Two finalists have been selected for the 2022 California Leopold Conservation Award®. Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the prestigious award recognizes those who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife resources in their care.
In California, Sand County Foundation presents the award with American Farmland Trust, and state partners: Sustainable Conservation and the California Farm Bureau Federation.
The finalists are:
- Beretta Family Dairy of Sonoma County. Since the 1960s the Berettas have implemented conservation practices that focus on improving soil health, water quality, reducing groundwater usage, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and protecting the federally recognized endangered species in the Laguna de Santa Rosa Watershed. They recycle their dairy’s wastewater, and have used the City of Santa Rosa’s reclaimed wastewater for irrigation since 1981. Pastures are managed with grazing practices that reduce fire fuels and provide bird and wildlife habitat.
- Sardella Ranch of Standard in Tuolumne County. Sardella Ranch was Tuolumne County’s first property to be placed in a conservation easement. For decades, Mike and Julie Sardella have rotationally and seasonally grazed beef cattle to prevent erosion and sustain natural regrowth of their grasslands. Wildlife habitat and water quality have benefitted from the Sardella’s efforts to enhance the riparian habitat along a tributary of the Tuolumne River that runs through the ranch. Now retired from cattle ranching, Mike serves on the county’s Resource Conservation District Board.
The Leopold Conservation Award will be presented during the California Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting in December.The award recipient will receive $10,000 and a crystal award.“When it comes to protecting California’s natural resources, landowners are critical because they can implement on-the-ground environmental solutions,” said Ashley Boren, CEO of Sustainable Conservation, which has co-sponsored the award since its launch in California more than a decade ago. “The Sardellas and the Berettas work steadily and creatively to center their conservation ethos in their farming practices. We’re honored to recognize each family’s dedication to exceptional stewardship, and each are deserving of the award.”
“On behalf of the California Farm Bureau we congratulate this year’s finalists for the Leopold Conservation Award. They are showcasing on a daily basis good environmental stewardship in managing their farm and ranch operations while producing safe, affordable food for Californians and consumers across the globe,” said Jamie Johansson, California Farm Bureau Federation President.
“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust, celebrates the hard work and dedication of the California award finalists,” said John Piotti, American Farmland Trust President and CEO. “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.”
“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.
Earlier this year, farmers, ranchers and foresters were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural, forestry, wildlife, academic, and other conservation leaders.
The first California Leopold Conservation Award recipient, Lange Twins Wine Estates of Lodi, was selected in 2006. Marie and Glenn Nader’s Witcher Creek Ranch in Modoc County received the award in 2021.
The Leopold Conservation Award in California is made possible thanks to the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Sustainable Conservation, California Farm Bureau Federation, Sand County Foundation The Harvey L. & Maud C. Sorensen Foundation, Farm Credit, The Nature Conservancy in California, McDonald’s, and California LCA recipient alumni.
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.”
Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 24 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. For more information, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.