The Sundstrom Family's Broken Box Ranch has earned the 2011 State Grassland Conservation Award. The Lincoln County family operation, south of Brady, was recognized during the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts annual convention in Kearney.
The Twin Platte Natural Resources District nominated the Sundstrom family for the award.
Russ and Neil Sundstrom represent the fourth generation of the family to provide stewardship for the land, according to the award citation. They have utilized practices of wells, pipelines, tanks and cross fence to set up a grazing strategy that has improved the rangeland resource in recent years. They also manage the timing of grazing and grazing intensity, plus provide periods of rest in their pastures to shift the plant species composition to productive grasses such as big bluestem and sideoats grama.
The Sundstroms have cleared the invasive eastern red cedar trees from all accessible grassland areas to increase the acres available for grazing, while at the same time improving wildlife habitat for mule deer and grassland birds.
They have adjusted their calving dates to May-June to take advantage of green grass, reduce hay feeding expense, and minimize labor requirements during calving.
Russ and Neil Sundstrom own and operate a land clearing service in addition to ranching. They specialize in mechanical removal of invasive species such as cedar trees from the uplands in southeast Lincoln County.
NARD, at its annual meeting, presented these additional awards.
Jim Bendfeldt, NRD Director of the Year. He has been on the Central Platte NRD since 2004 and has served on about seven district committees. He was cited for his involvement in the NRD's creation of pumping restrictions during drought years and he was in the forefront of the NRD's water banking program and made a donation of 2.4 acre-feet of water in order to allow the first water bank transaction.
Leroy Yung of Kimball, Outstanding Tree Planter Award. Yung has planted more than 4,000 trees and shrubs, working with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, Nebraska Forest Service and the South Platte NRD. He also installed a five-row field windbreak south of his farm. This latter planting of 1,481 trees comprised of red cedar, Juniper, Ponderosa Pine and a variety of shrubs was planted to reduce soil erosion and provide wildlife habitat. He was nominated by the South Platte NRD.
The Benkelman Tree Board, Outstanding Community Conservation Award. The board has been promoting trees and planting them in towns and rural areas for two decades, with a focus of educating youth and others about proper care and appreciation for trees.
Alan Held, Outstanding Educator. Held has taught at Kimball High Schools for 10 years where he teaches environmental science and ag business.