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Sand County Foundation, the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, the Utah Cattlemen’s Association, Trout Unlimited and Western AgCredit are pleased to name the Heaton Ranch as the recipient of the 2012 Leopold Conservation Award.
“The Heatons have made conservation a family tradition,” said Brent Haglund, Sand County Foundation president. “Through adaptive management techniques, innovation and outreach, the Heaton family are going a long way to ensure that the agricultural operation and its natural resources will, not only endure, but thrive for future generations.”
The Leopold Conservation Award, named in honor of world-renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, is comprised of $10,000 and a Leopold crystal. The award is presented annually in eight states to private landowners who practice responsible land stewardship and management.
The Heaton Ranch, located in Alton, Utah, is family owned and operated by Karl and Raymond Heaton – first cousins. The ranch’s 140,000 plus private and federal acres support abundant wildlife populations – including sage grouse and a premier trophy mule deer herd – and 1,250 head of cattle. Each fall, the ranchers trail cattle 100 miles to the south and graze on winter forage on the Arizona Strip – the area of land north of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon in Arizona.
“These cattle pay for all the conservation work we do. Conservation is a top priority for us, and we recognize that’s what’s kept us in business today,” said Karl Heaton. “They’d like to put summer homes out here, but we’re maintaining open spaces. We’re an agriculture ranch and that’s how we want to keep it.”
Beef production is the mainstay of the Heaton ranch, and sustainability is critical. The Heatons proactively implement restoration activities on their private ranch land and federal grazing allotments, including such projects as irrigation and livestock water development, fencing, grazing management, pinion/juniper and shrub removal, reseeding and more.
The family also operates an outfitting business and takes “Dudes” along with them on their cattle drives, to give those unfamiliar with agriculture a taste of what it takes to raise cattle as well as the care the animals receive. The cattle drive was recently featured on an episode of the PBS show America’s Heartland, which can be seen at http://www.americasheartland.org/episodes/episode_611/index.htm.
The Heatons were presented the Leopold Conservation Award at the Utah Farm Bureau Convention in Layton.
“We are very excited to present this award on behalf of the farmers and ranchers of Utah,” Leland Hogan said. “This award, however, is great for all of Utah because the recognition and funding helps to preserve and enhance our open space. Utah’s farmers and ranchers have a long history of land preservation and a deep commitment to preserving Utah’s natural resources. As stewards of the land we want to ensure that history continues well into the future.”