Texas Conservation Success Stories

Browse our Growing Library of Success Stories

Hugh Hammond Bennett: The Story of America’s Private Lands Conservation Movement

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This video is the story of a young scientist, Hugh Hammond Bennett, who recognized 80 years ago that the United States was at risk of losing it’s most important resource – its soil. He made it his mission to change the trajectory of agriculture at a time of great crisis and to provide farmers and ranchers with the information and tools they needed to be sustainable.

This 21 minute video is the story of the conservation movement that Hugh Hammond Bennett began and includes interesting insights into the policies and structures that he set up that we continue to rely on today. His work revealed so much of what we’re rediscovering and renaming as “regenerative agriculture.”

 

Half Circle Cross Ranch

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For Colby and McKenzie Pace, raising beef cattle includes keeping a sharp eye on preventing overgrazing and noxious weeds and seeking out ways to improve their land for nesting and migrating shorebirds.  This forward-thinking approach to livestock and wildlife management earned the Coalville couple — and their Half Circle Cross Ranch — the 2020 Utah Leopold Conservation Award.

 

Healthy and Fire-Resilient Forests with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

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This video from Washington Policy Center with cooperation from the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, sheds light on how the tribes manage forests to be more healthy using commercial harvests, thinnings, and controlled burns to deal with the pressures of insect infestation, climate change, and decades of fire suppression.

 

John Nedrow is a big believer in conservation easements – they saved his family farm

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Before knowing much about land trusts, Ashton farmer John Nedrow thought they were some kind of sinister force seeking to take over his farm and force landowners off their property.

“Back then, I thought they were the enemy,” Nedrow said in an interview on his alfalfa and malt-barley farm, which straddles the banks of the famed Henrys Fork River, a blue-ribbon trout stream. “I thought they wanted to turn this whole area into national park.”

 

When Conservation Happens Collaboratively

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When Heather Dutton, fresh out of undergraduate school at the Warner College of Natural Resources and graduate school in the College of Agriculture at Colorado State University, began her first job working for a non-profit river restoration organization in the San Luis Valley, she was thrilled. She also felt confident that her technical training in restoration ecology had prepared her for the challenges she’d soon be facing.

Heather was in for a surprise.

 

Craig and Conni French always considered themselves good land stewards

Their introduction to holistic ranch management techniques called into question long-held, traditional ways of thinking. The drastic changes that followed required a leap of faith for the fourth-generation ranchers. They traded harvesting hay for grazing methods that let their cattle harvest the forage themselves. Such changes didn’t happen overnight, and each came with its own risk and learning curve.

 

We Will Not Be Tamed: Meet Taylor and Katie

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Taylor Collins’ and Katie Forrest’s life journey has taken them from restoring their bodies to restoring their land. The once-vegetarian Austin couple went vegan after health issues got in the way of sports training. When things got worse, they consulted a nutritionist who urged them to add clean meat protein to their diet.

 

50 Years Ago, This Was a Wasteland. He Changed Everything

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Almost 50 years ago, fried chicken tycoon David Bamberger used his fortune to purchase 5,500 acres of overgrazed land in the Texas Hill Country. Planting grasses to soak in rains and fill hillside aquifers, Bamberger devoted the rest of his life to restoring the degraded landscape. Today, the land has been restored to its original habitat and boasts enormous biodiversity. Bamberger's model of land stewardship is now being replicated across the region and he is considered to be a visionary in land management and water conservation.

 

Brown’s Ranch in North Dakota: Guided by the “divine”

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Like almost everyone else in his rural community, Gabe had been farming and ranching using conventional methods since purchasing his Brown’s Ranch from the parents of his wife Shelly in 1991. Possibly because he had not grown up on a farm, Gabe found that he was constantly asking the question, “why do we do things this way?”

 

The Roots of the General Mills Regenerative Agriculture Program

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The nonprofit Soil Health Academy (SHA) is just one of many initiatives spawned by regenerative agriculture guru Gabe Brown in collaboration with additional expert partners. SHA holds regenerative agriculture workshops around the country that are open to anyone who’s interested, and they are routinely sold out.

