Johnson family receives 2015 Leopold Conservation Award
For over 100 years, the Johnson family’s philosophy has been to leave resources under their stewardship in better condition than when they found them, and to pass their ranch on to the next generation. Located near Kit Carson, Flying Diamond Ranch is now in its fifth generation and the family is determined to pass it on to the sixth.
Scott Johnson and his family own and manage 25,000 acres of land dominated by shortgrass and sandsage prairie, and over ten miles of riparian area along Big Sandy and Horse Creek.
After attending a Holistic Resource seminar in the 1980s, Scott decided to make holism a central tenet to the ranch management philosophy. The Johnsons now look at the ranch as a whole and strive to achieve a balanced approach to how they manage the land.
In partnership with NRCS, they implemented a rotational grazing system supported by an extensive pipeline and fencing infrastructure, providing control of herd impact to reach the levels of range improvement they need. Such practices have led to improved production levels, health and fertility in their land and cattle.
Using their digital data library, the Johnsons can identify variations in historical averages, allowing them to quantify grass deficits and surpluses while responsibly adjusting their stocking rates.
Rather than beginning their calving season in March, they start in May when the natural forage supplies meet the nutritional needs of their cattle. This reduces the need to supplement forage and decreases calf deaths due to inclement weather. The later start also benefits wildlife; there is no need to hunt coyotes because they have access to other food sources and are no longer a threat to livestock.
The Johnsons deeply believe in their duty serve the greater agricultural community. Each family member has held agricultural leadership roles or is heavily involved in promoting agriculture in the community. The ranch sponsors the Catch-a-Calf contest at the National Western Stock Show and supports rural youth through their regularly hosted ranch visits for local schools.
“Flying Diamond Ranch has demonstrated a multi-generational commitment to the conservation and protection of its most important assets: grassland and water,” wrote William Hammerich, CEO of the Colorado Livestock Association. “Their holistic approach to stewardship is one that could serve as a model for all livestock producers.”
Sand County Foundation
Sand County Foundation is a non-profit conservation group dedicated to working with private landowners to improve habitat on their land. Sand County’s mission is to advance the use of ethical and scientifically sound land management practices and partnerships for the benefit of people and their rural landscapes. Sand County Foundation works with private landowners because the majority of the nation’s fish, wildlife, and natural resources are found on private lands. The organization backs local champions, invests in civil society and places incentives before regulation to create solutions that ensure and grow. The organization encourages the exercise of private responsibility in the pursuit of improved land health as an essential alternative to many of the commonly used strategies in modern conservation.
The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) is the state’s only nonprofit trade organization exclusively representing Colorado’s beef producers. Founded in 1867, CCA is the nation’s oldest state cattlemen’s association. CCA serves its members by speaking out on behalf of Colorado’s more than 12,000 beef producers.
Recognizing the need to help Colorado ranchers and farmers protect their agricultural lands, in the face of growing development and economic pressures, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association in 1995 formed the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust.
Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association is a wholesale electric power supplier owned by the 44 electric cooperatives and public power districts it serves. Tri State Generation & Transmission Assoc. generates and transports electricity to its member systems across Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming.
Founded in 1916, American AgCredit is part of the nationwide Farm Credit System, and is the nation’s 6th largest Farm Credit cooperative. American AgCredit specializes in providing financial services to agricultural and rural customers throughout California, Nevada, Central Kansas, Northern Oklahoma, Central and Western Colorado, and Northern New Mexico –as well as to capital markets customers in 30 states.