Conserving and Protecting the Soil and Water Resources of Texas


Mary Kniffen

Menard County SWCD #215



​Organized in the 1940s, the Terry Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has provided farmers and ranchers of Terry County with technical and financial assistance to encourage the wise and productive use of natural resources. Their goal is to ensure the availability of those resources for future generations so that all Texans' present and future needs can be met in a manner that promotes a clean, healthy environment and strong economic growth. The Terry SWCD is passionate about educating landowners and youth of the importance of protecting and enhancing natural resources. This passion is put into play many times during the year through field days, educational meetings, conferences, community outreach, tree and seed sales as well as promoting the Conservation Awards Program. In 1996, Terry SWCD started the Duane Moss Conservation Scholarship and has provided 34 scholarships to local youth in the amount of $68,000. The District is dedicated to the wise and productive use of natural resources today and for many years to come.

​In 1995, Russ and Marcia Miller inherited Badwater Ranch which was previously owned by Russ’ grandfather since the 1940’s. After retiring from the telecommunications business, the Millers began a new adventure on the ranch with the primary goal to create natural habitat for native wildlife species. The land had been over-grazed for years and the sight of wildlife across the ranch was scarce. Russ and Marcia began their tireless efforts to restore the ranch beginning with a Wildlife Management Plan put together by their Texas Parks & Wildlife Biologist. The Millers sought the assistance of various natural resource agencies such as the Brazos Valley SWCD and NRCS to ensure they incorporated the best management practices available for the land, resources and wildlife. Through these partnerships they cleared brush and reseeded with a 28 species native plant mix on over 174 acres. They also have removed excess growth of cedar and other invasive species in riparian areas; this year they restored over 46 acres along the river. As a result of the last 20 years of management, wildlife is abundant with bird surveys showing over 85 different species, whitetail deer as well as an abundance of butterflies and other pollinators. The dedication to conservation demonstrated by Badwater Ranch is widely admired and appreciated.

​Mary Kniffen of Menard County was selected as the 2018 Conservation Teacher, representing Menard County Soil and Water Conservation District #215. Kniffen actively works with local 4-H members and Jr. Master Gardeners to teach them the importance of ethics, leadership, responsibility, conservation, community, and the outdoors. She works with local schools to encourage cross curriculum involving gardening and school subjects such as math and science. In 2005, Kniffen started Jr. Master Gardeners in Menard County. The group went on to win Texas Group of the Year, National Jr. Master Gardeners Service Achievement Award and Small Group of the Year. She was recognized with the Marva Ebeck Jr. Master Gardeners Leader of the Year Award in 2010. Three years ago she added the Morning Glory Seedlings which allows students from kindergarten to third grade to participate in Jr. Master Gardeners. Kniffen continues to be a leader in teaching our future generations the importance of conservation and stewardship.​

​Established in 1883, the well known Pitchfork Ranch has deep historic roots. It currently operates nearly 165,000 contiguous acres in King and Dickens counties with other operations in Knox County as well as Oklahoma. The ranch’s primary livestock herd consists of 4,500 head of cattle and they also run 125 horses. As with many Texas ranches today, wildlife management and recreational hunting are a large aspect of the overall ranch operations. The Pitchfork is no different, offering hunts for a number of species of wildlife, including whitetail deer, mule deer, quail, dove, turkey, geese and wild hogs. In addition to being a Cooperator with the King Soil and Water Conservation District and working with the Guthrie Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the ranch also partners with many other conservation groups. The Pitchfork serves as an anchor ranch with the Quail-Tech Alliance providing a site for research and data collection. Their work with the Quail-Tech Alliance focused on better understanding of the factors that influence native quail populations in an effort to stem the decline of quail in Texas. The Pitchfork Ranch has done an outstanding job of being dedicated stewards of the land and will continue to set a fine example for others to follow.

​Along the Cowhouse Creek in the Southwestern part of Coryell County, lies the 1,800 acre Hanna Ranch. In 1946, Joe Hanna purchased the ranch from his father and dedicated his time with the ranch to conservation. Joe was a conservationist and understood the importance of implementing land management practices that would improve vegetation production, reduce soil erosion, and improve water quality. Water conservation and brush management are two important management goals for the Hanna Ranch. The ranch uses a rotational grazing management plan to maintain healthy grassland pastures while also controlling young ashe juniper. Hanna recognized the importance of water conservation and did everything he could to keep every raindrop that fell on his property. Across the ranch there are ponds with water diversion terraces built in all of the major drainage areas as well as small diversion dams to slow water down and increase infiltration. Hanna asked that after his passing away, the ranch and his financial portfolio set up a trust to be used for educational purposes. Over the years several landowner workshops, rural appraisal trainings, and other educational events have taken place on the ranch to provide other local landowners the opportunity to see conservation in action. Hanna was an admirable steward of the land who left a legacy of conservation for many generations to follow.​


Pitchfork Land & Cattle Co.

