Leavitt Lake Ranches of Vina, CA, was named the 2009 National Environmental Stewardship Award winner last week during the 2010 Cattle Industry Annual Convention in San Antonio. Leavitt Lake Ranches is owned and operated by Darrell Wood, wife Callie, son Ramsey and daughter Dallice, and has family ranching ties dating back to the 1860s.

Working in segments of agriculture and without any cattle or land when they wed in 1981, Darrell and Callie had a vision to restore ranches that had been owned by Darrell’s family. They began to acquire ranches and cattle, leasing property and gradually buying the former family property.

Today, they own about 3,670 acres of private land, manage 25,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management permits and lease another 11,000 acres between the winter range annual grasslands of the Vina Plains and the summer range on high elevation meadows of Lassen County. They run 600 mother cows and 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.

The Wood family has implemented a number of practices aimed at protecting and improving the land. They have:

  • Worked in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy on a restoration plan for the Vina Plains, vernal pools project, which are home to several threatened, endangered or at-risk plant and animal species.

  • Provided 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, conducted seeding, decreased streambank erosion and implemented an overall prescribed grazing plan.

  • Improved riparian conditions along Pete’s Creek and restored 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 conditions 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 represented National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Region VI in the 2009 ESAP program. Other finalists included:
  • Region I: Young’s Cattle Co., Belmont, OH;
  • Region II: Greenview Polled Hereford Farms, Inc., Screven, GA.
  • Region III: Eckenfels Farm, Sainte Genevieve, MO.
  • Region IV: Stoney Point AgriCorp, Melissa, TX.
  • Region V: Pape Ranches Inc, Daniel, WY.
  • Region VII: Daybreak Ranch, Highmore, SD.
The award is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, USDA's National Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and is administered by NCBA and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation. For more info or to nominate a cattle operation, visit www.environmentalstewardship.org.
-- National Cattlemen’s Foundation release