Three finalists have been selected for the 2018 Oklahoma Leopold Conservation Award; among them is Pottawatomie County's own Destiny Ranch.

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

In Oklahoma the $10,000 award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Noble Research Institute, the Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation, and ITC Holdings Corp.

The finalists are:

• William Payne of Saint Louis in Pottawatomie County: William and Karen Payne’s bought the 920-acre Destiny Ranch in 2006. Its landscape was overgrazed and prone to erosion, with no wildlife or wildflowers. Working with Noble Research Institute and NRCS to build soil health and prevent erosion, while grazing beef cattle. Today their pastures and wildlife are flourishing. They have built a viable cattle enterprise, selling their own labelled beef, and sell quality breeding heifers to farms and ranches.

• Chuck and Ruth Coffey Family of Springer in Carter County: The Coffeys are fifth generation ranchers, each with a degree in rangeland ecology. They rotationally graze 800 to 1,000 beef cows, depending on forage availability and market conditions. They host tours promoting grazing management and the importance of prescribed fires to promote biodiversity. Over the past decade 20 solar wells were installed to supply the ranch’s water needs. They own and operate another 20,000 acres in Murray County.

• Russ and Jani Jackson of Mountain View in Kiowa County: The Jacksons are third generation ranchers in southwest Oklahoma, where they grow cotton, wheat, corn, milo, soybeans, canola and sesame, in addition to beef cattle. A decade ago they transitioned to no-till farming on their highly erodible land, developed a conservation plan, diversified their crop rotations, grew cover crops to increase soil organic matter, and established wildlife habitat food plots. Their average yields for their crops surpass county averages.

This year’s recipient will be announced Feb. 25 at the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts’ Legislative Evening in Oklahoma City.

The inaugural recipient, announced earlier this year, was Jimmy and Ginger Emmons of Leedey in Dewey County.

The Leopold Conservation Award in Oklahoma is made possible through contributions from Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Noble Research Institute, the Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation, ITC Holdings Corp., Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 14 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation.

For more information on the award, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.