In short, Steinbeisser says, the award celebrates ranchers who have a story to tell about caring for their land and livestock.

2016 Winners, Lon and Vicki Reukaf

That includes a pretty wide range of potential nominees, he adds. Any rancher who is actively working to leave the land better for the next generation would be an ideal candidate.

“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 says. “It’s about sharing the facts about environmental stewardship and the story behind why it matters so much to us. We know it’s imperative for 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.”

Winners of the Environmental Stewardship Award are often honored for their innovative grazing practices, a focus on water quality and range monitoring, working to enhance fish and wildlife habitat, riparian restoration, native plant restoration, erosion control, cooperative partnerships with local, state and federal agencies, improving cow production while lowering input costs or hosting education tours or other outreach from the ranch.

“These may be things you’ve been doing for decades, or building on for generations. Or, maybe you’re implementing new, innovative ideas to turn a piece of land around or protect yourself from natural disaster,” Steinbeisser says.

The award nomination process is a good 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.

The award is sponsored in a partnership between the Montana Stockgrowers Association, the Montana Beef Council and beef producers with Check-off dollars, and the World Wildlife Fund.

Nominations and applications can be submitted online at www.mtbeef.org before June 1. 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 use in promotional materials and to represent Montana in the regional Environmental Stewardship Award competition. The winner will be recognized at the Montana Stockgrower’s Annual Convention and Trade Show in Billings this December.

To learn more, visit www.mtbeef.org, or contact Kori Anderson at kori@mtbeef.org or call (406) 603-4024.

Pictured above is Jim Steinbeisser, MSGA Board member and Chair of the Environmental Stewardship Task Force. Also pictured is the 2016 Montana Environmental Stewardship Award winners Lon and Vicki Reukauf of the Cherry Creek Ranch near Terry, Montana.

Environmental Stewardship 2016 Winner | Cherry Creek Ranch

Reukauf family ranch thrives in arid eastern Montana by going for environmental gains

By Laura Nelson
Montana Environmental Stewardship Program

Cherry Creek Ranch Environmental Stewardship Lon ReukaufPersevering in the harsh ranching climate of eastern Montana can build character, that’s for sure, Lon Reukauf jokes. But lessons of the land often run on repeat, so a well-read history book can point to opportunities to learn, grow, conserve and preserve a sustainable future.

Fortunately, the Cherry Creek Ranch in Terry, Montana has a well-read history to help build the future. When Lon Reukauf’s grandparents homesteaded the area along Cherry Creek in 1910, there was a new pioneer home every half-mile along the dusty trail. Families were eager to try their hand at eking out a living with the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909. While 160 acres in the vast, dry land of eastern Montana could not sustain a family, this act allowed for 320 acre settlements.

Today, the Reukaufs are one of five original ranches still left on the homesteading land that once held 200 families. Lon married Vicki, his high school sweetheart, after graduating from Montana State University. They returned to Cherry Creek Ranch in 1982, faced with many of the same struggles his grandfather’s family persevered through decades before. Namely, they faced the onset of another lengthy, browbeating drought. Still, Lon and Vicki raised their two children on the ranch while tending to the land and cattle.

Cherry Creek Ranch Lon ReukaufThey added another page to the Cherry Creek Ranch history book this winter when the Montana Stockgrowers Association honored the Reukaufs with the 2016 Montana Environmental Stewardship Award. The family accepted the award at the Stockgrower’s annual convention in Billings.
“The advantage of good stewardship is, your sustainability and longevity depend fully on it,” Lon says. “You’re much more likely to weather serious disasters like drought, fire and the like if you’ve taken good care of the land.”

The overall objective of the commercial cow-calf ranch is simple, Lon says: “Take good care of the land, plants and animals while making some profit to live on, retire on and pass on to the next generation.” Achieving that goal is a touch more complicated. To do it, the Reukaufs focus on four primary areas of stewardship: build a forage reserve, build a financial reserve, build on cow reproduction and build and preserve a healthy landscape to pass along.

BUILDING A FORAGE RESERVE

“What you do during the drought, once it’s that dry, really isn’t that relevant. It’s what you do before and after that grass is dry and dormant that’s really going to matter,” Lon says. Precipitation is scarce in a good year at the Cherry Creek Ranch, and lengthy drought patterns are normal throughout thousands of years of history.

Strategic grazing allows the Reukaufs to maintain a full bank of forage reserves that will keep the family and their base cattle herd afloat in dry years. The strategy also works to continually invigorate their landscape and encourage diversity in plant growth.
“A big part of the forage reserves is about having an opportunity to pick the market you’re selling into, as opposed to being forced into selling into a market you don’t like,” Lon says.

