Skip Navigation

Award Winning Conservationist Beefs Up Healthy Habitat

Quality grass-fed beef and conservation a win-win at coastal Oregon ranch

Karen Kuntz, a rancher in Tillamook County, received the prestigious Riley Freeman award in 2017 for her commitment to wildlife habitat.

For Coastal Oregon rancher Karen Kuntz, conservation and beef production go hand-in-hand.

Karen raises high-quality, grass-fed beef on her 304-acre ranch in the small community of Nehalem, in Tillamook County.

Over the years, her Foley Peak Angus ranch has become a model for conservation and sustainable land stewardship. But it took a lot of hard work to get where she is today.

“I was born and raised on a dairy farm and spent time as an adult in an office job,” Karen said. “This ranch is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

“It’s my labor of love,” she adds, with an emphasis on the labor part.

Karen strategically grazes her cattle using a grazing management plan, which helps her keep the soil, water and grasses healthy. She has nutrient management plan to help her re-use livestock waste as field fertilizer while protecting water quality.

She worked with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Tillamook Soil and Water Conservation District to develop these plans.

“Karen has proven time and time again that voluntary conservation is a win-win for the land and for her business,” said Michele Long, NRCS conservation strategy liaison. “She has participated in several NRCS programs that provided her technical and financial assistance to complete conservation projects on her ranch that benefit water quality and wildlife habitat.”

Karen also partners with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to address habitat needs for salmon, elk, deer, beavers and other native species on her land.

Nearly one mile of Tomlinson Creek passes through her property. Karen has planted native trees and shrubs along the creek to protect the water quality, reduce soil erosion, and improve salmon habitat. These riparian plants also provide cover for wildlife.

Tomlinson Creek is a tributary of Foley Creek and the Nehalem River, which are listed on the state’s 303(d) list for poor water temperature. Hot summer stream temperatures impact breeding habitat for salmon. The cooler waters upstream on Karen’s ranch provide summer refuge for young salmon entering the system from Foley Creek.

To further protect stream health, Karen installed in-field water troughs so her cattle can have drinking water without accessing the creek. She installed buffer strips along the water courses, including draining ditches, to help with storm water run-off control.

In recognition of her outstanding stewardship, Karen received the 2017 Riley Freeman Award this year from ODFW. The award is named after a past Chairman of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) Wildlife Committee. Every year, the award recognizes an OCA member that best exemplifies Riley Freeman’s passion for the cattle industry, good land stewardship and avocation for partnerships.

Download a printable version of this story (PDF, 732 KB)

Happy grass-fed cows graze on the Kunt Family's Foley Peak Angus operation. Native plants help shade and protect Tomlinson Creek while providing healthy fish and wildlife habitat on the Kuntz family's ranch.
Happy, grass-fed cows graze on the Kuntz Family's Foley Peak Angus operation in Tillamook County, Oregon. Native plants help shade and protect Tomlinson Creek while providing healthy fish and wildlife habitat on the Kuntz Family's ranch.