Coastal Conservationists:

Who’s Taking Care of the Texas Coast?

by Kat McEachern

Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies

Category Archive: Conservation Partners

  1. Coastal Conservationists: Who’s Taking Care of the Texas Coast?

    Leave a Comment

    The Texas coast, home to 7.3 million Texans, stretches over 350 miles along the Gulf of Mexico. If this Gulf Coast region were its own state, it would rank as the 14th largest by population.

    One of the most biodiverse areas of Texas, it includes coastal marshes, barrier islands, and estuaries, which support over 15,000 species such as roseate spoonbills, red drum, oysters, and the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. Our resource-rich coast provides  90% of Texas‘ coastal saltwater fish species wetlands for food, spawning, and essential habitats for their young to hatch and mature.

    Texans living in these areas benefit from a robust economy driven by ecosystem services such as fisheries, tourism, storm protection, water quality, and carbon storage. Conservation is not just beneficial for the environment—it’s also essential for the livelihoods and well-being of those who call the Texas coast home.

    However, Texas’ coastal paradise is facing growing pains. As Texas is projected to reach 35 million by 2023, rapid urban growth and industrial activities can impact our natural resources—the wildlife and habitats that define our coastal gem. The path to continued economic growth and prosperity requires continuous, intentional conservation efforts to ensure Texas’s diverse ecosystems continue to thrive for future generations to appreciate and cherish. Check out some of the dedicated conservation organizations committed to the Texas coast!  

    Photo Source: Hurricane season by Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries

    COASTAL BEND BAYS & ESTUARIES – Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program (CBBEP) is a non-profit committed to researching, restoring, and protecting the bays and estuaries of the Texas Coastal Bend while promoting social and economic growth. The program area includes 75 miles of estuarine environment along the south-central Texas coastline. The whooping crane, one of North America’s most endangered birds, winters in the Texas Coastal Bend, particularly in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is crucial for their survival, as it provides a safe habitat for feeding and roosting. The whooping crane population, which once dwindled to just 15 birds in the 1940s, has made a remarkable recovery due in part to conservation efforts focused on protecting these wintering grounds. Visit their website to find out how YOU can help protect and preserve these vital ecosystems for future generations.

    Red Drum Fish

    COASTAL CONSERVATION ASSOCIATIONThe Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) comprises 17 coastal state chapters spanning the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic seaboard, and the Pacific Northwest. They are dedicated to ensuring the health and conservation of our marine resources and anglers’ access to them. CCA has been instrumental in protecting the endangered red drum fish, advocating for regulations that have led to a significant rebound in their population. These efforts have allowed anglers to once again enjoy catching this iconic species, demonstrating the powerful impact of coordinated conservation efforts. The Texas Chapter (CCA Texas) has contributed over $10M to habitat restoration along the Texas Coast and has recently pledged an additional $5M to future oyster reef restoration efforts in areas closed to commercial harvest. Explore their website to see what other species benefit from their conservation efforts.

    Photo Courtesy of Greg Lavaty – Black-Necked Stilt

    COASTAL PRAIRIE CONSERVANCYThe Coastal Prairie Conservancy (formerly the Katy Prairie Conservancy) was formed in 1992 to conserve the coastal prairie for people and wildlife before it disappears. Today, the Conservancy is one of the largest local land conservation organizations, by acreage, in southeast Texas, protecting over 31,000 acres of coastal prairie. On the historic Katy Prairie in Harris, Ft. Bend, and Waller Counties, the Coastal Prairie Conservancy (CPC) owns 13,758 acres and protects an additional 5,122 acres through conservation agreements with private landowners. The Coastal Prairie Conservancy is also working to protect coastal prairie in other Texas counties and through conservation agreements protects over 12,500 acres in Brazoria, Galveston, Matagorda, and Jackson Counties. In addition to conserving coastal prairie lands, the Coastal Prairie Conservancy restores and improves habitat for upland- and wetland-related species. In addition to conservation and restoration work, CPC also has educational and volunteer programming and provides public access to the Katy Prairie Preserve so people can connect with nature. View their programs and events to find an event near you!

    BRINGING BAFFIN BACK – The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has spent the last two decades working to ensure an ecologically and economically sustainable Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico is the ninth-largest body of water in the world and is home to 15,419 marine species. Baffin Bay is the “jewel of the Texas coast”, with salty waters that have traditionally supported world-class fishing for spotted seatrout, redfish, and black drum. This fishery contributes significantly to the economy of surrounding communities in South Texas. However, over the last three to four decades, the bay’s water quality and overall ecosystem health experienced a significant decline.  With such biodiversity in mind, HRI is committed to implementing science-driven solutions. HRI helped launch Bringing Baffin BackTM, an initiative that aims to restore, conserve, and protect this natural resource of great ecological and economic importance to Texas. Selected as a 2022 TxN Conservation Wrangler, Bringing Baffin BackTM is a sustained commitment to dramatically improve the health of Baffin Bay and the surrounding economy through partnerships between scientists and stakeholders. Watch to see how restoring the health of the Baffin Bay watershed has the potential to enhance recreational and educational opportunities, ecosystem services, and the overall economy of the greater Coastal Bend area.

    FRIENDS OF RGV REEF – The Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Reef is the result of a vision to build a marine ecosystem 13 miles northeast of the South Padre Island Jetties. As a 2019 TxN Conservation Wrangler, The RGV Reef currently takes part in a carbon capture research study, exploring innovative ways to enhance marine ecosystems’ capacity to absorb and store carbon dioxide, for climate mitigation and restoration of the marine ecosystems. It provides critical habitat for various marine species, including red snapper, grouper, and mackerel, attracting divers and anglers from around the world. So far their artificial reef is 1,650 acres, the largest artificial reef off the Texas Coast! Thanks to funding from Enbridge, this carbon sequestration study has shown encouraging results, contributing to both climate solutions and marine conservation. Learn more by watching their Conservation Wrangler video above!

    GALVESTON BAY FOUNDATION – Representing sport and commercial fishing groups, government agencies, recreational users, environmental groups, shipping, development, and business interests, the Galveston Bay Foundation’s (GBF) mission is to preserve and enhance Galveston Bay as a healthy and productive place for generations to come. Covering about 600 square miles, Galveston Bay is the most productive bay in Texas and an estuary of national significance, notable for commercial fisheries, petrochemical production, waterborne commerce and shipping, and an array of recreational activities, in addition to high biodiversity and important wetland habitat. GBF’s goal is to encourage and actively seek solutions to conflicts among the diverse users of the Bay. Galveston Bay Foundation’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program was selected as a Texan by Nature Conservation Wrangler in 2019. Since the program’s inception in 2011, GBF has recycled over 1,500 tons of shell from local restaurants and is now collecting an average of 20 tons of oyster shell per month. Of this amount, GBF has returned 860 tons of this shell to Galveston Bay, resulting in over 2,860 LF of shoreline protection and 0.85 acres of reef creation. Watch to see how oyster shells are KEY to reef restoration!

    To safeguard the natural beauty and ecological balance of the Texas coast, conservation efforts are critical. Our Conservation Partners’ work researching, restoring, and protecting marine ecosystems ensure a harmonious balance between resource management and sustainable economic growth. The impact of their programs and initiatives benefit communities and wildlife alike.

    Texan by Nature’s vision is for every business and every Texan to participate in conservation and for Texas to be a model of collaborative conservation for the world. We uplift our network of 160+ Conservation Partners by providing free, exclusive resources on marketing, program management, fundraising, and more! Together, we are rising to the challenge of natural resource conservation and getting one step closer to bringing every Texan along with us!

    If you’re a conservation organization and would like to join our network, get involved here!

  2. Celebrating National Zoo Month with Conservation Partners

    Leave a Comment

    When people who have never been to Texas think of what it might look like, they probably picture wide open spaces, dusty cowboys, huge herds of cattle, and pitch-black night skies. While some Texans do live Hollywood’s depiction of the Lone Star lifestyle, the reality is that more than two-thirds of Texans live in the four largest metro areas: Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin.

    Most Texans are actually urban or suburban residents who drive on interstates, not gravel roads. This increasing urbanization has led to significant declines in biodiversity due to loss of habitat. Of the 107 statewide species federally listed as threatened or endangered, 56 species are found in the 33 counties that make up the four largest metro areas.

    Enter zoos! Zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums aren’t just fun places to visit. They are also integral to wildlife conservation as they provide safe habitat, facilitate scholarly research, and educate the public on the value of native wildlife in our ecosystems.