BUILDING A FINANCIAL RESERVE

Like a forage reserve, a financial reserve is critical to the long term sustainability of the ranch. Adversity is easier to overcome if an emergency fund is built in good years.
“One of the biggest problems with the legacy of farm and ranch families is ensuring the older generation has enough savings in order to step out of the way if and when the next generation comes home, so you’re not both there starving to death,” Lon says. That focus is not only geared to ensuring the ranch can safely transition to the next generation, it’s a key component to maintaining today’s stewardship.
“I can’t think of anything that will make ranchers make worse environmental decisions than buying land at too high of prices, then trying to figure out how to make money off it,” Lon says.

BUILD IN COW REPRODUCTION

Longevity and fertility in the cowherd are the top two production goals at the Cherry Creek Ranch. On the arid eastern Montana landscape, cows must be super-efficient. They’re expected to average at least eight calves in a productive lifetime.
“Cow longevity is our number one cost, if it’s not there,” Lon says. “We want to be mindful of feedlot performance and carcass quality, too, but a super high-production cow just isn’t going to be efficient out here.”
At least 95 percent of cows should breed up and then calve in the first 30 days of the reproductive cycle, which hinges largely on an adequate plan of nutrition during breeding season, made possible by the previous year’s forage reserve and pasture movements timed for this purpose.

BUILD, PRESERVE A HEALTHY LANDSCAPE TO PASS ALONG

Cherry Creek Ranch Lon ReukaufLike his father and grandfather before him, Lon’s biggest goal is to better the landscape so it may continue to be sustainable, profitable and productive for the next generation.

“If I could say what his motto was, it would be to leave the land better than he found it. That’s what he’s worked his whole life for,” Vicki says.
That’s quantified by managing the land for increased production and increased plant and animal diversity. “The problem with that goal is, you never know how far you can go with it. So you just keep improving and keep raising the bar,” Lon says. “There’s never really an end in sight.”

ADDRESS ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES

Water quantity and natural water quality pose the largest challenges at the Cherry Creek Ranch.
“Water is so important to us. We could have cattle thirst to death in a matter of a couple days out here,” Lon says. “So we have to have a plan, and we better have a plan B.”

While the ranch has nearly 15 miles of riparian zones, these are small, ephemeral springs that do not provide reliable stock water in the 20 days of the year they run.“The rotational grazing has a lot to do with keeping the vegetation around the reservoirs from becoming nothing but dirt. By having our watershed covered with an adequate amount of litter and vegetation, it greatly decreases the amount of silt that runs into our reservoir,” Lon says.

REST ROTATIONAL GRAZING, WINTER FORAGE USE

The main management objective of the Reukauf’s six-pasture rotation is resting one pasture for 14 months and then using it exclusively the following May. The ranch utilizes winter grazing with the pastures constituting the majority of the cow’s winter diet, supplemented by high protein for part of the winter. As a result, the tree and shrub regeneration in winter pastures has been successful. In general, grazing use levels of herbaceous plants during the dormant season (October-April) can be higher than during the growing season without significantly stressing the plants. It is important to maintain ground cover to decrease the amount of soil exposed to wind and water erosion. This will also capture more snow and retain moisture.
All cattle are placed in one pasture that was rested the year before for the month of May, or used ‘light and late.’ The other five pastures get deferred until after June 1. All livestock are concentrated in a single pasture except in the fall. Four of the six pastures are deferred until late July.

The combination of these tactics allow for adequate surplus root growth, seed production and new seedling establishment. The ranch also has two, three-pasture deferred rotation systems with the goal of using one pasture only from June 15 to Sept. 1. This allows shrubs and trees to receive no hot season use two years out of three to encourage growth. The late used pasture becomes the early grazed pasture the next year.

STRATEGIC WINTER FEEDING BOOSTS DIKE IRRIGATION SYSTEM

Cherry Creek Ranch Environmental Stewardship Lon Reukauf BLMThroughout the year, mineral, salt and protein blocks are strategically placed as bait to draw cattle into areas with extra forage and away from sensitive areas. No salt or mineral is placed within one-half a mile of water during winter to allow riparian areas to regenerate, and strategic feeding areas feed into a dike system that grows a small amount of hay.

“Manure is a wonderful thing, as long as you don’t pile it up too high,” Lon says. “The two things we can’t afford to lose here are nutrients and water.” Animals are supplemented on a rotating location schedule, with the goal to maximize the use of nutrients by avoiding runoff into clean water. Meanwhile, runoff is captured in a system of dikes to grow forage. Without the diking system, the ranch would be unable to grow a hay crop. The nutritional content of the manure runoff also eliminates the need for synthetic nitrogen.

“We feed like we would spread fertilizer,” Lon says. The 300 acres of hay production on the ranch adds an estimated $50-75,000 of value to the ranch each year.

