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2010 Environmental Stewardship Award Winner

Region V: Mesa De Maya Ranch

Branson, Colorado


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John and Carolyn Doherty; Joe and Lisa Doherty

Nominated by Colorado Cattlemen’s Association

Mesa De Maya Ranch, owned by the Doherty family of Branson, Colo., is 2010 regional Environmental Stewardship Award winner. Representing Region V* of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the Doherty's were recognized at a reception last night during the 2010 Cattle Industry Conference.

The ESAP award, now in its 20th year, is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences; USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); the National Cattlemen's Foundation; and NCBA. One of the seven regional nominees will receive the national award at the cattle industry’s winter convention in February 2011.

John and Carolyn Doherty own and manage the ranch, along with son Joe, his wife Lisa and their sons, who make the fifth generation to live on Mesa de Maya. The ranch has a long history of visionary land stewardship. John Doherty's mother, "Tiny" Doherty, was one of the first individuals to enroll in the Soil Conservation Service's Great Plains Conservation Program. Under this contract, the ranch began a variety of stewardship practices, such as pitting pastures for water retention, cross fencing and using windmills to distribute water.

Today, the Doherty's run a 500-head Red Angus commercial cow-calf operation on some 48,000 acres of short grass prairie, elevated mesas and twisting red canyons. While cattle are the core business, the Doherty's make managing the land’s natural native forages a top priority. Water is another ongoing resource issue, in an area that receives only 9 to 14 inches of rain a year.

"I've seldom met a family more dedicated to outstanding stewardship on their property and to helping other cattlemen achieve a better environment in which to live and produce profitable livestock," said Tim Steffens, USDA-NRCS rangeland management specialist, who supported the Doherty's ESAP nomination.

"We often hear the buzz words 'sustainable agriculture' but this isn't a new term for the Doherty's -- they share their passion for the land with their grandsons and the entire community," added Tim Canterbury, president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, which nominated the Doherty's for the ESAP award.

In its nomination submission, the CCA noted just a few of the ranch's stewardship practices:

* As the ranch is primarily a range-free environment, cattle are still grazed rotationally so that at least two-thirds of the land is being rested at any given time.
* In partnership with the NRCS, the Doherty's have either shared costs or paid all the costs to build 78 dams, 40 miles of buried pipeline and 100 miles of cross fencing on the land.
* In working to spread conservation ethics, the Doherty’s have helped fund programs of the Branson/Trinchera Soil Conservation District to train land managers about fire as a management Tool, livestock handling and range management.
* The Dohertys provided free housing and transportation for scientists from Colorado State University, which conducted a two-year biological study on parts of the ranch. The study’s only occurrence of nesting peregrine falcons was found on the Mesa De Maya.
* In 2008, John Doherty helped launch a pilot study to investigate ways to treat Tamarisk in large watersheds. The Doherty's provided funds, labor, housing and transportation for participating groups, including The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado State Forestry and Division of Wildlife, the NRCS and other agencies.

In addition to numerous long-standing partnerships with conservation groups and agencies, John Doherty served for 40 years on the board of the Branson/Trinchera Soil Conservation District. In 2009, the family received the Leopold Conservation Award for lifetime achievement in conservation and land stewardship, presented by the Sand County Foundation, the CCA, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agriculture Land Trust, Cncana Oil and Gas (USA) Inc. and the NRCS.

* NCBA's Region V includes Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

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