For Colby and McKenzie Pace, raising beef cattle includes keeping a sharp eye on preventing overgrazing and noxious weeds and seeking out ways to improve their land for nesting and migrating shorebirds.
This forward-thinking approach to livestock and wildlife management earned the Coalville couple — and their Half Circle Cross Ranch — the 2020 Utah Leopold Conservation Award.
Named for renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers, ranchers and foresters who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat on private, working land.
The honor also comes with $10,000 and a crystal award.
Colby Pace is a third-generation cattle rancher and, along with his wife, they are teaching the next generation — their sons McCoy and McKayson — the family business.
Together, the family has installed solar-powered watering systems to improve livestock distribution, forage utilization and water quality at their ranch, according to a news release. Land is managed to reduce erosion, protect riparian areas and provide habitat for nesting and migrating shorebirds.
The Pace’s also work with the Nature Conservancy to demonstrate how grazing cattle can help reduce invasive phragmite grasses.
The Pace’s say the rotational grazing program at Half Circle Cross Ranch has tripled forage production in their pastures. It also eliminates the negative impacts of overgrazing by giving grass ample time to rest.
As president of the Summit Soil Conservation District, Colby Pace often shares how his no-till cropping system has reduced water runoff and soil erosion.
Half Circle Cross Ranch has hosted tours for Utah legislators to demonstrate how grant funding has improved grazing management, ranch profitability and rural development.
Such efforts previously earned Colby the Utah Society for Range Management’s Rancher of the Year Award.
“With all the disruptions that have taken place this year, it’s great to recognize the people that keep raising the food we all need,” said Ron Gibson, President of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, “and at the same time, keep their commitment to doing right on the land as well.”
Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 21 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation.
In Utah the award has been given annually since 2007 and is sponsored by Sand County Foundation, American Farmland Trust, Utah Farm Bureau Federation, Western AgCredit and Utah Cattlemen’s Association.
Myrin Ranch of Altamont in Duchesne County and Yardley Cattle Company of Beaver in Beaver County, were finalists for this year’s award.
“The Pace family truly demonstrates a commitment to the land in their care,” said David Brown, Western AgCredit Chief Executive Officer. “As dedicated conservationists, they understand the importance of preserving and protecting natural resources so they can thrive for generations to come. They are a great example of land owners that have made conservation a way of life.”