EARLY WEANING PAYS IN EFFICIENCY

Decades of market analysis and studying forage availability led Lon to weaning early and selling lighter calves to help his cows be more efficient, and also to increase his bottom line.

“When you wean that cow and calf, you can figure you’re cutting your forage consumption in half. You have a dry mama who’s not lactating and a calf who’s no longer eating. That early weaning is a fast way to decrease forage consumption per cow-calf unit,” Lon says. While it costs about $150 per head to feed the calf for an extra 100 days off the cow, it pays off in cow efficiency, near-perfect conception rates and an increased forage bank.
Selling calves at just below 500 pounds has also increased efficiency at the ranch. While they normally wean at 180 days, drought conditions may call for weaning 100-day old calves.

“For us, the cost of adding pounds after 500 is just not worth it. If you put 50 pounds on, how many more dollars per pound per head do you get? It’s not that much when you pencil the true costs in our environment,” Lon says.

TREE REGENERATION POINTS TO HEALTHY LANDSCAPE

A healthy landscape is a diverse landscape, and the Cherry Creek Ranch is home to a wide variety of grasses, shrubs and trees that offer shelter to domestic and wild animals. Years of tree planting efforts throughout the family’s history created a healthy seedbed for regeneration, and the rotational grazing system is geared toward creating a healthy environment for trees to thrive in.Cottonwoods are slowly making a comeback on the ranch, where Lon started placing a square of woven wire paneling around the seedlings to protect young growth. The BLM successfully borrowed his technique for use on other public land in the area.

“It’s not much, but if we can add even just two trees each year, and they live for 80 years – well, that’s a lot of trees,” Lon says. He protects the regrowth of new shrubs and trees by avoiding grazing on 2/3 of the pastures during their most critical growth – June 20 through August 20 – to give the green ash, buffalo berry, snowberry and other woody species a chance to establish. The change has been hugely noticeable, particular over the past 20 years.

“You can see the diversity of the age of these trees; that shows in the landscape,” Lon says. “My dad was an avid bird watcher, but we also just don’t want to live on a barren landscape.”

ONE TREE AT A TIME

Cherry Creek Ranch Reukauf FamilyThat dedication was drilled home each spring of the family’s early years, filled with “character building” memories from Vicki and the kids.“There aren’t many trees here in Eastern Montana,” Vicki says. “Every spring, Lon would order 200 trees, and the kids and I would be out in the mud, creeks and shelterbelts planting hundreds of those trees with shovels.”

The success rate is small – water is scarce, the environment is harsh – but the effort is worthwhile. Each tree that survives improves wildlife habitat and the ranch’s landscape. Year after year, the same painstaking effort goes into water development, strategic grazing and native rangeland health.“It’s all gradual – there’s no magic shazam to doing things right,” Lon says.

Rather, it’s the discovery of little successes – one new cottonwood, a shade greener stream bed, a fresh patch of native grass, a higher percentage of bred cows – that continues to drive stewardship, conservation and sustainability at the Cherry Creek Ranch.
“I didn’t return here to this place and this lifestyle for money.” Lon says. “I love the land. What’s important to me is taking care of things now so the next generation can make a stable income and enjoy a beautiful, clean, diverse place to call home.”

 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.

Fundraiser Auction Supports Environmental Stewardship

montana environmental stewardship award programOn Friday, September 18, ranchers and Billings-area residents gathered for a night of beef, wine and fun at Yellowstone Cellars and Winery, hosted by Clint Peck. Proceeds from the event go to support the Montana Environmental Stewardship Program (ESAP).

The night’s events included good wine, fresh beef tri-tip grilled by Chef Megan Jessee thanks to the Montana Beef Council, and several donated items auctioned by Ron Dinkle. The auction raised more than $4,000, which will go toward outreach efforts to help ranchers share their stories of environmental stewardship.

In its 25th year, ESAP recognizes Montana ranchers who go the extra mile to preserve and enhance the resources on their land through management that promotes environmental stewardship, conservation and sustainability. These practices include management that promotes

  • Conservation of natural resources,
  • Coexistence with wildlife habitat,
  • Clean water sources,
  • Range health and diversity,
  • Healthy, wholesome beef products, and
  • Sustainable contributions to rural economies

Each year, Montana Stockgrowers recognizes ranchers at the forefront of conservation and stewardship with a commitment toward improved sustainability within the beef industry. Ranchers must complete an extensive application and share their story of work in the areas of

  • Diversity in Rangeland and Wildlife Management,
  • Sustainability on the Ground and in Rural Communities,
  • Partnerships Toward Improved Ranching, and
  • Environmental & Economic Management Goals.

State winners selected by the Montana Stockgrowers Association advance to the regional and national levels. Montana has a strong history of regional and national winners in years since ESAP was established. This year, the American Fork Ranch from Two Dot is the Region V ESAP winner and will continue to compete for the National award, to be announced January 27-29 in San Diego.

