Finalists Named for 2018 South Dakota Leopold Conservation Award


Leopold Conservation AwardSand County Foundation, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and the South Dakota Grassland Coalition are proud to announce the finalists for the 2018 Leopold Conservation Award®.

The award program honors private landowners for extraordinary achievement in the voluntary conservation of natural resources.

The finalists are:

  • Cammack Ranch of Union Center: a cow/calf ranch with 10,000 grazing acres owned by Gary and Amy Cammack. The Cammack family has implemented rotational grazing, constructed windbreaks, and planted over 30,000 trees on their ranch.
  • Center of the Nation Cattle Company of Newell: a 107-year-old, fourth generation cow/calf ranch owned and managed by Jeff and Steve Smeenk, along with their wives Kim and Kay. The Smeenks practice rotational grazing and enhance sage grouse and other wildlife habitat on their land.
  • Johnson Farms of Frankfort: a crop and commercial Angus farm owned and operated by the fifth generation of Johnsons. Using cover crops, no-till practices and a diverse crop rotation, the Johnsons are committed to building soil health and sharing a message of conservation to their community.
  • Blair Brothers Angus Ranch of Vale: a family-owned Angus cow-calf, stocker and feedlot business. The family utilizes sage grouse friendly grazing and focuses on wildlife habitat in their planning.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation on working land. It inspires other landowners through these examples and provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders.

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

Award applicants are judged based on their demonstration of improved resource conditions, innovation, long-term commitment to stewardship, sustained economic viability, community and civic leadership, and multiple use benefits.

The 2018 award recipient, who will receive $10,000 and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold, will be announced in late-April and recognized at the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association’s Annual Convention on November 28.

“The Leopold Conservation Award continues to be the premier award focused on acknowledging the role of private landowners in protecting and preserving our natural resources.  The South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association is pleased to once again partner with the Sand County

Foundation and South Dakota Grassland Coalition to highlight the great work of these South Dakota families and we congratulate all of the 2018 finalists,” said Larry Stomprud, SDCA President.

Jim Faulstich, Chair of the South Dakota Grassland Coalition, said, “The South Dakota Grassland Coalition is very excited to be a sponsor of the Leopold Conservation Award and even more excited to see another super group of finalists for the 2018 Award. These four multigeneration family operations, again raise the bar with their excellent management of natural resources and leadership in South Dakota agriculture.”

The Leopold Conservation Award in South Dakota is possible thanks to generous contributions from many organizations, including: Belle Fourche River Watershed Partnership, Bad River Ranches, South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, Daybreak Ranch, Ducks Unlimited, South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation, First Dakota National Bank, South Dakota Grassland Coalition, South Dakota Department of Agriculture Resource Conservation & Forestry, South Dakota Discovery Center, South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks, Millborn Seeds, Mortenson Family, Professional Alliance, South Dakota State University College of Ag and Biological Sciences, The Nature Conservancy Western Dakotas Program, Audubon Dakota, South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, Partners for Fish & Wildlife, South Dakota Pheasants Forever, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, South Dakota’s Conservation Districts, and World Wildlife Fund Northern Great Plains.


The Leopold Conservation Award ( is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. The award consists of a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold and $10,000. Sand County Foundation presents Leopold Conservation Awards in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.


Sand County Foundation ( is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to working with private landowners across North America to advance ethical and scientifically sound land management practices that benefit the environment.


The South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association ( is a member-driven organization working to advance and protect the interests of all cattlemen. SDCA works to facilitate a profitable business climate and promote environmental stewardship.


The South Dakota Grassland Coalition ( is a non-profit organization that seeks the voluntary improvement of grasslands for the long-term needs of the resource and its various species. The SD Grassland Coalition is dedicated to improving and maintaining the state’s grasslands by informing and guiding grassland managers to make cost-effective and environmentally sound management decisions.