New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced a new partnership with the Sand County Foundation to enhance New York State’s annual Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Award by combining it with the nationally recognized Leopold Conservation Award program.
The Leopold Conservation Award program will enhance the AEM Award through new award criteria, an independent judging process, a $10,000 cash award, and a comprehensive promotional campaign to advance conservation in agriculture.
The Leopold Conservation Award is presented by the nonprofit Sand County Foundation to farmers, ranchers and foresters in 21 states for ethically managing natural resources for improved water quality, soil health and wildlife habitat.
Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "It is with great enthusiasm that I announce a new partnership that will celebrate voluntary conservation by farmers and forestland owners. Partnering with the Sand County Foundation to present the first-ever New York AEM- Leopold Conservation Award makes perfect sense as we recognize landowners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management and who are dedicated to leaving the land better than how they found it. We thank the Sand County Foundation for collaborating with us to host this most distinguished award.”
Sand County Foundation President and CEO Kevin McAleese said, “Leopold Conservation Award recipients are at the forefront of a movement by America’s farmers, ranchers and foresters to simultaneously achieve economic and environmental success. We are proud to partner with the Department of Agriculture and Markets to bring the Leopold Conservation Award program to New York State.”
Applications for the first New York AEM-Leopold Conservation Award are now being accepted, with county Soil and Water Conservation Districts applying on behalf of farms. Eligible candidates successfully incorporate AEM Best Management Practices into the management of farmland, which also assist landowners in meeting business and environmental goals. Applicants should demonstrate conservation leadership and outreach in the agricultural sector and be an inspiration to other landowners.
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, American Agriculturist, American Farmland Trust, and Cornell Cooperative Extension will join the Sand County Foundation to present the annual award at Empire Farm Days in Seneca Falls in July. Award recipients will be featured in a video promoting their conservation practices.
New York State Soil and Water Conservation District Chair Dale Stein said, "For almost a quarter of a century, our State’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts have been implementing voluntary conservation stewardship on our farms using the AEM principles as the framework for success. We are honored to host this most distinguished award recognizing an individual or a farm family and supporting a Conservation District dedicated to the implementation of sound land management practices that benefit all New Yorkers.”
Applications for the New York AEM Leopold Conservation Award must be received by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets by April 15. Nominations will be reviewed by an independent panel of conservation leaders. Interested candidates should contact their local county Soil and Water Conservation District. Contact information can be found at https://agriculture.ny.gov/soil-and-water/soil-water-conservation-district-offices.
The award is made possible through the support of American Farmland Trust, Cornell Cooperative Extension, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Sand County Foundation, The Ida and Robert Gordon Family Foundation, Farm Credit East and other sponsors.
About the Leopold Conservation Award Program
The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. It is given to farmers, ranchers, and foresters across the United States in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold. In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage. Sand County Foundation presents the award in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont). Learn more at www.leopoldconservationaward.org
About the Sand County Foundation
Sand County Foundation inspires and enables a growing number of private landowners to ethically manage natural resources in their care, so future generations have clean and abundant water, healthy soil to support agriculture and forestry, plentiful habitat for wildlife and opportunities for outdoor recreation. www.sandcountyfoundation.org
About the New York State AEM Award
New York State’s annual Agricultural Environmental Management Award winners are chosen from nominees submitted by County Soil and Water Conservation Districts from around the state. The first Agricultural Environmental Management Award was presented in 2002; prior to that, the award was known as the Agricultural Stewardship Award.
New York State’s AEM framework is a model for the nation as a voluntary, incentive-based approach to protect natural resources and meet the economic needs of the agricultural community.