Summit County family recognized for conservation efforts
Whenever Dusty Morgan wants to show her appreciation to her father, Ed Ercanbrack, she puts up a fence post or completes some other task that supports the family ranch’s operations in eastern Summit County.
Ercanbrack runs his 2,100-acre cattle ranch in Chalk Creek Canyon with the help of his wife, Dixie Ercanbrack, as well as Morgan and her brother, Dane Ercanbrack.
But, when Morgan recently wanted to go beyond the typical ‘Thank you,’ she decided to apply for the Utah Leopold Conservation Award on behalf of her family. The Sandy County Foundation created the conservation award to inspire better land management practices, according to a Summit Land Conservancy press release.
The family was selected as the 2018 recipient and was awarded $10,000 based on their conservation efforts.
“We are just beyond grateful and humble,” Morgan said. “It’s great for us to take a minute and reflect. A ranch is always looking back at a fence line or pond to see if it worked or it didn’t work, so to look back all together and just say it was good is great.”
Some of the family’s conservation work has helped the wildlife habitat, as well as the soil and water quality of their property. It has included aspen tree regeneration, creation of firebreaks, water development projects and rotational grazing.
Dixie Ercanbrack said the work is important to preserve the land and water for future generations.
“We put a lot of hard work into it and to be recognized for that is amazing and exciting,” she said. “I hope by being recognized it makes our neighbors think about what they can do as property owners.”
Ed Ercanbrack had no idea Morgan had applied for the award. Like his wife, he hopes his family’s efforts can serve as an example for others.
“There is a project every year it seems,” he said. “The way Mother Nature is giving us water every year is a challenge, and you do these projects and at the end of the year you pat yourself on the back and reward yourself for what projects you have to do to sustain your livelihood. But, it is nice to be recognized by others for the time that I’ve put in this place.”
The family decided to place a conservation easement on their fourth-generation ranch to prevent development on the property. The deal, which took seven years to close, was finalized in 2017.
“A lot of people would have walked away long before seven years ran out and sold their rangeland rather than wait it out, making new applications and filling out endless forms again and again,” said Cheryl Fox, executive director of the Summit Land Conservancy, in the release. “But the Ercanbracks are not like a lot of people. This family’s dedication to the stewardship of their land and their vision (for) the future is truly inspiring.”
Morgan said the award honors the family’s hard work and hours of tying wire and pounding fence posts, while being observant of their practices. She said farmers don’t normally have time to think about the work they put into the land.
“That is why this award is important because they never get a day off,” she said. “They are always thinking about what is going on next and what to do next to make their operation or life better or the animals’ lives better. It was delightful to be able to honor the calluses on my dad’s hands and the sweat on his brow.”
The family’s ranch is where Morgan and her brother’s hearts are at, she said. It has been a commitment to make sure the land is protected for everyone downstream, she added.
“You give to the land and it gives right back to you and usually it’s tenfold,” she said. “The land knows what to do, you just have to listen. That’s what it was about. Just being thankful and taking a minute to honor that.”
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.