Summit County rancher in the running for Leopold Conservation Award | ParkRecord.com

Summit County rancher in the running for Leopold Conservation Award

For more than 20 years, Summit County sheep and cattle rancher Jerrold Richins has worked on perfecting the erosion control methods he implements on his property along Chalk Creek in North Summit.

Richins, who is 77 years old and owns approximately 850 acres about six miles east of Coalville, installed erosion control structures that have been credited as the impetus for other conservation practices that improve the watershed, according to a press release from the Utah Farm Bureau.

According to the release, his automated irrigation system "efficiently reduces: energy, water use, and field runoff; and it improves habitat for the Bonneville cutthroat trout."

"It's all been on stream bank protection," Richins said in an interview with The Park Record. "It's been a real positive thing and I have seen an improvement on the river, but it's been a 20-year process."

For his conservation efforts, the Sand County Foundation announced last week that Richins is one of three finalists being considered for the Utah Leopold Conservation Award. The nonprofit conservation organization based in Madison, Wisconsin, works with private landowners across the country to inspire voluntary conservation efforts. Michael Peterson, who oversees the family Triple P Ranch in Nephi, and Andy Taft, who owns and manages the Taft Ranch, a sheep outfit in Wayne and Garfield counties, are also finalists.

The foundation encourages private landowners to improve: water quality and quantity, wildlife habitats and soil health. The Leopold Conservation Award is the organization's way of encouraging that, according to Christina Schellpfeffer, vice president of the organization.

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The award is distributed in nearly 12 states, including Utah, California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky and Nebraska. It was first awarded in Utah in 2007.

Landowners, their families and local organizations nominate the finalists who will ultimately be chosen by an independent judging panel in each state. In Utah, the foundation partners with Western AgCredit, the Utah Farm Bureau Federation and the Utah Cattlemen's Association.

"It's our way to honor outstanding private land stewards who are doing such good work in conservation," Schellpfeffer said. "If you take of the land it will take care of you and that all stems from the writing of Aldo Leopold. This is to recognize those with that land ethic and the idea of having that commitment to the treatment of their land."

Lance Irving, national director of the Leopold Conservation Award program, said in recognizing the landowners individually it allows "us to somewhat tell the story of that family and what they are doing in their conservation measures."

"It allows the story to be told in a way that people who may not be on the land and have dirt under their fingernails can relate to," Irving said. "It really is a story about individuals and their families really taking care of their most precious possession and resource."

Matt Hargreaves, a public information officer with the Utah Farm Bureau, said the partnership with the Sand County Foundation has been a unique relationship for several years. He said the award is one of the "best ways to recognize the efforts of Utah farmers and ranchers."

"All they have comes from the ground and they are quite an innovative group. They are constantly looking at ways to improve what they are doing and whether there is a new way of doing irrigation for example," Hargreaves said. "This award really does represent what a lot of these farmers are doing."

The award's recipient will be announced during the Utah Farm Bureau's annual convention and 100-year anniversary on Nov. 18. The winner will receive $10,000 and a crystal depiction of Aldo Leopold.

Richins said it is the third time his name has been submitted to the foundation for consideration. Win or lose, he said he is proud of the impact he has had on the river.

"I would be honored to accept that award, but either way I feel good about what I have done here because it didn't get the name by being a clear creek," Richins said. "But I'm not the only one out there doing these things. There are other people who do it and if everyone does it it will help."

For more information about the Sand County Foundation or the Leopold Conservation Award, go to https://sandcountyfoundation.org/.

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