Taking Conservation and a Solid ‘Land Ethic’ Around the Nation

The Sand County Foundation is a national organization supporting voluntary conservation on working lands through ethics, science, and incentives. Homer Buell, a cattle rancher from Rose, Nebraska, is the organization’s new chair. He says the group is run based in part on the philosophy of Aldo Leopold, one of America’s foremost conservationists.

“Aldo Leopold, a very noted conservationist, did a lot of different things throughout his life but promoted and talked a lot about the land ethic. And that land ethic is kind of what spurs our organization at Sand County in the work that we do, and it’s primarily working with private landowners and land managers to manage their land an ethical way.”

He says their conservation philosophy includes more than just managing the land itself.

“Everything out there on the landscape. Many of us, when we think about community, we think about the towns and the people. But he defined it also as the animals, the plants, the soil, the water, everything that’s in that landscape, and you manage all of that. So, I think we work that way to try to manage that entire community on private lands. It’s voluntary. We do work tied with incentive programs, and then we’ve got some different programs and things that we do to help get that work done in promoting that land ethic.”

Buell talks about some of the program work they offer.

“We have two different programs that we primarily work around. One is the Leopold (Conservation) Award that we now do in 27 states. But we also have a conservation program, which does many, many different projects. For a lot of years, Sand County has worked more in Wisconsin and Minnesota in that part of the United States, but we’ve really branched out and are truly a national program. We’re doing a lot more down in the southeastern United States, working with farmers and landowners there.”

They also do some mentorship for beginning farmers. Other outreach and education programs include High School Pollinator Habitats Grants, Municipal-Agricultural Watershed Partnerships, and Leadership for Midwestern Watersheds. For more information on opportunities, go to