    The Fort Worth Zoo, for example, is home to 68 endangered and threatened species on the state and federal levels. Remember that lion’s share of Texans who live in metro areas? They probably don’t see these species very often. The zoo provides them with the opportunity to experience these species up close and learn about them at the same time.

    If that wasn’t enough, many zoos don’t stop at education. Each year, the San Antonio Zoo contributes over $935,000 on average through direct funds and research grants to programs geared toward species population status, habitat preservation, and potential causes for declines. Additionally, the Dallas Zoo galvanizes the public in community engagement projects to monitor and protect local wildlife populations.

    In celebration of National Zoo Month, here are our fantastic zoo Conservation Partners!

    Staff from Dallas zoo holding arms out to hold a black vulture during a program demonstration. Photo: Dallas Zoo

    Black vulture demonstration. Photo: Dallas Zoo

    Dallas Zoo: Located three miles south of downtown Dallas, the 106-acre Dallas Zoo is the oldest and largest zoo in Texas. The Zoo is open 364 days a year and welcomes approximately one million guests yearly. As an accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums since 1985, the Zoo provides a home for more than 2,000 animals representing over 400 species. Dallas Zoo’s mission is to Engage People & Save Wildlife by offering opportunities to engage, explore and learn through the Zoo’s robust schedule of events, education programs, and conservation initiatives.

    Green sea turtle recovering post-surgery. Photo: Houston Zoo

    Green sea turtle recovering post-surgery. Photo: Houston Zoo

    Houston Zoo: The Houston Zoo houses over 6,000 animal residents representing nearly 1,000 species and supports 49 wildlife conservation projects in 27 countries around the world. Their mission is to connect communities with animals, inspiring action to save wildlife. They strive for this vision by welcoming over two million visitors annually, making the Houston Zoo the second-most visited zoo in the country. The Houston Zoo is committed to exemplary animal care, environmental education, and global wildlife conservation. The Houston Zoo is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, contributing to population management and conservation programs for several endangered species, including Texas natives such as the Houston Toad and Attwater’s prairie chicken.

    Texas horned lizard hatchling. Photo: San Antonio Zoo

    Texas horned lizard hatchling. Photo: San Antonio Zoo

    San Antonio Zoo: San Antonio Zoo is a non-profit organization committed to securing a future for wildlife. Through its passion and expertise in animal care, conservation, and education, the zoo’s mission is to inspire its community to love, engage with, act for, and protect animals and the places they live. The zoo welcomes more than one million visitors each year and is open year-round. Its Center for Conservation and Research seeks to fulfill the zoo’s mission through a variety of approaches, including fieldwork and captive husbandry of rare and threatened species. Currently, one project is focused on restoring populations of the state reptile, the Texas horned lizard, by working with private landowners to introduce zoo-hatched lizards in areas where it has disappeared in recent decades.

    Texan by Nature’s vision is for every business and every Texan to participate in conservation and for Texas to be a model of collaborative conservation for the world.

    Zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums do incredible work for our native wildlife and beyond. With the growing urban and suburban population of Texas, they are becoming even more important to bridge the gap between people and wildlife. When you visit one of our zoo Conservation Partners, you not only have a great time, but you also provide them with resources for research and conservation efforts.

    Click the links above and plan your visit today!

  3. Conservation Partners Keeping Texas Clean

    Leave a Comment

    Ocean conservation isn’t just an issue for Texans on the coast – it’s something every person across our state can help mitigate. Every year, around 362 million pieces of visible litter pile up on the sides of our roads. Micro-litter (pieces of litter smaller than two inches) is similarly prevalent along Texas highways but much more difficult to collect. That uncollected trash is much more likely to end up in the ocean. How does litter in Dallas make it to the Gulf of Mexico 400 miles away? Texas’ river basins connect many of the largest cities in Texas to the Gulf – and they also collect literal tons of micro-litter!

    Volunteers come out to clean Duck Creek in Garland. Photo credit Keep Garland BeautifulVolunteers come out to clean Duck Creek in Garland. Photo: Keep Garland Beautiful

    Plastic and other materials can carry harmful chemicals and leach them into the environment as they are exposed to heat and erosion. When these items enter waterways, they can pollute the immediate environment and spread this pollution to other areas as they are moved down the river and toward the coast. They can also spread disease: when a marine animal consumes disease-spreading bacteria that was introduced to the environment via litter, it can transfer these illnesses to the humans who consume them.

    Map of Texas Rivers Credit: Texas Water Development Board

    Map of Texas Rivers. Photo: Texas Water Development Board

    There are many conservation organizations in Texas working to fight litter pollution, especially in Texas waterways! Local cleanup events can catalyze Texans to beautify their communities and protect local wildlife, which has compounding effects downstream. Here are some of our Conservation Partners working to make a cleaner Texas a reality.

    A group of people taking a group photo after a clean up Photo: Clear Texas LakesA group of people taking a group photo after a clean up. Photo: Clear Texas Lakes

    Clear Texas Lakes: Clear Texas Lakes is dedicated to the removal of trash and debris from Texas Lake shorelines, creating a safer and cleaner environment for humans, wildlife, and aquatic life through sustainable programs, science, and education. Clear Texas Lakes continuously removes microplastics and litter from waterways, preventing heavy trash accumulation, raising environmental awareness, creating community service opportunities, and promoting healthy drinking water.

    three people smiling with trash bags and pictures during a group clean up on the trail Photo: Greenspace DallasVolunteers smiling with trash bags and pictures during a group clean-up on the trail. Photo: Greenspace Dallas

    Greenspace Dallas: Greenspace Dallas is a community-driven nonprofit dedicated to developing quality recreation opportunities along the Trinity River Corridor and educating future environmental stewards. They promote appreciation of the local Trinity River and have cleared nearly 1.5 million pounds of trash during weekly cleanups, preventing debris from reaching the Gulf and contributing to a cleaner ocean.

     A kayaker conducts a cleanup in Smithville using supplies provided by Keep Texas Beautiful. Photo credit: Keep Smithville BeautifulA kayaker conducts a cleanup in Smithville using supplies provided by Keep Texas Beautiful. Photo: Keep Smithville Beautiful

    Keep Texas Beautiful: For over 50 years, Keep Texas Beautiful (KTB) has improved Texas communities. Their Keep Texas Waterways Clean program makes waterway cleanups easy, cost-effective, and fun by providing cleanup kits and event-hosting toolkits to participants.

    Group of volunteers with pickers and orange safety vests posing for a group picture. Credit: Keep Ennis BeautifulGroup of volunteers with pickers and orange safety vests posing for a group picture. Photo: Keep Ennis Beautiful

    Keep Ennis Beautiful: Keep Ennis Beautiful is dedicated to transforming Ennis into the cleanest, most beautiful city in the great state of Texas. Through educational events, they are helping to teach the next generation about the importance of protecting local aquatic wildlife.

    Two volunteers cleaning up litter from large rocks Credit: Stopping Plastics and Litter Along Shorelines - (SPLASh)Two volunteers cleaning up litter from large rocks. Photo: SPLASh

    SPLASh: Stopping Plastics and Litter Along Shorelines (SPLASh) was created to address the overlapping issues of trash pollution and bird conservation in the greater Houston-Galveston region. Since its inception, SPLASh has been widely successful in cleaning up the Texas coastline, educating young Texans about marine debris and litter cleanup, and collecting data on the amount and impact of trash in the Galveston Bay watershed.

    Texan by Nature’s vision is for every business and every Texan to participate in conservation and for Texas to be a model of collaborative conservation for the world.

    We uplift our network of 160+ Conservation Partners by providing free, exclusive resources on marketing, program management, fundraising, and more. There are several ways you can help support these partners too!

    Together we can rise to the challenge of natural resource conservation and get one step closer to bringing every Texan along with us!

  4. May is for Monarchs! How to Build a Monarch Habitat

    Leave a Comment

    In the past two decades our State Insect, the monarch butterfly, has lost 165 million acres of habitat– that’s an area about the size of the Lone Star State itself.  In terms of food security, one in every three bites of food we eat is provided by a pollinator (like a monarch) doing its job in the ecosystem. Making sure pollinators have ample access to native food sources and host plants to support their offspring is not only important to the environment, it’s important for our plates!

    Supporting pollinators, like monarchs, is as easy as planting a flower. You can help monarch conservation efforts right from your own backyard by creating a garden full of nectar-producing plants and milkweed they will love and visit year after year.  Check out our step-by-step guide to building a monarch habitat below.

