The Lake County Open Space Initiative has announced the opening of nominations for the sixth annual Doc Smith Leaders in Conservation Award. The award honors the legacy of Bernard “Doc” Smith, a third-generation rancher and native of Lake County who held a life-long interest in researching the effects of animals consuming grasses and water exposed to acidic mine drainage.

Smith was an advocate of projects aimed at mitigating pollution and reclaiming land and water resources in the Upper Arkansas River Basin. His activism put him in a leadership role in the Upper Arkansas Watershed Association, the Colorado State Soil Conservation Board and the Lake County Soil Conservation District, who named him landowner of the year in 2002 for his “Lifetime Commitment to Lake County and her natural resources.”

Smith was inducted into the Colorado Association of Conservation Districts Hall of Fame in 2009, and was posthumously awarded the Bob Appel Friends of the Arkansas award following his death in 2016. He was a valued member of Lake County Open Space Initiative (LCOSI) and a founding member of the Arkansas River Restoration Core Team, pioneering a non-litigious natural resource damages settlement process, one of the first in the country.

Smith’s legacy in the Upper Arkansas Valley is palpable when locals fish the county’s gold medal waters running through Hayden Meadows or gaze across green pastures on the Smith and Hayden ranches.

The award recognizes the accomplishments of an individual who has helped to promote best management practices in the conservation of the land and water resources of the Upper Arkansas River Basin in Lake County.

Award recipients will be determined on the basis of their contributions to Lake County’s sustainability and watershed protection in the general areas of land stewardship and conservation, partnership building and collaboration, protection and enhancement of landscape and watershed health, and environmental leadership. Emphasis is placed on individuals advancing the personal traits that Doc Smith is said to have displayed on a daily basis: integrity, tenacity, perseverance and commitment to the valley’s resources; leadership through determination; and a willingness to take personal risks for the benefit of the community.

An individual nominated for the award need not be a resident of Lake County, but must have had a direct and positive impact on the conservation and/or enhancement of the land and water resources of the Upper Arkansas River Basin in Lake County. Members of the public are encouraged to participate in the nomination process.

Nominations should include a thorough description of why the individual is being nominated, as well as any testimonials or letters of recommendation. The nomination process was opened on July 8, and will remain open until Sept. 1. The award will be presented at the Sept. 9 LCOSI meeting.

Nominations should be forwarded to Laura Archuleta, selection committee chair, at laura_archuleta@fws.gov no later than 5 p.m. on Sept. 1.

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