The Leopold Conservation Award recognizes achievement in conservation and one Utah ranching family is being recognized for their efforts in preserving the land.
The Ercanbrack Livestock ranch is found in Coalville, Utah just seven miles east of Echo reservoir. Dusty Morgan’s family has worked this part of the land since the Great Depression. Morgan’s parents, her brother and her husband all work together raising cattle and conserving the land.
“We’ve been able to stay active in the cattle industry because of the conservation practices we’ve been able to implement,” Morgan said.
Morgan’s family runs close to 200 cattle, but she said a lot of their time is dedicated to conservation efforts like aspen tree regeneration. The Ercanbracks look for dying or older aspen trees and remove them for saplings to take their place. The family has seen great results in water retention in the soil, diverse vegetation and the new trees work as a fire break. The family is also working on re-seeding and water development.
“The one that probably encompasses all of them is being able to make prescribed grazing areas,” Morgan said. “We have six different pastures or areas that we can move the cattle into.”
Morgan said conservation can be an investment of time and money, but the results are paying off.
“It has been very, very worth it,” Morgan said. “The big picture is my parents did a great job. They raised kids who watched them and learned from them and developed a passion for agriculture. Both of my brother and I wanted to stay in the cattle industry.”
Morgan and her brother haven’t been able to buy more land, she said the answer to their dilemma was to make the land more productive.
“Regeneration, re-seeding, water developments have made it so both of us can be part of the agriculture industry, raise cattle and keep our passion for taking care of the land,” Morgan said.
Their efforts have not only increased vegetation, but Morgan also said more wild animals have moved into the area over the past few years.
“My boys and I have invested in some wildlife cameras,” Morgan said. “Every week we would go and pull up pictures and you never know what’s out there until you actually film them. We have footage of elk, deer, mountain lions, coyotes, lots of wild turkeys. It really has opened our eyes up to creating more out of what we have. It’s made cattle grazing better and the wildlife have preferred those areas that we’ve taken care of correctly.”
Morgan is also an extension agent for Utah State University and works with other farmers and ranchers on conservation efforts.