    Several Monarch Butterflies resting and feeding on tall yellow flowers in a field. Photo: IrinaK/Adobe stock photo
    Several monarch butterflies resting and feeding on tall yellow flowers in a field. Photo: IrinaK/Adobe stock photo
    • How much room do you have? 

    Whether you have 5 acres or a 5-foot balcony, creating a butterfly garden and making great monarch habitat is possible for just about any outdoor space! A healthy butterfly garden needs 3 things: good soil, good sunlight, and access to water. If your site has soil with heavy amounts of clay (i.e., the soil packs down in the rain and forms a thick mud) you may want to use containers, build a raised bed, or mix in compost into the bed to help loosen it. Most of the nectar-producing plants that adult monarchs love require full sun. On a bright day, note how much sunlight the area where you want to plant is exposed to. Be sure the area gets at least 4 to 6 hours of sunlight a day. Your plants (or seeds) will need a helping hand settling into your landscape so you may want to pick a site close to a reliable source of water, whether that be a garden hose where you water by hand or an area equipped with irrigation. 

    • Choose the right plants

    Monarch caterpillars need milkweed to grow into adult butterflies. And they need a lot of it! and a typical caterpillar will grow to about 2000 times their hatch size before forming a chrysalis. Some great milkweed species for these very hungry caterpillars include the Antelope Horn milkweed, Asclepias asperula, and Green milkweed, Asclepias viridis.

    Finding milkweed plants and seeds can be difficult. Thankfully our Conservation Partner, the Native Plant Society of Texas, has a special program to help you source local nurseries with NICE plants for monarch habitats! Their Natives Improve & Conserve Environments (NICE) Native Plant Partner program educates the public on the value of native plants as well as partners with local nurseries and wholesalers to ensure native plants are available for purchase.

    For more information about sourcing, growing, and propagating milkweed, our Conservation Partner, Monarch Joint Venture has a vendor map and guides that will help you build a perfect monarch habitat! Click here to check out their resources.

    Adult monarchs are less particular about their food sources. They are attracted to any nectar-producing flower, so while you are at a NICE nursery, be sure to ask which blooming plants are best for your area. However keep an eye out for perennials that will bloom in the spring, summer, or fall. Some great examples include lantanas, butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), salvias, verbena, yarrows, and goldenrod. No matter what remember, if you start with Texas native plants you’re guaranteed to end with a successful butterfly garden!

    Green milkweed in bloom Credit: Tiara Chapman
    Green milkweed in bloom Credit: Tiara Chapman
    • Plot out your plant layout and get digging!

    Now that you know what you want to plant and where it should go, it’s time to get outside!

    You’ll need a few tools to get started:

    • Shovel or garden hoe
    • Hand trowel or hand shovel 
    • Gardening gloves
    • Water hose
    • Mulch

    Depending on what part of the state you live in, you may be planting directly into the ground, using raised beds, or growing in containers. Our partner, the Native Plant Society of Texas has an ecoregion map of Texas and plant lists for each area that you can use to decide the best way to plant your garden. Click here to check it out!

    A repurposed wheelbarrow used to make a beautiful butterfly garden. Credit: Buchanan's Plants
    A repurposed wheelbarrow used to make a beautiful butterfly garden. Credit: Buchanan’s Plants

    If you are planting in a raised bed or container, prepare the bed by filling the space with a 50-50 mix of compost and garden soil. Next, take your garden hose and lightly spray down the soil so that it is evenly moist.

    If you are planting directly into the ground, preparing the bed will require two additional steps:

    First, remove the existing vegetation from your garden space. Take a shovel or a garden hoe and outline the entire area where your habitat will be. Then use those same tools to remove all the vegetation from the area. Working in sections, scrape along 2-3 inches deep into the ground and dig up the grass with its root structure.

    Shovelful of turfgrass. Credit: Adobe Stock
    Shovelful of turfgrass. Credit: Adobe Stock
    • Next, you can use a tiller to break up the ground or plant in holes dug individually.    

    Now that the bed is prepared for planting, arrange your plants along the space the way you want them. It’s important to give them room to grow out and up, so read the label instructions to ensure proper distancing. Aesthetically, you can place taller growing varieties along the edge or in the center depending on your view of the space, and plant milkweed in the interior so it won’t be as noticeable when caterpillars chew them down. With your hand trowel, dig a hole as deep as the plant’s original plastic nursery container. Take your plant out of that container and gently loosen the root structure over the hole you dug.

    Carefully hold the plant by its base in one hand, centered on the hole and level with the ground, where the roots are lying in the center of the hole. With your other hand or hand shovel, fill in the space with the excess soil. Once the hole is filled, press down around the base of the plant so that the roots make good contact with the soil. Once finished planting everything, give your new monarch habitat a good soaking with the garden hose. Lastly, add a thick layer of mulch to keep the garden hydrated as it gets established. 

    • Get creative

    You can level up your monarch habitat in a few different ways! Incorporate some nature art with a natural fairy lodge house. Those structures make great supports for monarch chrysalises. Give pollinators a break from the Texas sun by adding an insect watering station. The habitat is a living ecosystem, so keep a video journal of what you planted, how it performed over the year, how many monarchs you noticed in it, and other details that will help it grow and thrive. For inspiration and more ideas for your garden, make plans to visit our Conservation Partner, the National Butterfly Center during their October 2024 Texas Butterfly Festival!

     Fairy house in a forest constructed out of twigs, bark, and pine boughs. Credit: Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
    Fairy house in a forest constructed out of twigs, bark, and pine boughs. Credit: Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
    • Certify your habitat

    Our Conservation Partners would love to celebrate what Texans are doing to help monarch butterflies! Click the links below to learn more about how to add your efforts to national databases that amplify how we do conservation in the Lone Star State.       

    Monarchs nectaring on Gregg's mistflower Credit: Tiara Chapman
    Monarchs nectaring on Gregg’s mistflower Credit: Tiara Chapman

    Learn more and become a Texas Monarch Steward
    Our partner’s program, the National Wildlife Federation Monarch Stewards Certification in Texas will equip you with the skills and knowledge to create native gardens for monarchs, to educate and inspire others to conserve monarchs, and to even become a Monarch Citizen Scientist if you want!

    Our vision is for every business and every Texan to participate in conservation and for Texas to be a model of collaborative conservation for the world. 

    By using this how-to guide to create monarch habitat, not only are you making their journey that much easier, you are also bringing us one step closer to achieving our vision. Together, we are rising to the challenge of natural resource conservation and helping our State Insect, the monarch butterfly, take to the skies once more!

  5. Conservation in South Texas

    Leave a Comment

    Texas is a popular state. In fact, nearly 1 in 10 Americans lives in Texas. There is a lot to love about the Lone Star State, including its sense of pride, deep history, diverse landscapes, and delicious Tex-Mex cuisine.

    However, popularity can be a burden. As Texans grow in number, the state’s native plants and wildlife take a toll. In the last decade, Texas gained nearly four million people, the highest number of any state in the country. Consequently, from 2012 to 2017 alone, over 1.2 million acres of working lands were converted to non-agricultural uses. That’s a rate of over 650 acres per day! Texas’s exploding population has resulted in increased land development that impacts its native wildlife and plants. As of September 2023, 203 plant and animal species are listed as endangered or threatened in Texas.

    The South Texas Plains is the state’s most biodiverse ecoregion and simultaneously home to 3 of the top 25 fastest-growing counties in the state. Fragmentation of the region’s expansive ranches into smaller parcels has been identified as the most significant threat to its wildlife. However, despite many land changes, it remains a haven for many rare species of plants and animals.

    This haven didn’t happen on its own. Conservation organizations in South Texas have worked tirelessly to protect the region from development’s impacts. From education to boots-on-the-ground conservation to policy transformation, the region’s ecosystems have greatly benefited from their efforts.

    Here are some of our Conservation Partners in South Texas!

    Overlook of the Rio Grande Credit: RGISC

    Overlook of the Rio Grande Credit: RGISC 

    RGISC: Chartered by the State of Texas in 1994, RGISC is Laredo’s leading environmental nonprofit. Our mission is to protect and preserve our only source of drinking water, the Rio Grande, and our local environment through research, outreach and awareness, policy advocacy, binational partnerships, and environmental youth education.