King SWCD #168

The Texas Conservation Awards Program recognizes conservationists and the vital role they play in managing Texas’ natural resources.  At the Annual Meeting Awards Luncheon, the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) and the Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts (ATSWCD) honor outstanding individuals who dedicate their time and effort to the conservation and management of renewable natural resources.


Terry SWCD #151
Katie Day, Chairman
Geoffrey Cooper, Vice-Chairman
Kathy Henson, District Director
Glen Martin, District Director
Nicholas Seaton, District Director

    ​ For many years Jule has operated ranches all across Texas managing several hundred cows and replacement heifers. However, his mainstay has been Angora goats with numbers in the 1980s, '90s and early 2000s reaching 1,000 head at times. 

​    His ranching heritage dates back more than 125 years and he lives by a philosophy that protects, enhances, and propagates solid land practices for conservation and improvements.  Through the past 50 years of ranching he has removed mesquite, cedar and prickly pear from more than 2,500 acres of his land and operated lands.

​Randall Bankhead is a fourth-generation farmer who has dedicated himself to innovative and progressive techniques of farming. Through these efforts his 5,000 acres near Champion have remained extremely productive while implementing conservation practices that prevent soil erosion, improve soil health and structure, and conserve water usage. He has been a leader in finding new ways to conserve resources while steadily increasing his yields. Bankhead was the first farmer in Nolan county to install drip irrigation, going on to improve his water conservation by converting side-roll and flood irrigation with pivots as well as the first to change from conventional tillage to minimum-till or no-till farming. He also restructured his farming operation from cotton on cotton to rotating high residue crops of wheat and corn in between cotton crops. He also added multi-specie cover crops to his efforts and hopes to add livestock to graze his cover crops.  As trends continue to change, Bankhead is always looking to the future and how he can advance his operation with conservation in mind.

Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts

​2018 State Award Winners


Badwater Ranch

Brazos Valley SWCD #557

    He continues to ranch, running fewer cows and goats, but still gets up daily looking for better ranching practices to improve the land and continue that heritage for his children and grandchildren.
   Jule has been a vital part of their ranch near Big Bend.  Even in the desert area he finds ways to improve the land through conservation.  Water enhancement practices have been a big part in the past 20 years on the ranch.  He directed the efforts to install over 20 miles of water lines for water troughs and outlets to increase wildlife habitat and better grazing practices for cattle. In the last several months, improvements to the system were made with solar power and additional storage.
    Jule has, and continues, to teach conservation to all he is involved with on a daily basis. His focus is always on the future and the generations to come, especially his grandkids.  While we manage to keep him very busy, I understand they keep him hopping as well.
    I also want to take this opportunity to thank Jule’s family and especially his wife LaNita. I know that she has fed a lot of animals while we have had him traveling all over Texas and the U.S.  LaNita, thank you for sharing him with us.
    Ladies and gentlemen please join me in honoring Jule Richmond."

Jule Richmond was surprised by being honored as recipient of the prestigious 2018 ATSWCD President's Award.  He wondered why his wife LaNita skipped her Auxiliary Tour and came to the General Session meeting.  His children and grandchildren also kept the secret, traveling to Fort Worth to surprise him yet again when they made an entrance onstage as he received his award.


M. J. Hanna Trust

Hamilton-Coryell SWCD #506

Lindee Miller of Silverton and the Caprock SWCD, won first place in the Senior Division Essay Contest.

The Association of

Presentation speech given by ATSWCD President Volney Hough at the 2018 Annual Meeting General Session:

​      "The 2018 President’s Award winner is Mr. Jule Richmond.
    For many years now Jule has been a “go to” person for the Association.  Even though he no longer serves on the Association board he is ready to lend a hand in just about any way necessary.  He has traveled with us to DC, made phone calls, sat through some very long NACD board meetings, testified in Austin and much, much more.
   Jule serves on the Pecan Bayou SWCD and served as the Association President, the NACD South Central Region Chairman and still represents Texas on the NACD Board, he is also a member of the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers and Texas Farm Bureau.   


​Randall Bankhead

 Nolan County SWCD #245

​The subject for the 2018 Poster Contest was “Healthy Soils are Full of Life". Emma Willemin from Inez and the Victoria Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), was chosen as this year’s winner.

"Healthy Soils are Full of Life" was also the topic for the 2018 Essay Contest. Trey Johnston, of George West and the Live Oak Soil and Water Conservation District, took first place in the Junior Division of the essay contest. Lindee Miller, of Silverton and the Caprock Soil and Water Conservation District, won first place in the Senior Division.