Year Inducted: 2013
The Gracie Creek Landowners Association, owned and managed by the Switzer and Morgan families of Burwell, Neb., was recognized as a 2013 regional Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) winner during the 2013 Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver, Colo. Gracie Creek is the Region VII ESAP award winner and will compete with six other regional winners for the national ESAP award, which will be announced during the 2014 Cattle Industry Annual Convention and Trade Show in Nashville, Tenn.
The ESAP award is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences; the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); U.S. Fish and Wildlife; the National Cattlemen’s Foundation; and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).
The Switzer and Morgan family ranches make up the Gracie Creek Landowners Association, a voluntary collaborative landowner initiative committed to protecting and conserving the unique ecology and wildlife of the eastern Nebraska Sandhills while supporting the current agricultural operations found there. The two ranches encompass 21,591 contiguous acres. Each family has their own unique history and approach to cattle management, but have come together to manage cooperatively towards a series of natural resource management goals.
The Gracie Creek landowners came together in 2009 to help protect and conserve the unique ecology and wildlife of the eastern Sandhills on a large scale while supporting the family ranching operations found there. Conserving this grassland area is critically important in order to facilitate seasonal migratory bird routes, sustain native grassland species of flora and fauna, encourage bio-diversity and ensure a bright future for the next generation of ranchers to steward the land. Current strategies center on invasive cedar tree control, planned grazing, prescribed fire and reintroduction of the blowout penstemon.
The Gracie Creek landowners individually and as a group have partnered with numerous entities to achieve their goals. The landowners work extensively with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Other partners include Audubon Nebraska for work on bird conservation and the “Important Bird Area” designation and the World Wildlife Fund’s Northern Great Plains Program.
“The Gracie Creek Landowners Association is a leader and innovator in the beef industry because of its multi-faceted view of sustainability. Sustainability to these landowners focuses on the environment, economics and education,” said Nebraska Cattleman President Dale Spencer. “By utilizing cattle as a management tool, the Gracie Creek Landowners Association can accomplish conservation goals while maintaining the family ranching operations.”
Through a dedication to responsible environmental practices and conservation, NCBA has represented America's cattle producers since 1898, preserving the heritage and strength of the industry through education and public policy. As the largest association of cattle producers, NCBA works to create new markets and increase demand for beef.