    Over the past three years, RGISC has moved strategically to build new Water Security and Climate Adaptation programs focused on data analysis, coalition building, and cultural organizing to implement innovative solutions that will make our region greener and climate resilient. We’re also leading campaigns and coalitions on complex issues that include ethylene oxide, and visionary plans for a 6.2-mile binational river conservation project.

    Overlook of thornforest Credit: American Forests/ Ruth Hoyt
    Overlook of thornforest Credit: American Forests/ Ruth Hoyt

    American Forests: American Forests is a nationwide organization whose mission is to create healthy and resilient forests, from cities to wilderness, that deliver essential benefits for climate, people, water, and wildlife. In Texas, American Forests is focusing its efforts in the Rio Grande Valley region to restore native thornforest, Texas’s most species-diverse ecosystem. Through funding and seed collection efforts, American Forests has developed the region’s first native community forest, formed the Thornforest Conservation Partnership, and provided support for restoration outplanting at Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR and Laguna Atascosa NWR.

    A heifer and her calf in a meadow of prickly poppy Credit: East Foundation
    A heifer and her calf in a meadow of prickly poppy Credit: East Foundation

    East Foundation: Advancing land stewardship through ranching, science, and education, the East Foundation works on behalf of landowners and managers to discover, develop, and document management outcomes benefitting livestock, wildlife, and rangelands while maximizing the long-term value of a ranching operation. As the first recognized Agricultural Research Organization in the U.S., East Foundation utilizes its diverse South Texas rangelands across six ranches as a living laboratory to advance land stewardship by conducting partnered research, developing conservation-minded leaders, and investing in future professionals through K-12 education programs, internships, graduate student training, and close engagement with university programs.

    Established in 2007 and building on an established reputation for innovative research and education programs, East Foundation is a working cattle operation focused on improving sustainable beef production in order to maintain the ecosystem services provided by intact rangelands. The Foundation’s ranching operations also encompass the conservation of the largest known population of the American ocelot – a small, secretive, and rare wild cat species. East Foundation is an engaged partner in the groundbreaking monitoring and recovery effort with the goal of recovery of the species – primarily on private lands – while also maintaining traditional land use and ownership rights.

    Brown butterfly with several large white spots on a twig Credit: National Butterfly Center
    Brown butterfly with several large white spots on a twig Credit: National Butterfly Center

    National Butterfly Center: Located in Mission, Texas, the National Butterfly Center is a 100-acre wildlife center with the greatest volume and variety of wild, free-flying butterflies in the nation. The Center is dedicated to the conservation and study of wild butterflies in their native habitats. A primary focus of its efforts is educating the public about the value of biodiversity, the beauty of the natural world, the wonder of butterflies, particularly, and the powerful role they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems and sustainable food resources. The Center hosts the Texas Butterfly Festival every fall.

    Focused in the foreground a branch of Yaupon and blurred in the background two people examining a branch of Yaupon Credit: Yaupon AgWorks
    Focused in the foreground a branch of Yaupon and blurred in the background two people examining a branch of Yaupon Credit: Yaupon AgWorks

    Yaupon AgWorks: At the northern edge of South Texas lies a portion of the Post Oak Savannah ecoregion. Yaupon, a native evergreen shrub, has overtaken much of the native grasslands characteristic of the Post Oak Savannah. After sustainably harvesting wild yaupon for tea for the last decade, Yaupon AgWorks realized a need to incorporate grassland restoration in order to move the needle in overall land restoration. Although in its infancy, Yaupon AgWorks envisions a more sustainable and vibrant future with strong partnerships and eager landowners.

    Deep in the Heart Film

    Defenders of Wildlife: Founded in 1947, Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. Defenders of Wildlife protects and restores vulnerable wildlife populations by transforming policies and institutions and by promoting science-based, innovative solutions. In South Texas, its focus is on the fewer than 60 ocelots left in the United States. Defenders work to raise awareness of ocelots’ presence on the landscape and best practices for coexisting with them. Additionally, Defenders is fighting the construction of industrial infrastructure that would undermine ocelot recovery.

    Texan by Nature’s vision is for every business and every Texan to participate in conservation and for Texas to be a model of collaborative conservation for the world.

    These organizations are doing spectacular work to conserve and protect South Texas’s unique flora and fauna. If you are interested in supporting these organizations and the important work they’re doing in South Texas, consider visiting their website for ways to get involved.

    Texas is popular, and its popularity continues to grow by the minute. Protecting native plants and wildlife is more important than ever! With our Conservation Partners’ dedicated work, Texans will have the opportunity to enjoy them for generations to come.

  6. Partner Spotlight with the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center

    Leave a Comment

    Texas is home to more raptors than any other state! Some, like the red-tailed hawk, make Texas their permanent home while others, like the Mississippi Kite, love to hang out in Texas during the summer. During spring and fall migrations, raptor populations can swell by 1 million visitors.

    Eastern Screech Owl with injured wing Credit: BPRC
    Eastern Screech Owl with injured wing Credit: BPRC

    However, not all of these birds of prey receive a warm Texas welcome. Development and population growth have had serious impacts on their habitat, food sources, and overall safety. It’s estimated that 34% of golden eagles along the Texas-Mexico border are electrocuted within their first year of life outside the nest while red-tailed hawks have lost 99% of their original hunting grounds throughout the Blackland Prairie.

    Rehabilitated Barred Owl Release Credit: BPRC
    Rehabilitated Barred Owl Release Credit: BPRC

    Making sure that raptors have room to spread their wings safely is a top priority for our Conservation Partner, the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center. For over two decades, this North Texas nonprofit has provided a haven for thousands of abandoned and injured birds of prey, nurturing them until they’re ready to soar in the wild once again.

    Keep reading to learn more about them and their incredible work!

    Injured Great Horned Owl Credit: BPRC
    Injured Great Horned Owl Credit: BPRC

    Located forty miles north of Dallas, on Lavon Lake, the 66-acre campus of the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center (BPRC) houses 14 avian ambassadors, a diagnostic lab, a veterinary clinic, research offices, and space for you to explore it all!

    The BPRC has educated over 30,000 people about raptors through public outreach and programs like their 1st Saturday Open Houses, Raptor Photo Days, Family Campouts, and more. These events provide a bird’s eye overview of the value of raptors in the ecosystem and give participants an up-close and personal experience with the beauty of these animals. Their mission to advance the environmental preservation of birds of prey and wildlife in their natural habitat extends through these public education events and into restoration and rehabilitation.

    Open Glade in a section of restored prairie with blooming American beauty flower. Credit: BPRC
    Open Glade in a section of restored prairie Credit: BPRC

    BPRC’s namesake comes from the Blackland Prairie ecosystem that once comprised over 23,500 square miles of the Lone Star State and served as the primary habitat for the 39 species of raptors that make their home in Texas. Today less than 1% of the Blackland Prairie ecosystem remains. As raptors lose this space, they must navigate the hazards of neighborhoods, cities, and infrastructure to survive. Many are injured in the process by electrocution, lawn fertilizer burns, maliciousness, collision strikes, and more. The BPRC rehabilitates hundreds of birds of prey every year brought in from across the state, for diagnosis, treatment, and release back into the wild.

    In addition to helping birds of prey recover physically, BPRC also works to restore their habitat. A cadre of volunteers helps clear invasive plants from their 66-acre campus that sits along Lake Lavon. In 2023, their work to clear 800 cedar trees off the property resulted in the return of the native plant species that had been crowded out. With the return of native plant food sources comes the return of prey animals like rabbits, wood mice, squirrels, and other rodents. With the return of prey animals, raptors can better thrive in their natural habitats, soaring safe and sound through Texas skies.

    Red-shouldered hawk in flight. Credit JLK Photography
    Red-shouldered hawk in flight. Credit: JLK Photography

    Texan by Nature’s vision is for every business and every Texan to participate in conservation and for Texas to be a model of collaborative conservation for the world.

    Uplifting the valuable work of our Conservation Partners, like the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center, brings us one step closer to achieving our mission of uniting all Texans in conservation action. Be sure to stop by when you are in town for one of BPRC’s many public education events and stay up to date on their work by following them on Facebook!

  7. 5 Ways to Keep the Stars at Night, Big and Bright with Dark Sky Texas!

    Leave a Comment

    The Milky Way galaxy contains ~100-400 billion stars and just as many planets. The magic of the cosmos inspired the earliest forms of astronomy and navigation, and ancient farmers once used the stars as timekeepers to determine optimal planting and harvesting seasons. Our awe-inspiring night skies even inspired some of the earliest human stories and art depicted in cave paintings dating back 40,000 years to the Paleolithic era.

