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Office of Governor Pete Ricketts

Gov. Ricketts Announces 2015 Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award Recipient

Today, Governor Pete Ricketts joined Sand County Foundation, the Nebraska Cattlemen, Cargill and Nebraska Environmental Trust to announce Shaw Family Farms as the recipient of the 2015 Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award®.  The annual award honors Nebraska landowner achievement in voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources.

Shaw Family Farms is a fifth generation row-crop and cattle operation owned and managed by Steve and Vicki Shaw, and their son and daughter-in-law Brian and Julie Shaw. Located in the heart of the Rainwater Basin in south-central Nebraska, their farm management philosophy is rooted in the land ethic passed down through generations.

As the Shaws began grazing public lands, they saw opportunity in integrating wetlands and grasslands into their farm, and decided to purchase a restored wetland and grassland tract. New relationships with public land manager taught the Shaws about the benefits of wildlife management, and in turn, they taught their partners about farm management. The success of grazing wetlands led them to restore their wetlands to irrigated grassland. This land is now used for grazing, but it also serves as a crucial habitat in the annual migration corridor for an estimated 8.6 million waterfowl and 300,000 shorebirds.

"The farmers and ranchers who make up Nebraska's remarkable production agriculture industry are the original conservationists. They not only feed the world, but care for our natural resources,” said Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts. “The Shaw family is a wonderful example of how conservation and agriculture go hand in hand."

The Leopold Conservation Award is presented in honor of renowned conservationist and author Aldo Leopold, who called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage. Award applicants are judged based on their demonstration of improved resource conditions, innovation, long-term commitment to stewardship, sustained economic viability, community and civic leadership, and multiple use benefits.

The $10,000 award, and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold, will be presented to the Shaws at the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Annual Convention December 2-5 in Kearney.

“We celebrate the Shaws for the work they have done in partnership with others to improve the health of their land and their farm,” said Brent Haglund, President, Sand County Foundation.

“All of us in agriculture look at the land and decide how to best use the resource to produce products we need to survive. If the land is to provide for our generation, and for generations to come, we need to treat it with care. Nebraska agricultural producers do that very well. The Shaw family is a fantastic example,” said Homer Buell of Nebraska Cattlemen.

"Cargill values the work being done by farmers and ranchers across Nebraska that focuses on environmental stewardship. The Shaws’ management practices are a great example of how production agriculture can benefit wildlife habitat,” said Jarrod Gillig, General Manager of Cargill in Schuyler Nebraska.

The Leopold Conservation Award in Nebraska is possible thanks to generous contributions from many organizations, including: Cargill, Farm Credit Services of America, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Cattlemen Research & Education Foundation, Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Nebraska Environmental Trust, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, Sandhills Task Force, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Assoc., World Wildlife Fund, DuPont Pioneer, The Mosaic Company and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.


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


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.


Formed in 1988, NC represents the state’s beef cattle industry including more than 3,000 cattle breeders, producers and feeders as well as 44 county and local Cattlemen’s Associations. Its principal services are government affairs, public information, issues management and education.


 As a food and agricultural company, Cargill’s goal is to nourish people. Human food and animal feeds depend on clean water, soil, air, and light. As the world’s population continues to grow, so too do the demands on the environment. A sustainable future requires investing in environmental innovation today. At Cargill, we are aware that our global reach creates high expectations for leadership in resource stewardship. We look to innovation as a way to preserve and protect the environment, whether by using energy and resources more wisely (which also helps reduce energy costs), pioneering profitable business and product lines that make use of renewable raw materials, or helping customers shrink their environmental footprints.