2023 EPCCD Forestry Conservationist of the Year

2023 EPCCD Forestry Conservationist of the Year

September 22, 2023 Awards Forestry Of Interest 0


The El Paso County Conservation District is honored to nominate Will Vogl and Vogl Homestead Farm in recognition of his extraordinary commitment to innovative forestry, grazing, forage production, conservation, and gardening practices. Vogl Homestead Farm is a shining example of well-rounded sustainability, where woodland management, high-altitude homesteading, wildfire mitigation, wise animal husbandry, and sustainable agriculture harmoniously coexist to create a model of excellence for silvopasture in the Rocky Mountain west.

Will has demonstrated a remarkable approach to forestry stewardship within our local Ponderosa forests. His practices including tree thinning with the focus of forest health, tree transplanting initiatives (that have moved over a thousand trees from overcrowded areas to more suitable growing locations), the preservation of native tree and understory plant species, timely and targeted understory rotational grazing to reintroduce the beneficial effects once seen from migratory herding ruminants, and the management of noxious weeds through regenerative grazing practices to improve pasture quality. Notably, he has successfully been working to transform a cumulative 150 acres (over multiple small and medium sized properties) of Ponderosa forest into continuously improving ecosystems, fostering biodiversity that improves the forest for both domestic animals and wildlife, creating resilient forests against future wildfires, and sequestering carbon through increased soil organic matter and enabling forest environments that grow bigger and healthier trees.

While implementing those practices, Will and the Vogl Homestead Farm have also been involved in many non-agricultural community efforts to better wildfire mitigation and preparedness locally. After the Black Forest Fire in June 2013, our community grappled with understanding the critical importance of risk identification and forest mitigation efforts, the significance of community preparedness, effects of fuel reduction, effective communication, the need for ongoing public education, sharing a voice in government policy and resource allocation, the necessity of climate change conversations, and the critical nature of interagency cooperation and resource sharing. With a unique knowledge from experiences as a professional firefighter and regenerative farmer, Will engages tirelessly with our community to implement lessons-learned from past fires, teach and utilize Firewise “best practices” for proactive property protection, and being prepared for evacuation in the event of future fires. These ensure prevention measures are in place to protect not only his homestead and land he farms, but also neighboring properties, homes, and businesses in, and around, the region.

Amongst the challenges of high altitude farming in a dry climate, Will has been an innovator in sustainable organic minded methods, rotational grazing, and soil conservation practices that have significantly improved soil health and soil organic matter, preserved biodiversity, and eliminated the need for synthetic chemicals. These include gardening methods that maximize usage of natural precipitation and have almost eliminated all needs for supplemental irrigation, preventing waste from going to landfills by utilizing and recycling waste streams (such reclaiming over 1000 pumpkins/jack-o’-lanterns every year, taking in several ton of leaves, yard wastes, and pine needles that would otherwise go to the landfill, and manure from a local horse rescue and other local properties) from numerous sources throughout the local community as on farm resources, creating around 100-150 yards of compost on farm every year to use for improving soil organic matter in pastures, numerous permaculture principles for better diversity, and cold-resistant/locally adapted crop selections. The ethical and humane treatment of animals is also a cornerstone of Vogl Homestead Farm’s philosophy. Will has implemented wise animal husbandry practices that prioritize animal welfare, safe and adaptive breeding programs to better his animal genetics to the local environment, and regenerative pasture management. The result is a flourishing and resilient culture that stands as a testament to responsible animal husbandry. His farm also has been able to raise their animals in a way and provide a safe place where people of ethnic minorities can come to humanely harvest lambs in a culturally appropriate manner.

Will’s transformative work has not only enriched Vogl Homestead Farm but has also served as a beacon of inspiration for others seeking to balance responsible forest and land stewardship with the pursuit of a sustainable future. His dedication to spreading the conservation message extends beyond their forest homestead. Will actively engages with a diverse range of audiences through educational programs, workshops, and community events. His collaborations with local organizations and non-profits, social media audiences, and schools have fostered new partnerships and amplified the reach of his conservation work. The El Paso County Conservation District wholeheartedly endorses Will Vogl and Vogl Homestead Farm as the deserving recipient of the Forestry Conservationist of the Year award for his outstanding contributions to our shared conservation and forested landscapes. His work will continue to inspire and guide future generations.

The El Paso County Conservation District presented the the preceding video to the CSCB Upper Arkansas Watershed Association on 21 Sept 2023 for their consideration to advance this nomination to the 2023 State competition.