    But over time, as societies have become more urbanized and technologically advanced, there has been a growing disconnect from the natural world, including the cosmos. With more and more outdoor artificial light, people have fewer opportunities to engage with the natural environment, including the magic of dark skies.

    The city of Austin’s skyline at night. Image Credit: Walton-Gray Martin
    The city of Austin’s skyline at night. Image Credit: Walton-Gray Martin

    Light pollution is the collection of effects caused by excessive, inappropriate artificial outdoor lighting. It’s that hazy skyglow you see off in the distance disrupting your camping trip. It’s one of the reasons why many baby sea turtles in the Gulf fail to launch into adulthood. It’s why migratory bird deaths from window strikes are on the rise in Dallas. Light pollution is why the skies at night aren’t so big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.
    For International Dark Skies Week, we want to introduce you to one of our cosmically cool Conservation Partners helping the night sky shine: DarkSky Texas!

    DarkSky Texas promotes the use of better lighting to help restore our view of the nighttime sky while improving the safety and well-being of both people and wildlife. For more than 25 years, volunteers all over Texas have been educating, engaging, and galvanizing Texans to choose “better lights for better nights.” Their hard work has led to the successful creation of 22 Certified Dark Sky Places throughout the state, helping wildlife preserve their natural instincts and reconnecting people to the beauty of the night.

    Light pollution is a serious issue and results in major health hazards for people and wildlife. For people, excess exposure to artificial light disrupts our internal clocks. Those clocks, also known as our circadian rhythms, rely on certain amounts of darkness to tell us when to sleep, eat, or relax. Disruptions to our circadian rhythms can result in problems with hormone production, a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diminished sleep quality, or all-out insomnia, depression, anxiety, and more!

    Young man in sleepwear suffering from headache in morning Credit: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels
    Young man in sleepwear suffering from headache in morning Credit: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

    For wildlife, the damage of light pollution can be astronomical. The glare and skyglow from artificial lights can be seen for miles causing profound impacts on an animal’s ability to hunt, feed, navigate, nest, hide from predators, breed, or just simply rest. For example, too much light can disorient migratory birds since they use the night sky to find their way to their winter and summer homes. This can lead to collision injuries from building strikes or exhaustion as they are drawn away from their migratory routes and are pulled in by the light.

    Light pollution is also a major threat to our safety and wallets! All of that skyglow and glare represents wasted light. Wasted light makes working, driving, and walking at night much more dangerous. Light that directly hits your eyes will temporarily blind you and light directed somewhere other than the target you need to see merely causes light clutter and skyglow, neither of which improves visibility.

    So, Dark Sky Texas is challenging everyone to be BOLD and make Better Outdoor Lighting Decisions. The 5 Principles of Responsible Lighting remind Texans to reevaluate their outdoor lighting to achieve optimal light solutions that work for you and nature.

    Graphic of a quote in white text on a dark purple gradient background reading, "The alternative to light pollution is not to live in darkness. We must be smart about where and how we use outdoor lights." Image credit: DarkSky Texas
    Image credit: DarkSky Texas

    To avoid wasted light, save money, and protect wildlife, be sure your outdoor lights are:
    Useful – all light should have a purpose,
    Targeted – all light should directed only where needed,
    Low-leveled – all light should be no brighter than necessary,
    Controlled – all light should only be used when necessary, use timers and sensors to help control light, and lastly,
    Warm-colored – all light should shine at 2700 kelvin or below (think Soft White, not Daylight).

    You don’t need a telescope to take a closer look at the different resources Dark Sky Texas has for communities, landowners, businesses, and students. Just visit their website, darkskytexas.org to learn how you can help ensure the stars at night stay big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas. Follow them on social media for even more quick tips!

    a silhouette of hands creating a heart shape gesture along the back drop of a starry night sky. Image Credit: DarkSky Texas
    Image Credit: DarkSky Texas

    Texan by Nature’s vision is for every business and every Texan to participate in conservation. Texas can be a model of collaborative conservation for the world if we work together to protect our natural resources. Dark Sky conservation is essential to our well-being and a critical part of a healthy ecosystem. Every Texan deserves to see the Milky Way. By supporting Dark Sky initiatives like these, you can ensure that everyone catches that hundred billion-star light show every night!

  8. Plant Conservationists You Should Know!

    Leave a Comment

    Did you know that Texas is home to 30% of plant species found in the U.S.? Very soon, Texas will also become home to 10% of the US population, and who wouldn’t want to be a Texan? It’s a great place to live! However, the increase in population has led to development and habitat loss for much of our flora and fauna. The once vast prairies of Big Bluestem grass, Arkansas yucca, and Prairie Penstemon are quickly dwindling. And with new Texans arriving each week, how can we help them connect to our unique, natural landscapes, native plants, and conservation?

    From the rich Blackland Prairie to the Post Oak Savannah and deeper still into the Trans-Pecos ecoregions, plant conservation organizations are dedicated to guiding and educating all Texans on these valuable natural resources. Meet a few of our Conservation Partners who are planting seeds of love for Texas native plants.

    Texas Master Naturalists
    Sponsored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the Texas Master Naturalist Program works to develop a corps of well-informed volunteers that provide education, outreach, and service in support of the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities for the State of Texas. You can find Texas Master Naturalists in communities leading youth education programs, clearing out invasive plants in local parks, directing tree and forb mass planting projects, leading weekend wildflower hikes, and more!

    Click the link above to learn more about the corps of 12,800 people (and growing) who are blooming about plant conservation.

    Native Plant Society of Texas
    “For years, it seemed that only God and Lady Bird Johnson, not necessarily in that order, were concerned with wildflower survival. Somebody had to ‘step up to the bar’ and get the job done. I decided to be that person.” – Carroll Abbott, the late founder of the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) and champion of Texas Wildflower Day. For over 4 decades, NPSOT has united Texans in support of native habitats to build healthy ecosystems. NPSOT supports budding botanists through grants and scholarships, hosts community outreach events, and sponsors the annual Wild Plants of Texas BioBlitz.
    If you are ready to turn your lawn into a haven for wildlife, click the link above to register for one of the classes in NPSOT’s Native Landscape Certification Program.

    Side view of a yellow butterfly, possibly a Tiger Swallowtail on purple flower called Phlox pilosa.
    Image Credit: Marilyn Blanton, Cross Timbers, NPSOT

    Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
    Nestled in between the Edwards Plateau and Blackland Prairie is a 284-acre site where you can get up close and personal with over 1000 species of Texas native plants! if you can’t make it out to visit you can always get expert advice on what’s “growing” on outside! Since 2005, their innovative plant advice service, Ask Mr. Smarty Plants, has fielded over 10,000 questions from people all over the world who are curious about plant conservation.
    Visit their website to learn more including how they are protecting endangered plants from extinction.

    Botanical Research Institute of Texas
    Of the 448 rare vascular plants native to Texas, 113 of them are Critically Imperiled and at high risk of extinction. Thankfully scientists at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) are hard at work finding, cataloging, and banking the seeds of these delicate Texas natives. BRIT’s plant conservation work extends globally through the Philecology Herbarium where 1,445,000 plant specimens are preserved. The collection is open to the public by appointment and is one of the best (and possibly last) places to see Quercus tardifolia, the lateleaf oak. 

    Sample of the digitized specimen of lateleaf oak, Quercus tardifolia from the Botanical Research Institute of Texas herbarium.
    Image Credit: Sample of the digitized specimen of lateleaf oak, Quercus tardifolia from the Botanical Research Institute of Texas’ Herbarium.

    Gardening Volunteers of South Texas
    Gardening in Texas is not for the faint of heart. This is why it is so important to choose hardy native plants that can deal with drought, heat, and alkaline soil. The Garden Volunteers of South Texas are here to help you get the most out of your landscape by ensuring that you start with the best. Check out their “Go Gardening” video series where they talk about all of the benefits of choosing native plants and give tips for gardening success!

    Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute 
    Texas A&M University’s Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute is home to two programs that collect, evaluate, and provide quality native seed stock for commercial use. Their South Texas Natives program grew in response to increased development that negatively impacted native food sources in wildlife habitats. The Texas Native Seeds program is a statewide initiative to enable plant restoration all throughout Texas. Both of these programs help developers and private landowners source the right seed stock and promote the use of native plants rangeland restoration, highway right-of-way plantings, oil and gas exploration remediation, and horticultural plantings.

