Conservation Wrangler Journey: Texas Longleaf Team

Texan by Nature’s mission is to advance conservation.
One way we accomplish our mission is through our 18-month accelerator program, Conservation Wrangler. Each year, we select up to six of the best projects in Texas that are led by conservation organizations and that positively benefit people, our economic prosperity, and natural resources. Once selected, a Texan by Nature Program Manager, like Caitlin Tran or Kenzie Cherniak, works with each organization on their project, supporting needs such as strategic planning, marketing and messaging, metrics capture and analysis, partnership development, creation of professionally produced videos, and more. Check out our blog, Texan by Nature’s Accelerator Program: Conservation Wrangler, to learn more and see examples of the ways we support Conservation Wranglers.

The work that we do in the Conservation Wrangler program lasts far beyond the promised 18-months. We create sustainable strategies, collateral, and processes that result in tangible outcomes like partnerships and funding well beyond our hands-on work with the project. One example of this is our work with 2021 Conservation Wrangler, Texas Longleaf Team (TLT).

Longleaf Pine [Left]: Day after prescribed burn [Right]: 6 months after prescribed burn

The Texas Longleaf Team has benefited greatly from the cooperation with Texan by Nature to develop the ROC Index. It’s helped us better explain the impacts of our work in terms of ESG. Our Team has received close to $1M of unexpected corporate funding through this effort, supporting over 2,000 acres of ecosystem restoration. We also recognize the card as a model for communicating the impacts of ecosystem restoration for sister efforts throughout the Southeast.

–JENNY SANDERS, NATURAL RESOURCE PROJECT CONTRACTOR, TEXAS LONGLEAF TEAM

TLT is a group of individuals, organizations, and agencies that share a passion for the longleaf pine. Together, they work to restore longleaf pine ecosystems on private and public forestlands in the state of Texas. From April 2021 to October 2022, we worked with the Texas Longleaf Team to achieve the following:

  • Utilized GIS to develop a map of the longleaf pine restoration area and overlaid the map with location data for private landowner and businesses to identify priority areas for expanding TLT’s network of partners
  • Quantified the social, economic, and environmental benefits of longleaf pine restoration through the creation of the Return on Conservation™ Index. This allowed for the diversification of funding for cost-sharing with landowners to fuel increased longleaf pine restoration and management on private land in East Texas.
  • Enhanced media visibility and brand continuity to improve the effectiveness of digital communications for a broader audience.

Texas Longleaf Team – TxN 2021 Conservation Wrangler from Texan by Nature on Vimeo.

The quantification of social, economic, and environmental benefits of any conservation project is often a challenge due to gaps in capacity, expertise, and funding that many nonprofits face, but it is imperative to have defendable, science-based data to garner funding.

To address this challenge, Texan by Nature created the Return on Conservation™ Index or ROC™ Index to easily communicate conservation impact as a global sustainability strategy. The ROC™ Index maps the impacts of conservation projects to a standardized goal framework that is followed by most corporate stakeholders, which are the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, or UN SDGs. To quantify economic benefits, we collaborated with ecosystem service valuation experts, EcoMetrics.
We piloted the ROC™ Index with TLT to calculate the ecosystem service benefits and associated economic valuation for restoring longleaf pine. Before the creation of the ROC™ Index, TLT had some quantifiable metrics such as acres restored, trees planted, and landowners involved. With the ROC™ Index we were able to layer in water captured/filtered, carbon sequestered, AND the economic value of TLT’s overall impact. Learn more about how TLT’s ROC™ Index was created in this blog. 

 In 2022, Jenny Sanders, TLT Coordinator, identified a project opportunity with a landowner in Trinity County, and our team estimated the volumetric water benefits in collaboration with Dr. Matt McBroom at Stephen F. Austin State University. 

Using the ROC™ Index as the foundation, we created a funding proposal, and in collaboration with Bonneville Environmental Foundation, identified a group of funders through our statewide initiative, the Texas Water Action Collaborative (TxWAC).

On June 27th, 2023, we announced the funding of this project, Brushy Creek, by The Coca-Cola Foundation, Silk (a Danone North America brand), Google, Meta, and Microsoft. These funders all came together to collaboratively invest $972,000 to restore 2,000 acres of longleaf pine forest. Learn more about Brushy Creek.

The Conservation Wrangler program provided tremendous assistance to our organization. We are now better equipped with strategies that will help us engage more landowners, acquire new and diversified funding sources, and increase our overall impact in restoring the critically- important longleaf pine ecosystem in Southeast Texas.

–HUGHES SIMPSON, TEXAS A&M FOREST SERVICE, TEXAS LONGLEAF TEAM

Through data, when you show the value of local conservation as a component of global sustainability strategy, conservation organizations can expand their funding pool, that’s the goal of all of Texan by Nature’s programs – to increase the size of the pie for our natural resources that support the health of our economy and communities.

Our work with the Texas Longleaf Team is just the tip of the iceberg for what’s possible through our programs, because the opportunities are truly endless.

In 2024, we will continue our journey with a new cohort of Conservation Wranglers. Applications are now open and closed on January 31, 2024. Learn more and contact programs@texanbynature.org for questions. 

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