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2009 Environmental Stewardship Award Winner

Region VI: Leavitt Lake Ranches, Vina, Calif.

Darrell, Callie, Ramsey and Dallice Wood - Nominated by California Cattlemen’s Association & California Rangeland Trust 

California Ranches Wins Environment Award


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Leavitt Lake Ranches of Vina and Susanville, Calif., is a 2009 Environmental Stewardship Award winner.  Representing the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Region VI, family was recognized at the 2009 Cattle Industry Summer Conference for their innovative approaches to land management and conservation.

Owned and operated by Darrell Wood, his wife Callie, son Ramsey and daughter Dallice, Leavitt Lake Ranches has family ranching ties dating back to the 1860’s.  When Darrell and Callie wed in 1981, they were working in segments of the agriculture industry and didn’t own any cattle or land.  With a goal to acquire ranches that had been owned by Darrell’s family, they began buying cattle, leasing property and gradually buying the former family property.

Today, between the winter range annual grasslands of the Vina Plains and the summer range on high elevation meadows of Lassen County, they own approximately 3,670 acres of private land, manage 25,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management permits and lease another 11,000 acres, for a total of 39,670 acres.  Together, they run 600 mother cows, 400 yearlings and farm 600 acres of alfalfa and 900 acres of irrigated pasture.  The cattle herd is made up of spring and fall calving herds of registered and commercial Angus cattle.

“By growing their operation gradually, Darrel and Callie have been able to develop a sustainable operation,” said Dave Petty, chairman of the Environmental Stewardship Award selection committee and 2001 national award winner. “In addition, the family has taken a leadership role through the cohabitation of endangered species and cattle.  They show that cattle ranching supports these species better than non-use of the land.”

The Environmental Stewardship Award – now in its 19th year – is made possible by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation, with sponsorship from Dow AgroSciences and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

“We approached Darrell with a restoration plan to improve the condition as well as increase habitat and populations of several threatened and endangered species on the Vina Plains Preserve,” said Jake Jacobson, Lassen Foothills Project Director, The Nature Conservancy (TNC).  “Darrell is an exemplary livestock producer; he has a keen sense for good land stewardship.”

The Wood family has implemented a number of practices aimed at protecting and improving the land upon which they make a living. These include:

  • Worked in cooperation with TNC on a restoration plan for the Vina Plains, vernal pools project.  The vernal pools are home to several threatened, endangered or at risk plant and animal species
  • Provide habitat for an abundance of wildlife including waterfowl, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, aquatic species, upland game birds and sage grouse
  • Improved irrigation systems, constructed cross-fencing, installed livestock water developments, conduct seeding, decrease streambank erosion and implement an overall prescribed grazing plan
  • Improved riparian conditions along Pete’s Creek and restore the hydrology of the surrounding meadow.  This was targeted to increase sage grouse habitat
  • Participated in Nutritional Balance Analyzer program, a pilot program that tracks forage quality on rangelands through livestock fecal analysis
  • Fenced off riparian area to improve habitat condition for wild salmon that utilize Deer Creek for spawning

Completed conservation and grazing plans on all the lands associated with Leavitt Lake Ranches, where resource concerns were identified and technical assistance was provided to alleviate them

Leavitt Lake Ranches was nominated for the Environmental Stewardship Award by the California Rangelands Trust and the California Cattlemen’s Association, with which the family has partnered to apply conservation and protection practices. In addition, the Woods have partnered with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program; Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program; Wetlands Restoration Program; Grasslands Reserve Program; Nutritional Balance Analyzer Program and Texas A & M University.  They also have working relationships with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Partners for Wildlife Program; The Nature Conservancy; Deer Creek Watershed Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited.

“The team at Leavitt Lake Ranches has done a tremendous amount to improve the natural resources in their care,” said Petty.  “Their leadership, dedication and whole-farm approach make them valiant spokespeople for our industry.”

The Environmental Stewardship Award has recognized the outstanding stewardship practices and conservation achievements of U.S. cattle producers for almost two decades. Regional and national award winners are honored for their commitment to protecting the environment and improving fish and wildlife habitat while operating profitable cattle operations. For information or to nominate a cattle operation, visit the Award section.

The National Cattlemen's Foundation advances the future of the beef industry with passion and urgency for the benefit of consumers and cattlemen.

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