    A close up picture of several fluffy wildflower and grass seeds against a gray background.
    A close-up picture of fluffy wildflower and grass seed against a gray background. Image: Dr. Anthony Falk, Texas A&M University

    San Antonio Botanical Garden
    What’s the biggest museum you’ve ever been to? There’s a 38-acre living museum in the heart of San Antonio where you can see Texas natives shine! The recently renovated WaterSaver Lane exhibit showcases how native plants can fit into any aesthetic and encourages visitors to experiment with their own landscapes to find a vibe of their own.

    Texan by Nature’s vision is for every business and every Texan to participate in conservation and for Texas to be a model of collaborative conservation for the world.
    These Conservation Partners are setting the bar for what it means to engage the local community and sprout a love of Texas native plants. Join us in supporting and sharing their work! Interested in volunteering opportunities near you? Check out our Partner Event Calendar for new conservation events across the state each month.

     

  9. World Wildlife Day: Conservation in Far West Texas

    Leave a Comment

    It’s a tough world out there for Texas wildlife. Texas ranks fourth in the nation for most endangered animal species with 51 species. Texas’s growing human population has caused increased habitat loss and fragmentation, which is the top reason for species declines in Texas. But that isn’t the only challenge that Texas wildlife faces: Invasive species, reduced water quality and quantity, and climate change also impact wildlife populations.

    The good news is that our conservation partners are addressing these issues in a variety of ways. In celebration of World Wildlife Day, we’d like to highlight some of the wildlife conservation work happening in one of the wildest regions of the Lone Star State. Here are some of our Conservation Partners from Far West Texas!

    Mike Pittman, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

    Texas Bighorn Society: The Texas Bighorn Society is dedicated to restoring and preserving the desert bighorn sheep population in Texas through conservation efforts and public education. In the 1900s bighorns were considered extinct in Texas, but thanks to reintroduction efforts led by the Texas Bighorn Society, bighorns roam several locations in the mountains of Far West Texas. Now, their goal is to return bighorns to all their native ranges in the state. Wild about bighorn conservation? Consider becoming a TBS member! All money raised from membership dues and our annual Roundup Weekend and Auction is used exclusively to help return desert bighorns to the mountains and people of Texas.

    Katy Baldock

    Borderlands Research Institute: The mission of the Borderlands Research Institute is to help conserve the natural resources of the Chihuahuan Desert Borderlands through research, education, and outreach. The Chihuahuan Desert Borderlands are an incredibly diverse region, supporting 500+ bird species, 170+ reptile and amphibian species, and 120+ mammal species. Through research efforts focused on poorly understood species, the BRI provides essential information to land managers that supports wildlife conservation. The BRI relies heavily on outside support to continue their work, so consider donating to their efforts.

    Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition

    Frontera Land Alliance: The Frontera Land Alliance is a land trust dedicated to forever protecting natural areas and working farms and ranches in the West Texas and Southern New Mexico regions of the Chihuahuan Desert. One of the most effective ways to combat the impacts of the growing human population on wildlife is to protect existing wildlife habitat, and that is exactly what the Frontera Land Alliance is doing. 8,000 acres (and counting) of wildlife habitat will remain intact forever thanks to their work. Looking for a more hands-on way to support Far West Texas wildlife conservation? You can volunteer with the Frontera Land Alliance to create wildlife habitat, clean up trash, and more! 

    I-20 Wildlife Preserve

    I-20 Wildlife Preserve: This 100-acre preserve in the Permian Basin serves as a hub for ecotourism and science education in the region. Its 86-acre urban playa lake is a special feature of the preserve, providing abundant wildlife habitat. Regular removal of invasive species further improves this special wild space. Located less than a mile from the interstate, visitors to the I-20 Wildlife Preserve can experience firsthand how special the playa habitat is without traveling outside of the city. It is completely free to visit the preserve, so stop by the next time you pass through Midland and make a donation while you’re there!

    Quail Coalition: The Quail Coalition works to sustain and restore huntable wild quail populations, encourage and educate interested youth in hunting and the outdoors, and celebrate their quail heritage in Texas. A large part of their work is with landowners to promote native grass production and conservation to restore Texas prairies, which are beneficial to wildlife in Far West Texas. Are you a quail fanatic? You can become a member of the Quail Coalition.

    Texan by Nature’s vision is for every business and every Texan to participate in conservation and for Texas to be a model of collaborative conservation for the world.

    What can Texans do to support our conservation partners and the impactful work they’re doing?

    All of these organizations are 501(c)(3) nonprofit entities, which means they rely on outside donations for much of the work they do. Consider visiting their websites, where you can donate to their important initiatives.

    Another way you can help is by giving your time and effort. If you live in the Far West Texas region or plan on visiting soon, consider contacting an organization whose work resonates with you and volunteer with them.

    Lastly, you can spread the word to friends and family. Texas wildlife needs every Texan to be passionate about conserving their populations in order to prosper. Getting your inner circle excited about wildlife conservation helps more than you know!

    Texas wildlife faces a plethora of challenges, but with your help supporting and promoting these organizations, wildlife in the Far West Texas region can have a brighter future. We have the power to ensure that future generations can enjoy this region’s unique wildlife!

  10. Technology for Conservation Communication

    Leave a Comment

    Let’s Talk About Conservation Communication!
    We’re passionate about conservation and know that our society benefits from conservation practices, but explaining the how and why to the masses can prove challenging. New technology, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, can help make scientific data more consumable for the public by applying data-driven storytelling and design thinking. This integration opens up efficient and effective possibilities to help involve more people in conservation. By combining technology and conservation, we can work together to advance and spread the right message to inspire sustainable choices!

    Here are a few great tech tools that help you communicate your conservation story.

    Communicate and Collect your Nature Findings with Identification (ID) Apps!
    To communicate conservation in your area and around the world, a host of identification apps have flooded the app stores. Not only can you contribute to scientific knowledge and conservation decisions, but these ID apps also allow for communicating with other citizen scientists about sightings of rare species, and how different species are doing, creating entire communities around wildlife!
    Join the flock by using apps like Merlin ID to identify the 600 species of birds that have been reported in Texas! Curious about native plants and wildflowers? Use apps like PlantSnap or Plant.id to find out what grows in your neighborhood. If you have a favorite animal or want to track the conservation progress of a species, you can add photos or follow your favorite species using Wildbook. Wildbook uses AI to identify species and individual animals from photos sourced from scientists to social media. If you love all things natural, iNaturalist and Seek are great tools to identify and learn about species across taxa – from insects to mammals and everything in between! These platforms make learning and sharing easy from social media to discussing with local naturalists!

    If you’re interested in finding and creating more nature content, many of our conservation partners in Texas host nature outings, bird walks, and iNaturalist events. Check out our Conservation Events page to find an opportunity near you to try out these cool identification applications!
    Join Citizen Science Projects to Communicate the Status of Wildlife Populations
    In addition to identifying different species, you can help track wildlife! With so many new citizen science programs for tracking wildlife, you can now check in on how your favorite species are doing! These projects are a great way to get involved and connect with other conservationists and contribute to data that is publicly shared. Citizen science data is geared toward the people! Skip the scientific jargon – use these free tracking opportunities and websites to view a host of information for the public, by the public. And you can share it too!

    Join the movement by participating in butterfly tagging with Monarch Watch, or join a training with the Butterfly Learning Center in San Antonio. Set up a nest box for American kestrels and submit your data like the University of North Texas’s Pollinator Prairie. Or use eBird in your neighborhood, on hikes, or at citizen science events like the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, the longest-running citizen science event in the country, through the Fort Cavazos Adaptive and Integrative Management (AIM) program. 

    Use Apps to Find and Share Sustainable Favorites
    We get it – making sustainable decisions can be tricky. Researching sustainable alternatives or recycling guidelines for your city can get overwhelming. Now you can use apps to make sustainable decisions, and share your favorites along the way.
    Try out Too Good to Go or Olio to minimize food waste from local restaurants or your own home. Interested in fighting Palm Oil? Use PalmOil Scan to avoid products containing this preservative. If local recycling requirements are confusing, download iRecycle to find recycling centers near you, and take the guesswork out of accepted recycling materials. If you want to make more ethical or sustainable choices, Shop Ethical app can help you shop with a variety of categories – from fashion to electronics. 

    Artificial Intelligence (AI) Apps for Easy Communication!
    AI tools aren’t just for identifying wildlife or new species, they can help you create new content to share! AI resources such as Chat GPT or Snapchat’s new AI bot can help you bridge the gaps in communication, making conservation initiatives or findings easier to share. From creating sustainable grocery lists or making itineraries with eco-tourism in mind for your next trip, AI can help! 

