Switzer Ranch Receives Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 1:17 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A north central Nebraska ranch family is getting recognition for being great stewards of the land.

Bruce and Sue Ann Switzer along with their children, Sarah Sortum and Adam Switzer, own and operate Switzer Ranch. They were announced as the recipients by Governor Pete Ricketts in advance of Earth Day. The Switzers will be presented with the $10,000 award during a ceremony honoring them later this year.

“As Nebraska agriculture continues its excellent work in balancing the need for clean air, water, and managing wildlife habitat with the demand for economically sustainable food production, it is inspiring to know the Switzer family has been doing it for generations,” said Steve Martin, Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (AFAN) Executive Director. “They manage their ranch in a way which benefits the cattle, bird habitat, and agri-tourism all at the same time.”

“Cargill understands sustainable beef starts on the ranch. The Switzer family dovetails productive ranch practices to benefit the prairie bird population and their business, making them sustainable into the future” said Sammy Renteria, general manager of Cargill in Schuyler. “We salute their devotion to productive ranching while providing quality habitat for wildlife in Loup County and Taylor.”

“The Switzer Ranch has demonstrated how an active ranch can diversify and be successful at raising cattle, involve multi-generations, protect wildlife, improve grazing and habitat, and operate a thriving tourism business,” said Mark Brohman, Nebraska Environmental Trust Executive Director. “Sarah and her family have grown Calamus Outfitters into a premier nature-based operation that showcases central Nebraska to the world and is very deserving of the Leopold Conservation Award.”

“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Nebraska recipient,” said John Piotti, AFT President and CEO. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”

“Recipients of this award are real life examples of conservation-minded agriculture,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer. “These hard-working families are essential to our environment, food system and rural economy.”

Last year, Nebraska landowners were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders.

The 2020 recipient was Ed and Leta Olson of Craig, Nebraska.

The Leopold Conservation Award in Nebraska is made possible thanks to the generous contributions from American Farmland Trust, Cargill, Nebraska Environmental Trust, Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska, Sand County Foundation, Farm Credit Services of America, Audubon Nebraska, Lyle Sittler Memorial Fund, McDonald’s, Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Nebraska Game and Parks, Nebraska Land Trust, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, Sandhills Task Force, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, World Wildlife Fund - Northern Great Plains, and Green Cover Seed.

In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”

Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 22 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. For more information on the award, visit

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