Seven ranches across the nation were recently honored as outstanding stewards of the land in the annual Environmental Stewardship Awards Program (ESAP). In the next week, we will feature one of these ranches each day.

ESAP is in its 25th year and the 25th national winner will be selected from among these cattle producers and announced in early February 2016 at the annual convention of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in San Diego.

Most, if not all, of  the ranches named ESAP winners in the past quarter century are multi-generational and have long-standing records of operation, showing the connection between stewardship and ranch profitability.

ESAP is administered by the National Cattlemen’s Foundation and is funded by Dow AgroSciences, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Tyson Foods and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Here is a “tour” of one of those ranches and some of the traits the judges thought made it so outstanding.

Bull Hammock Ranch, Fort Pierce, Fla

Wes Carlton and Mary Ann Cruse Carlton operate this 7,500-acre ranch in southern Florida. It is home to about 1,200 commercial cow-calf pairs and is situated between four important waterways.

It is owned and operated by a seventh-generation pioneer family and, because of its location, provides one of the last chances to store water before it passes through urban areas. Because of this the family established a “water farming area” to store and treat 240 acre-feet of excess water.

They also did these things the judges really liked:

• Created storage for another 2,085 acre-feet, which reduces phosphorus and nitrogen before it leaves the ranch.

• That storage reduces phosphorus runoff by 2,067 pounds per year and nitrogen by 2,485 pounds per year.

• Family uses the excess water to rehydrate wetlands and enhance wildlife habitat.

• Pipelines and water troughs draw cattle away from surface water.

• Rotational grazing has improved grass cover.

• They operate an intensive exotic removal program which battles invasive plant species