    The conservation account you always wanted to start just got easier! Tackle social media posting with Hootsuite or Cloud Campaign. These sources can create captions, customize branding, create or import content, schedule posts, and even report analytics to see how your new conservation posts are doing! Additionally, resources like Grammarly or Readable can help make your posts more professional and more readable to viewers. 

    While AI can’t replace your unique tone or perspective, it can help you plan, research, or write social media posts with conservation in mind. It provides a great starting point from which to adapt and make your ideas and findings heard. It’s important to keep in mind that misinformation is one risk that comes with using AI-generated data so remember to check your facts directly with reliable sources before spreading your message!

    With so many tools available in the palm of our hands, we can all find fun and exciting ways to not only discover and learn for ourselves but also reach wider audiences than ever before as more individuals, organizations, and communities get involved in conservation across Texas. Together, we have an opportunity to use technology to get more efficient and more creative in conservation and communication! 

  11. Texas Trees Foundation Q&A

    Leave a Comment

    Texan by Nature (TxN) is proud to partner with 140+ conservation organizations working to positively benefit Texas’ natural resources and communities through innovative approaches. TxN accelerates conservation by bringing conservation organizations and business together through programs that connect and convene diverse stakeholders and catalyze science-based conservation efforts and projects to accelerate impact.

    Learn more about TxN Conservation Partner Texas Trees Foundation and their work creating a new green legacy for North Texas through transformational, research-based plans that educate and mobilize the public to activate the social, economic, environmental, and health benefits that trees and urban forestry provide for a better quality of life.

    Q: Tell us about Texas Trees Foundation and its mission.
    A: Texas Trees Foundation (TTF) was established by Robert Decherd and Trammell Crow in 1982 as the Dallas Parks Foundation, a 501c dedicated to supporting the City of Dallas’ park system. In 1998, the Foundation merged with Treescape Dallas, a project funded in part by the Junior League of Dallas and the Central Dallas Association, a group of downtown property owners. At this time, specific initiatives were funded, and the scope of Dallas Parks Foundation expanded.  

    In 2003, the Foundation was renamed Texas Trees Foundation to expand the area of focus from Dallas to the North Texas region – and beyond – to better address environmental challenges. Now, TTF serves as a catalyst in creating a green legacy throughout Texas through transformational, research-based projects and programs that educate and mobilize the public to activate the social, economic, environmental, and health benefits that trees and urban forestry provide(s) for a better quality of life. 

    The mission of the Texas Trees Foundation is (i) to preserve, beautify and expand parks and other public natural green spaces, and (ii) to beautify our public streets, boulevards, and rights-of-way by planting trees and (iii) encourage others to do the same through educational programs that focus on the importance of building and protecting the “urban forest” today as a legacy for generations to come. 

    Q: What is the history of Texas Trees Foundation?
    A: Keystone impact of Texas Trees Foundation on urban landscape projects took root in 1988 with two significant projects—the first of which included the acquisition of 3.7 miles of an historic railroad line, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, known to many as the Katy. This significant project led to the creation of prototypes for the Katy Trail, now a premier destination for jogging, biking, skating, and walking in Dallas. Later, in 1991, Pioneer Plaza was created and installed in downtown Dallas – a set of bronze sculptures of 49 steer and 3 cowboys, depicting the Santa Fe Trail. It is now one of the most visited sites in the City of Dallas. 

    In 2004, as Texas Trees Foundation’s impact on urban forestry took further root, the TXU Energy Urban Tree Farm and Education Center was created at Dallas College Richland Campus.  

    Over the years, the tree planting activity of the Foundation has grown from providing several hundred trees per year to providing thousands of trees each year. Since 2007, TTF has had exponential growth—with the annual budget increasing from $250,000 to $10 million. Key programs include Cool Schools, SWMD Streetscape Transformation, Urban Forestry Consulting, Green Jobs Workforce program, Nature Lab, and more than 100 plantings per year.   

    In 2022, Texas Trees Foundation celebrated 40 years of creating cooler, greener, cleaner, and healthier communities. To date, TTF has planted approximately 1.5 million trees. To review a timeline of activities, visit texastrees.org/history. 

     Q: How do you work to achieve your mission and who is your audience?
    A: The Texas Trees Foundation created a strategic plan, using the following guiding principles:  

    • Education is essential to understanding complex issues to take action. 
    • Research provides the basis for evidence-based design, education and project development. 
    • Trees increase the quality of life in communities and are an essential component to sustainable, resilient communities. 
    • Land stewardship is the key to healthy trees, people, and a healthy community. 
    • Trees and people need to be nurtured and celebrated! 

    The strategic plan has successfully guided us to become a leading urban forestry nonprofit with national recognition for our initiatives, programs, and projects.  Using evidence-based design, research, and reports, TTF has been able to strategically identify where investments are needed to increase tree cover for a more equitable urban forest and for human health. A new strategic plan will be created in 2023 that will provide a roadmap for the future.  

    Our audience includes people of all ages and backgrounds prioritizing low income, underserved areas in cities throughout North Texas with projects throughout the State of Texas. The Dallas Tree Equity Planting Report is our newest research identifying where tree planting is urgently needed. Dallas Tree Equity Planting Map (2022). 

    As of 2023, the staff of Texas Trees Foundation is comprised of more than 20 employees with expertise in urban forestry, urban design, landscape architecture, education, workforce programs, public health and more. 

    TTF has developed a collection of research reports and studies over the years, all of which have shaped our strategy and direction for a wide array of urban forestry projects and programs, including mitigation of urban heat. 

     Q: What are some examples of your projects or programs?
    A:
    Cool Schools Partnership Opportunities (2023)
    Green Jobs Workforce Program (2023)
    Fort Worth Urban Forest Master Plan (Nov. 2022 – present) 
    Particulate Matter Filtration by Urban Vegetation (2022)
    Dallas Tree Equity Planting Map (2022)
    Urban Forestry & Tree Plantings Update (2022)
    Dallas Urban Forest Master Plan (2021)
    Tree mapping website launched (2020)
    Urban Streetscape Master Plan, Southwestern Medical District (2019)
    Dallas Urban Heat Island Mitigation Study (2017)
    Completed comprehensive tree inventory at the George W. Bush Presidential Center & Library (2017)
    University of North Texas at Dallas Report (2016)
    Cool Schools Program Launched (2016)
    State of the Dallas Urban Forest Report (2015)
    Downtown Dallas Tree Inventory and Ecosystem Services Benefits Report (2014)
    Southern Methodist University Tree Inventory and Ecosystem Services Benefits Report (2013)
    Mesquite Urban Forest Ecosystem Analysis (2012)
    NFL Super Bowl XLV (2010)
    Pioneer Plaza installation (1992)
    Q: What are the ecological and economic benefits of your organization’s projects and programs?
    A: Research has consistently shown that trees and green space provide a host of benefits to the environment and economy, including mitigating the effects of extreme heat, reducing crime, boosting real estate values and sales, and improving public health. Thriving urban forests bolster human health by encouraging physical activity, providing respite from stress and mental fatigue, and reducing respiratory illnesses and premature death stemming from air pollution. Urban trees filter the air by removing pollution which improves a city’s overall air quality. Trees also reduce runoff of sediment, pollutants, and organic matter into streams, improving water quality.  

    Since Texas Trees Foundation began in 1982, the impact of an estimated 1.5 million trees planted by Texas Trees Foundation, estimated over the course of 50 years, includes:  

    • 3,240,904,000 pounds of carbon dioxide sequestered. This saves $145,840,680. 
    • 3,084,543,915 gallons of rainfall intercepted, at a savings of $524,372,465 relieving burden on the city’s storm water systems. 
    • Remove 13,580,682 pounds of air pollution, improving the air quality leading to healthier air. This provides a savings of $55,273,379. 
    • Create an estimated 2,250,000,000 square feet of additional tree canopy (1,500 square feet per tree). 

    Moreover, TTF provides an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) report to all our corporate sponsors, which quantifies the value and their return on investment.   

