Sand County Foundation and Nebraska Cattlemen are proud to announce the recipient of the 2009 Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award: Bluestem Valley Farms near Martell, owned and managed by the family of Lyle and Alice Sittler and Todd and Kristen Eggerling.

The Leopold Conservation Award, named in honor of world-renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, is comprised of $10,000 and a Leopold crystal. The award is presented annually in seven states to private landowners who practice responsible land stewardship and management.

"The Sittlers and Eggerlings are proof that the land ethic, championed by Aldo Leopold, can be passed on from generation to generation," said Brent Haglund, Sand County Foundation President. "Their commitment to conservation on their land, as well their dedication to reaching beyond Bluestem Valley Farms' borders to educate people about agriculture is truly exemplary."

The Sittlers and Eggerlings will be recognized Dec. 10 at the Nebraska Cattlemen Annual Convention in Kearney.

The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. The award consists of a crystal depiction of Aldo Leopold seated on a horse and a check for $10,000. In 2008, Sand County Foundation will present Leopold Conservation Awards in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas, Utah and California.

The awards are presented to accomplish three objectives: First, they recognize extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation on the land of exemplary private landowners. Second, they inspire countless other landowners in their own communities through these examples. Finally, they provide a visible forum where leaders from the agriculture community are recognized as conservation leaders to groups outside of agriculture.

Nebraska is unique among the seven states in the number of organizations supporting the award. “More than 95 percent of the land in Nebraska is privately owned,” said Duane Gangwish, Nebraska Cattlemen vice president of environmental affairs. “That contributes to the strong conservation ethic and support that exists here for maintaining our natural resources. As an extension of that awareness we have seen support for this award from a wide range of organizations across the state.”  Supporting organizations include: BNSF Railway Company; Cargill Meat Solutions – Schuyler; Nebraska Beef Industry Foundation (Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska CattleWomen, Sandhills Cattle Assocation); Nebraska Cattlemen Research & Education Foundation; Nebraska Environmental Trust; Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation; Nebraska Game and Parks Commission; Nebraska Natural Resources and Conservation Service; Sandhills Taskforce.

The 2009 panel of judges was comprised of: Ginger Langemierer – Nebraska Department of Agriculture; David Sands – Nebraska Land Trust; Jim Van Winkle – Sand Hills Task Force; Mark Brohman – Nebraska Environmental Trust; Tim McCoy – Nebraska Game & Parks Commission; Mace Hack – Nebraska Nature Conservancy.

The 2008 award recipient was A.B. Cox of Mullen; 2007 award recipients were Rod and Amy Christen of Steinauer and the 2006 recipient was the Wilson Ranch, Lakeside.

For more information, please visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org or contact Mike Fitzgerald, 402-475-2333, mfitzgerald@necattlemen.org

Sand County Foundation (www.sandcounty.net) is a private, non-profit conservation group dedicated to working with private landowners to improve habitat on their land. Sand County’s mission is to advance the use of ethical and scientifically sound land- management practices and partnerships for the benefit of people and their rural landscapes. Sand County Foundation works with private landowners because the majority of the nation’s fish, wildlife, and natural resources are on private lands. The organization backs local champions, invests in civil society and places incentives before regulation to create solutions that endure and grow. The organization encourages the exercise of private responsibility in the pursuit of improved land health as an essential alternative to many of the c ommonly used strategies in modern conservation.