Leopold Conservation Award logo

Five finalists recently were selected for the 2020 Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold the award recognizes farmers and foresters who inspire others with their dedication to conservation of land, water and wildlife habitat.

In Wisconsin the $10,000 award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, the American Farmland Trust, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. The finalists are listed.

  • Mike Berg of Blanchardville, Wisconsin. Berg’s farm has long featured contour strips and no-till practices. Recently he’s planted more than 25,000 trees. Rip-rapping installed along the Pecatonica River has reduced erosion, minimized cropland damage from flooding, and improved fish habitat. Waterways are lined with 16 foot-wide grass buffer strips. Berg’s beef cattle are rotationally grazed to encourage grass growth while retaining soil.
  • John and Melissa Eron of Stevens Point, Wisconsin. The Erons designed ponds to collect runoff from spring rains. They also installed woodchip bioreactors to remove nutrients from runoff. Water and nutrients are recycled via irrigation on crop fields. Such efforts help conserve soil and improve the water quality of Mill Creek, a Wisconsin River tributary. Field corners are planted with native wildflowers and grasses to provide wildlife and pollinator habitat.
  • Charlie Hammer and Nancy Kavazanjian of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Early adopters of reduced-tillage farming methods, Hammer and Kavazanjian also incorporate cover crops into their corn, soybean and winter-wheat crop rotation. Pollinator habitats and prairie strips of native wildflowers and grasses are planted within their crop fields. Duck scrapes and food plots provide wildlife habitat. Solar- and wind-energy systems reduce their farm’s carbon footprint and electrical bills.
  • Brian Maliszewski of Independence, Wisconsin. Maliszewski grows corn, soybeans, alfalfa and rye on rolling hills of erodible land where conservation can be a challenge. He experiments with cover-crop varieties and no-till planting methods to decrease soil erosion, build organic matter, improve earthworm activity and promote soil health. As chairman of the Buffalo-Trempealeau Farmer Network, he partners with Pheasants Forever on providing bird habitat by planting cover crops.
  • John and Dorothy Priske of Fall River, Wisconsin. The Priskes adopted no-till and rotational grazing practices and installed grass waterways to improve water infiltration, sequester carbon and build organic matter in their soil. They raised and direct marketed Scottish Highland beef cattle until 2015. Their pastures provided deep-rooted ground cover to reduce soil erosion. The Priskes lease 165 acres of farmland to Madison College for use as an agricultural education facility.

The 2020 recipient of the Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award will be revealed later this year.

The Leopold Conservation Award in Wisconsin is made possible with contributions from American Farmland Trust, Sand County Foundation, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Compeer Financial, Culver’s, McDonald’s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, We Energies Foundation, Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board, Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, and Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association.

The Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 21 states with a variety of conservation, agricultural and forestry organizations. Visit leopoldconservationaward.org for more information.

Casey Langan is the communications director for Sand County Foundation.