Family ranch in Colorado wins conservation award

For their land stewardship, the Pankey Ranch received the 2022 Colorado Leopold Conservation Award.

By Kirsten Ferguson January 10

In 2018, a wildfire burned nearly half of the ranch where Keith and Shelley Pankey raise beef cattle and hay with their sons, Kevin and Justin, and their families in Moffat and Routt counties in northwestern Colorado.

But the Pankeys and their ranch were resilient. Following the fire, the Pankeys cleaned their ash-filled ponds and aerially reseeded native grasses on 900 acres in the fire’s path.

The family has a long history of conservation practices. The Pankeys are involved with a large-scale conservation effort led by Trout Unlimited to stabilize Elk Head Creek’s riparian corridor. The family’s leadership in raising awareness of the creek’s impaired health has inspired other landowners to adopt conservation practices.

For their land stewardship, the Pankey Ranch received the 2022 Colorado Leopold Conservation Award®. The award, given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, recognizes ranchers, farmers and forestland owners who inspire others with their voluntary conservation efforts on private, working lands.

The Pankeys were presented with the award in June at the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association’s Annual Convention in Colorado Springs. The family previously protected their Routt County property with an agricultural conservation easement through the accredited Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust.

“The Pankey family are tremendous land stewards and fully embody Aldo Leopold’s land ethic,” says Erik Glenn, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust executive director.

Sand County Foundation and American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award in 23 states.