BISMARCK, N.D. — Three finalists have been selected for the 2020 North Dakota Leopold Conservation Award.

Dockter-Jensen Ranch of Denhoff in Sheridan County, Little Eden Ranch of Wolford in Pierce County and Paul Ranch of Carson in Grant County are in the running to win the award, which will be announced later this summer and recognized in November at the North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts’ Annual Convention.

The $10,000 award, presented by the North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition, North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts and the North Dakota Stockmen's Association, is given in honor of conservationist Aldo Leopold. The award recognizes farmers, ranchers and private landowners who exemplify voluntary, responsible stewardship and management of natural resources.

The Leopold Conservation Award was first presented in North Dakota in 2016. Gene and Christine Goven from Turtle Lake received the 2019 award.

Applications were submitted by landowners, or on behalf of a landowner. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders. This year's finalists practice a variety of conservation practices:

Dockter-Jensen Ranch of Denhoff in Sheridan County: Kerry and Brenda Dockter, and their daughter Kristi and her husband Kyle Jensen, developed rotational grazing systems. This promotes a diversity of native grasses and extends their beef cattle herd’s grazing season. Partnering with researchers and conservation groups has demonstrated how grazing can support bird and wildlife habitat. Innovative crop rotations, no-till practices and cover crops have improved their soil’s health while eliminating erosion.

Little Eden Ranch of Wolford in Pierce County: Ansell Johnson has planted more than 10,000 trees to provide livestock shelter, wildlife habitat, and prevent erosion from wind and water. With his son Craig and grandson Matthew, the Johnsons have strategically used cover crops, smart crop rotations and conservation tillage techniques to build healthy soil and prevent erosion. Once environmentally-sensitive row crop fields have been retired as pasture or hay fields.

Paul Ranch of Carson in Grant County: The Daniel and Tresa Paul family has created habitat for wildlife and migratory birds with a variety of conservation, grazing and livestock management practices. By partnering with wildlife groups, the cattle ranchers have created ponds and stock dams, and preserved native grassland and woody vegetation in riparian areas. Replacing woven wire fencing with wildlife-friendly fencing has enhanced hunting opportunities. Conservation has allowed the Pauls to expand their operation without additional land.

The following are supporters of the Leopold Conservation Award Program in North Dakota: North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition, North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, Sand County Foundation, Starion Bank, North Dakota Game & Fish Department, APEX Clean Energy, Audubon Dakota, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Burleigh County Soil Conservation District, ConocoPhillips, Cow Chip Ranch, Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, KEM Electric Cooperative, McDonald’s, Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative, North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, North Dakota Natural Resources Trust, Pheasants Forever, Roughrider Electric Cooperative, Slope Electric Cooperative, The Nature Conservancy, The Wildlife Society, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 21 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. For more information on the award, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.