    “Conservation and renewal of green infrastructure by means of tree planting serves as both a critical–and   rewarding–investment. A greener landscape means a healthier community. As the inextricable connection between trees and human health unfolds, groundwork is then established for a more interconnected, whole ecosystem that supports biodiversity. Trees–and people–are symbiotic.” -Janette Monear, CEO 

     

    Q: Tell us about the future of your organization. Do you have any upcoming initiatives, exciting events, or even challenges ahead?
    A: 2023 is a year of tremendous and expansion and growth for TTF as a whole…
    Upcoming initiatives: 

    • Launching Green Jobs Workforce Program: Designed for young adults, 18-24 years of age, to meet the growing needs for a trained workforce in urban forestry and arboriculture. 
    • Designing a new strategic plan for Texas Trees Foundation, one that creates a holistic, public health focus to create a viable platform for action and change. 
    • Staff development to identify skills and strengths and identify professional and personal development opportunities. 
    • TTF growing beyond North Texas in 2023, including tree plantings in Corpus Christi and developing an Urban Forest Master Plan for the City of Fort Worth. 
    • Dallas Tree Equity Planting Map: Launched in 2022, working with Dallas city officials on tree planting sites in underserved areas most urgently in need of tree canopy and looking to launch additional Equity Tree Planting Reports to cities throughout Texas. 
    • Grow and enhance Nature Lab, a “Think and Do” green think tank to effect change through education, research, and policy. 
    • Exhibitor at 2024 EarthX: The World’s Largest Green Gathering giving away 4,000 seedlings to attendees. 
    • TTF Staff invited to present cutting-edge research on extreme heat and urban design at the  International Conference on Countermeasures to Urban Heat Island – Melbourne, Australia in December 2023. 

    Challenges:  

    • SWMD Streetscape Project: Increased and ongoing need to do more work with less resources to address the acceleration of climate change and effects of urban heat islands. 
    • Managing the constant evolution of three major environmental challenges (air quality, water quality, urban heat) – informing and educating the public, including professional architects, city planners, and healthcare providers on the critical link between urban forestry, the built environment and public health.   
    • Navigating the impending launch of and establishing resources for Nature Lab: TTF’s research-based initiative for health + nature. 
    • Educating the public so that they can make better choices about how to engage. 

     

    Q: Are there any other interesting news / events / facts about your organization?
    A: In 2022, we celebrated we 40th Anniversary. In the same year, we relocated our main office at the invitation of Lyda Hill Philanthropies to Pegasus Park Plaza. Additionally, starting in Fall 2023, we will begin our fundraising campaign for the SWMD Streetscape Project.

    Q: How can people get involved with and learn more about your organization?
    A: Year-round volunteer opportunities: sign up here! 

    Sponsor a planting: alex@texastrees.org 

    Help with “Nat Lab” initiatives: rose@texastrees.org  

    Tour the TXU Urban Energy Tree Farm & Education Center: chris@texastrees.org 

    Intern opportunities available: Contact info@texastrees.org  

    Donate: texastrees.org/donate-now 

     

    Texan by Nature is proud to partner with 140+ conservation organizations across Texas. Through our Conservation Partner network, we connect conservation organizations with the resources and relationships they need to extend their initiatives’ impact. Partner benefits include on-going features on social media, monthly media round-up, quarterly meetings, aggregated resources on fundraising, marketing/social media, and more.

     

  12. 5 Texas Conservation Organizations Helping Texans Get Outdoors!

    Leave a Comment

    As early as 1865, American Landscape Architect Frederick Law Olmsted said “The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body gives the effect of refreshing rest and invigoration to the whole system.” (National Park Service)

    Even now, his words resonate as 2023 marks 100 years since the creation of the Texas State Park system. Over the last 10 decades, the 89 Texas State Parks have preserved and managed 640,000 acres of Texas landscape. These acres provide a sanctuary for the plants and animals that depend on the land for habitat and for park visitors, too. Back in 1923, we didn’t know just how important spending time in nature is for human health, but science is painting a clearer picture every day. 

    Narrative reviews like this one published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health examine associations between nature exposure and health. Spending time in nature has been associated with: 

    • Higher levels of physical activity
    • Lower levels of cardiovascular disease
    • Decreased levels of cortisol (stress hormone)
    • Positive immune function
    • Mental health benefits, including lower risk of depression and anxiety
    • Improved cognitive function and brain activity

    Turns out a spoon full of nature can benefit the mind, body, heart, and soul

    If you think those benefits sound too good to miss out on, we agree. As our Conservation Partner network continues to grow (140 partners and counting!), we are excited to work with organizations that are increasing opportunities to spend time in nature through outdoor community-building. If you’re looking for community, shared passion, and outdoor adventure, here are 5 Texas conservation organizations you should know!

    Black Women Who, Texas Chapters: Austin, Dallas, and Houston

    Mission: To create a welcoming community for Black women in outdoor recreation spaces, subverting stereotypes along the way.

    Addressing the lack of visibility of both black and brown women and children, Black Women Who (BWW) is a multi-state nonprofit organization that empowers Black women to participate in outdoor recreation through community events. This organization recognizes that lagging representation of women of color in outdoor spaces and lack of access to nature in underserved communities are barriers to Black women and girls becoming outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists. BWW is breaking down these barriers with programs including the Black Women Who Scholarship Fund, annual expedition groups, and regular chapter meetups. 

    Connect with Black Women Who here and at the chapter links above. 

    Fellowship of the Outdoors, Dallas-Fort Worth

    Mission: To preserve the positive spirit that drives us to outdoor experiences and encourage new and existing outdoor enthusiasts.

    Fellowship of the Outdoors is a nonprofit that provides a community for conservation enthusiasts organized around guest speakers and a meal featuring sustainably-sourced game. Each gathering is an opportunity for members to be inspired to learn more about the natural world and enjoy it through outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing, while preserving it through mindful conservation. Wild Game Culinary Expert, Andy Sendino, brings sustainability to the plate, dishing up native Texas game such as bison, venison, quail and pheasant accompanied by remarks on the sustainable consumption of these game animals.

    Connect with Fellowship of the Outdoors here

    Gardening Volunteers of South Texas, San Antonio Area

    Mission: To advance water conservation and environmental awareness through community partnerships.

    Not afraid to get their hands dirty, Gardening Volunteers of South Texas (GVST) is about more than just gardening. GVST taps into the passion gardening enthusiasts have for spending time in nature to encourage natural resource conservation in gardening. Through programs such as the Watersaver Landscape Design Schools in partnership with San Antonio Water System, members can develop low-water gardens that will thrive in the South Texas area. Remote learning materials are also available through the Go Gardening series, and GVST invests in the next generation of gardeners and conservation stewards through two scholarship programs.

    Connect with Gardening Volunteers of South Texas here

    Latino Outdoors, Texas Chapters: Austin, Houston, and San Antonio

    Mission: To connect and engage Latino communities in the outdoors and embrace cultura y familia as part of the outdoor narrative.

    What started with a blog and small online community for Latino outdoor enthusiasts, became a national movement to increase representation in nature-based recreation: Latino Outdoors (LO). The nonprofit’s community model is designed to be replicated, bringing local leaders to the forefront of local conservation education and action across the country. LO programming includes free regional outdoor outings, Yo Cuento Stories, which encourages written stories and short film submissions about Latino experiences in the outdoors, and Semillitas Outdoors, a yearly initiative to promote positive outdoors experiences for Latino youth.

    Connect with Latino Outdoors here and at the chapter links above. 

    LGBT+ Outdoors, Texas Chapters: Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Waco, West Columbia

    Mission: To connect the LGBTQ+ community to the outdoors and its members to one another.

    LGBT+ Outdoors is a Texas-based community-building nonprofit focused on outdoor recreation opportunities for people who identify as LGBT+. The program’s Ambassador model allows local leaders, Ambassadors, to start new chapters with organizational resources from LGBT+ Outdoors, creating opportunity to expand the project’s reach. The organization achieves its goals to create community and visibility for LGBT+ people in the outdoors with chapter events, a podcast, and the annual LGBT Outdoor Fest. LGBT+ is working to ensure not only everyone has access to nature, but that everyone has access to positive, community-centered experiences in the outdoors.

    Connect with LGBT+ Outdoors on Facebook and Instagram

    One Step Closer

    Our vision is for every business and every Texan to participate in conservation and for Texas to be a model of collaborative conservation for the world. We uplift our network of 140+ Conservation Partners like those above through providing free, exclusive resources on marketing, program management, fundraising, and more! When our Conservation Partners are empowered to amplify their impact and expand their reach, that’s one step closer to reaching our goal to engage every Texan in conservation. 

    If you’re a conservation organization and would like to join our network, get involved here.

X