The 2016 Montana ESAP recipient will be announced at the Stockgrowers Annual Convention, December 3-5 in Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark in Billings.

To learn more about Montana ESAP or to donate to the program, visit mtbeef.org.

American Fork Ranch Wins Regional Award for Environmental Stewardship

American Fork Ranch Environmental StewardshipAmerican Fork Ranch of Two Dot, Mont., was honored with one of seven regional Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) awards. The honorees, announced during last week’s 2015 Cattle Industry Summer Conference, were recognized for their outstanding stewardship practices. This year’s regional winners will compete for the national award, which will be announced during the 25th anniversary celebration in January 2016.

ESAP is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation, and is presented to farmers and ranchers who demonstrate a commitment to protecting the farm and ranch land in their care.

“The American Fork Ranch is a part of Montana history, established in 1882 and dating back to days of the Montana Territory. The Stevens family has owned the ranch since 1945 and currently has the fifth generation actively involved in ranch operations and the community,” said Jay Bodner, Montana Stockgrowers Association director of natural resources. “Under the management of Jed and Annie Evjene, the American Fork Ranch has experienced a transformation in sustainability, stewardship and conservation through a number of public and private partnerships. Through a dedication to long-term stewardship, the American Fork Ranch continuously works to improve their cattle operation to benefit their environment, wildlife, resources, community and employees.”

At American Fork Ranch, they’ve found that what’s good for cattle production is also good for the wildlife – and by improving their pastures through cross fencing and adding an extensive system of waterlines, the work has also improved habitat for the native animals.

In 2008, American Fork Ranch embarked upon an ambitious, multi-tiered program to wholly rejuvenate the ranch’s native prairies. To do this, the Evjenes worked in partnership with the NRCS and its Environmental Quality Incentives Program. This program helped them to cross-fence, develop water, complete range assessment of the ranch, collect soil samples, and develop a formal and intricate rotational grazing program. Specifically, the largest implementation was the addition of 25 miles of interior cross fencing. This divided 23 pastures that were once very large into more efficient average sizes of 350 acres, creating 49 efficient grazing pastures.

Grazing each pasture for seven days has allowed the ranch to keep forage in front of the livestock and increase weaning weights on the calves, while increasing overall herd health. Pasture start times are adjusted so that each pasture is not used at the same times each year. Resting each pasture for 45 days between rotation cycles has allowed them to clearly monitor the growing and sustained health of the range as the native plants and wildlife mature and flourish.

Some of the dominant wildlife species that share the open spaces of the ranch and its riparian corridors include antelope, whitetail deer, mule deer, elk, moose, black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, coyotes, ducks, geese, sandhill cranes, eastern brook trout, along with several other wildlife species.

“Being able to walk out here or drive here and see good healthy livestock, good healthy wildlife, clear running water and lots of grass. Knowing that we as a team worked together to succeed in this is very rewarding for all of us here on the ranch,” said Jed Evjene. “We wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Ranches receiving ESAP recognition from other regions include Valley View Farms, Harrisonburg, Va.; Bull Hammock Ranch, Fort Pierce, Fla.; Glenn and Bev Rowe, Lorimor, Iowa; 6666 Ranch, Gutherie, Texas; Maggie Creek Ranch, Elko, Nev.; and Kopriva Angus, Raymond, S.D.

Read more about the American Fork Ranch, who was recognized as the Montana ESAP recipient earlier this year by MSGA.

Montana Stockgrowers Seeking Applications for 2015 Environmental Stewardship Award

montana environmental stewardship award programHelena, MT – Do you know a Montana rancher who is a leader in stewardship and sustainability, 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 2015 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 Gene Curry, MSGA President and rancher from Valier. “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.”

American Fork Ranch Environmental Stewardship Jed Evjene David StevensLast year’s recipient of the ESAP recognition was the American Fork Ranch, a commercial cow-calf operation in Wheatland and Sweet Grass counties. The American Fork is owned by the Stevens family and is managed by Jed and Annie Evjene, long-time active members of MSGA.

Over the past 17 years, the Stevens and Evjene 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.

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.

Read more about the American Fork Ranch on our blog.

Ranches wishing to apply for the 2015 ESAP award and recognition are asked to complete an application packet (available on our ESAP page), due to MSGA 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.

The ranch chosen for the award will be announced at MSGA’s Annual Convention and Trade Show in Billings, Dec. 3-5 at the MetraPark in Billings. The Montana ESAP winner will then 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 22 state winners, ten of whom went on to win the regional award and two named national award winners. To learn more, visit mtbeef.org, or contact Ryan Goodman at ryan@mtbeef.org or (406) 442-3420. The Montana Environmental Stewardship Award is funded in part by Montana Beef Producers with Checkoff Dollars.