 

Florida Partnership Enables Landscape-Level Prescribed Burn

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On March 2, 2018, a large prescribed burn occurred at the Yellow River Water Management Area in Santa Rosa County, Florida, which is managed by the Northwest Florida Water Management District. Weather and atmospheric conditions were ideal and resources were available for the Florida Forest Service to approve the burn permit. Aerial ignition via helicopter started the fire systematically across the landscape. Ground firing and monitoring crews, consisting of 15 personnel were stationed at the tract perimeter as ground support during the burn.

 

Prescribed Fire Program Reduces Wildfire Severity

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Over four long days in late March 2011, the most severe wildfire outbreak in a decade occurred at Eglin Air Force Base, located near Destin, Florida (Fig. 1). A persistent drought, 20 mph winds and low humidity, combined with 12-15 arson fires on the property, resulted in 6,000 acres burned in a matter of days. Due to Eglin’s aggressive prescribed fire program, the March 2011 wildfire severity and acres burned were significantly reduced. Without this regular fuel reduction, anywhere from 10-12,000 acres could have burned just on the Eglin side, with untold acres burned and property damaged north of Interstate 10.

 

Creating a Fire Resilient Landscape in the Pisgah National Forest

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On July 14, 2015, a lightning strike ignited a wildfire on Bald Knob in the Grandfather Ranger District (GRD) of the Pisgah National Forest. Only 30 miles outside of Asheville, North Carolina and on rugged terrain difficult to access, the wildfire may have posed greater threat had it not been adjacent to areas containing recent fuel treatments (prescribed fire) and wildfires. These treatments, as part of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP), reduced fire fuel loads in the forest and enabled the Bald Knob fire to safely burn while protecting firefighters, local residents, structures, power line corridors, communication towers, and Forest Service property and surrounding land. Fuel treatments positively influenced the fire’s spread and allowed firefighting efforts to truly focus on protection of private properties. The inaccessible terrain as well as the confine and contain strategy allowed ample time to keep the effected community well informed of current fire behavior, smoke impacts and management plans for the fire.

 

Austin-Travis County Becomes a Model Fire Adapted Community Following Destructive Wildfires

Two destructive wildfires in 2011 brought the importance of wildfire preparation and protection to the forefront of the City of Austin, Travis County, Texas. These fires led to a multi-year, multi-faceted project to address wildland fire safety in Austin-Travis County.

The Austin Fire Department (AFD) provided the human-power, expertise, and educational resources necessary to address wildland fire issues. In 2013, the AFD, with federal, state, and local partners, developed a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, a plan specifically designed to reduce wildland fire risk according to the needs of Austin-Travis County.

 

Operation Ponderosa

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In 2014, Texas A&M Forest Service partnered with The Nature Conservancy to begin reforestation efforts on the Davis Mountains Preserve.  Between 2015 and 2016, TFS received a 3-year $200,000 grant from USDA Forest Service for initial forest stand assessments and management prescriptions. Stands were marked and baseline data gathered in preparation for the thinning of 350 acres. Over 2,000 seedlings were planted in a site prep experiment, and as wildland planting. The wildland planting includes any seedlings that were planted outside of the pre-determined research sites

 

Laborcitas Creek Ranch

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Laborcitas Creek RanchWildlife habitat is flourishing in South Texas thanks to Laborcitas Creek Ranch.

 

Jack & Jan Cato

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Jack & Jan CatoFor more than three decades, Jack and Jan Cato have tirelessly pursued revitalization efforts on two ranches in two different ecological regions of Texas. Their Buckhollow Ranch is located in Uvalde and Real counties on the Edwards Plateau and the Stockard-Sirianni Ranch is in Frio County in the South Texas Plains eco region.

 

Dixon Water Foundation

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Dixon Water FoundationSpread across north central and southwest Texas, the five working ranches owned and managed by Dixon Water Foundation are sights to behold. Their mission, to promote healthy watersheds through sustainable land management to ensure that future generations have the water resources they need, has led to successful restoration of plant diversity, improved watershed conditions and wildlife habitat across all of their ranches.

 

Cook's Branch Conservancy

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Cook's Branch ConservancyThe George Mitchell family’s Cook’s Branch Conservancy, which consists of 5,650 acres in southeastern Texas, has been managed for nearly 50 years under a family tradition of conservation and sustainability.

 

Rufus Duncan Longleaf Pine Landowner Success Story

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Longleaf LegacyThis video describes how Rufus Duncan is helping restore the historic Longleaf Pine range at Scrappin' Valley in east Texas.

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