Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land.

 Goggins Ranch of Ennis in Madison County, Kurt and PJ Myllymaki of Stanford in Judith Basin County and Peterson Angus Ranch of Drummond in Granite County are the three finalists

. Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 27 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In Montana, the $10,000 award is presented with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and the Rangeland Resources Committee.  

The finalists are:

 * Goggins Ranch of Ennis in Madison County: Goggins Ranch is two properties owned and managed by family members Pat Goggins, Janet Goggins Endecott, and Rachel Endecott. They’ve established a diversity of plant species along the riparian areas of two perennial streams to provide habitat for fish, aquatic and pollinator insect species, migratory birds, and wild game. They invest in water conservation practices that maximize forage production for their beef cattle and minimize waste of irrigation water.    

* Kurt and PJ Myllymaki of Stanford in Judith Basin County: The Myllymakis use cover crops to graze their beef cattle and to improve soil health. Wind and water erosion are greatly reduced when soil is continuously covered with a living crop. Having the option to graze cover crops gives their native rangeland pastures more time to rest. Wildlife populations have increased in diversity and numbers with the improved wildlife habitat and winter cover that cover crops and healthy rangeland provide.

* Peterson Angus Ranch of Drummond in Granite County: Randy and Sue Peterson’s approach to land management prioritizes stewardship of soils, native grasslands, wetlands, forests, and other high quality wildlife habitat on their cattle ranch in the Flint Creek Valley. They employ rotational grazing to distribute livestock across their land. Known for its high-quality wildlife habitat, the Peterson Angus Ranch is part of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ reintroduction effort of the sharp-tailed grouse.  

 In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”

 “These award finalists are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO.

 “As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Montana award finalists,” said John Piotti, AFT President and Chief Executive Officer. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”


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