Working with Agriculture to Meet Environmental Goals

Working with Stewards of California’s Farmland to Meet Environmental Goals

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

If you give a farmer a goal, they will most likely strive to meet it—even exceed it—as long as it fosters great stewardship of their land and allows them to sustainably farm into the future.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) logo

Eric Holst, associate vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund‘s working lands program, and an expert in developing strategies for environmental management on working forest, farms, and ranches, has an important view of the California Agriculture industry. “It’s an incredibly important industry. It’s greater than $56 billion net for California farmers. I think, even more important than the monetary value, is the land and the water that it touches,” said Holst.

Holst’s career has focused on improving livelihoods and environmental conditions in rural places in the U.S. and Latin America. Appointed as a member of the California Board of Food and Agriculture by Governor Jerry Brown for his ability to effectively communicate with a wide variety of constituents on difficult environmental issues, Holst elaborated, “Farmers and ranchers in California have a lot of influence on how we manage land, how we manage our landscapes, how we manage our waterways. It’s incredibly important to weigh in on policy issues that relate to agriculture in California.” california-farmland

Based in Sacramento, Holst knows how pervasive California agriculture is, spanning the state from the Mexican border to the Oregon border. “About 45% of California is in privately-held working lands—land managed by farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners,” Holst noted. Holst and his team interfaced with these private landowners to map a big part of it.

Holst, who also serves as director of the Forest Stewards Guild and American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI), explained, while these landowners have a lot of freedom about how to manage their land, “It’s probably the most highly regulated place in the world in terms of environmental performance.” Despite regulatory constraint on land management decisions, Holst believes, “there’s a lot of room to make decisions that can either help or harm the environment.”

Holst reflected, “It is really an important role that we have on the CDFA Board to weigh in and try to push California in the right direction.” Ultimately, in Holst’s experience, “If you set a goal and then allow farmer, rancher or forest landowner to figure out how to meet that goal, that’s probably the best way,” said Holst.

“Conditions are different on every farm, every ranch,” Holst stated. “I think it’s important to set standards high. I think California has higher standards than just about anywhere else. We want to develop policies and implementation of policies that will give a lot of flexibility to the individual operator. That tends to be, in my experience, the system that works best,” he noted.

Prather Ranch Receives 2015 California Leopold Conservation Award

Prather Ranch Named 2015 California Leopold Conservation Award® Recipient

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – (November 18, 2015) Sand County Foundation, the California Farm Bureau Federation and Sustainable Conservation are proud to announce Prather Ranch as the recipient of the prestigious 2015 California Leopold Conservation Award®. The award honors private landowner achievement in the voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources.

Prather Ranch, owned and managed by Jim and Mary Rickert, is a working cattle ranch headquartered in Macdoel, and stretches across five counties. Under the Rickerts’ management, Prather Ranch has grown in size, implemented conservation enhancements and established several permanent conservation easements. Over the last 35 years, Prather Ranch has continually collaborated with diverse partners to enhance the land and promote land stewardship in the community.

One of the ranch’s first efforts to promote biodiversity was taking an unusual approach to managing the wild rice fields on their land near Mt. Shasta. After rice harvest, they began tilling the stubble into the soil and keeping their fields covered in water year-round. The practice not only benefited common species of waterfowl such as Canada Geese and Snow Geese, but it also attracted shore birds like plovers and terns, previously found only on the coast.

Through conservation easements in cooperation with the Shasta Land Trust, the Rickerts have preserved some of the state’s most spectacular wildflowers and protected sensitive vernal pools and riparian areas. Prather Ranch has also planted several miles of riparian habitat along streams and irrigation canals to benefit a wide range of animals such as the California Quail and the endangered Shasta crayfish.

Jim and Mary Rickert provide community leadership, working with 4-H, Future Farmers of America, and local schools for ranch field trips and other activities.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. 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.”

“Because more than half of all land in California is privately owned, how landowners manage their properties has a dramatic and lasting effect on the environment and quality of life for all Californians,” said Ashley Boren, executive director of Sustainable Conservation. “Since the 70s, Jim and Mary have demonstrated an above-and-beyond commitment to enhancing the land, water and wildlife across a large swath of the state. And, they’ve done it in true Leopold fashion, regarding their land not simply as a commodity that belongs to them, but rather seeing their land as a community to which they belong.”

“The Leopold Conservation Award recognizes unique yet replicable strategies a farmer or rancher has developed in managing their land, to be the best steward of the natural resources,” said Paul Wenger, California Farm Bureau President. “We are honored to join Sand County Foundation and Sustainable Conservation to recognize the extraordinary efforts of California farmers and ranchers who go above and beyond in managing and enhancing our natural resources.”

The Leopold Conservation Award program inspires other landowners through these examples and provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders.

The 2015 California Leopold Conservation Award will be presented December 7 at the California Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting in Reno, NV. Each finalist will be recognized at the event, and Prather Ranch will be presented with a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold and $10,000.

The award sponsors also wish to congratulate the 2015 finalists for their outstanding contributions to agriculture and conservation: Bruce and Sylvia Hafenfeld, who own Hafenfeld Ranch and manage public lands in eastern Kern County, and Ken and Matt Altman, who own and manage Altman Specialty Plants in Riverside and San Diego Counties.

The California Leopold Conservation Award is made possible thanks to generous contributions from American Ag Credit, The Harvey L. & Maud S. Sorenson Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, The Mosaic Company, DuPont Pioneer, and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

 

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

ABOUT SAND COUNTY FOUNDATION
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.

ABOUT SUSTAINABLE CONSERVATION

Sustainable Conservation helps California thrive by uniting people to solve the toughest challenges facing our land, air and water. Since 1993, it has brought together business, landowners and government to steward the resources that we all depend on in ways that make economic sense. Sustainable Conservation believes common ground is California’s most important resource. 

 

ABOUT CALIFORNIA FARM BUREAU FEDERATION

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of over 53,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.