Butch, Jeanie, Jennie and Tate Jensen stand in front of a rock wall at the Tavaputs Ranch high in the Bookcliffs. The family business, T .N. Ranching Company, has been operating the ranch for five generations and have always striven to protect the environment in and around their operations.
Some see it as heaven on Earth. Others see it as a secret hideaway that most people don't know about. But, for Butch and Jeanie Jensen, it is a labor of love.
And it is also a labor of making things work right within the confines of man's ability to be one with nature.
Last month, it was announced that Tavaputs Ranch has won the Leopold Conservation Award. For those not in the know, that honor may not seem like much, but within the realm of green conservation and agriculture, it means a great deal.
"The Jensens' commitment to the health of the natural resources on their land is truly exemplary," said Brent Haglund, president of the Sand County Foundation, a conservation organization that presents the award each year. "Perhaps, more importantly, they are dedicated to sharing their land management approach within and beyond the agricultural community, as well as passing their land ethic on to future generations."
The ranch, which sits high on the Tavaputs Plateau above the Book Cliffs in eastern Carbon County, is a draw for tourists and those who desire isolation for a long time. Those who visit the pristine setting often view it as the perfect site for finding peace. But, the peace and calm nature of the place belie the reality of the necessary tasks that must be undertaken to maintain it as a working ranch, while simultaneously striving to protect the environment in which it is situated.
According to the foundation, the Jensen family manages natural resources on its land in a manner that allows those resources to improve and flourish over time. They use rotational grazing, which helps with improving area vegetation. They also employ sagebrush management techniques, such as prescribed burning, to improve the forage for cattle as well as wildlife.
Another resource which they conserve is water. Because the plateau is prone to droughts every decade, the family conserves water as much as possible. They have developed natural springs in the area and have also created a number of ponds to hold water. Because clean water is so valuable, they have fenced livestock out of the waterways, built runoff ponds for excess water that flows from their feedlot and drilled a well to water their cattle. This has halted any water pollution due to pollution from the operation.
But the ranch goes beyond just keeping the environment clean. It also serves as a place for research projects to take place. Over the years, researchers from Utah State University and the University of Utah have set up research endeavors there.
The Jensens belong to a family that has worked the range for five generations. Presently, TN Ranching, as it is known, owns 1,200 head of cattle in two herds. The cattle graze on 10,000 acres of private land, as well as within some federal permits.
The Leopold Conservation Award is named after Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac, which called for an ethical relationship of man to nature on land they own and manage.
The Sand County Foundation, which is the originator of the award, works in Utah with the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, the Utah Cattlemen's Association and Western AgCredit to find worthy operators for the award. In receiving the award, the Jensens got an Aldo Leopold Crystal and a check for $10,000. The foundation is a private, non-profit conservation group that works with owners to improve habitat on their land. The mission of the group is to advance the use of ethical and scientific land management practices and partnerships for the benefit of people and rural landscapes.
"We are just thrilled about getting this award," said Jeanie Jensen, in a phone conversation on Wednesday. "It is a very big honor."
More about the Leopold Conservation Award can be accessed online at www.sancounty.net. There is also a video of the award and interviews with the Jensens available online at www.uacd.org.