5 Ways to Keep the Stars at Night, Big and Bright with DarkSky Texas! By Tiara Chapman

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Category Archive: Conservation Partners

  1. 5 Ways to Keep the Stars at Night, Big and Bright with Dark Sky Texas! By Tiara Chapman

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    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!

  2. Plant Conservationists You Should Know!

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    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.

     

  3. World Wildlife Day: Conservation in Far West Texas

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    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!

  4. Technology for Conservation Communication

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    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! 

  5. Texas Trees Foundation Q&A

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    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.

     

  6. 5 Texas Conservation Organizations Helping Texans Get Outdoors!

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    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.

  7. Texas Master Naturalist Q&A

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    Texan by Nature (TxN) is proud to partner with 115+ 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 Master Naturalist and their work training well-informed community leaders who effect positive change in the natural resource management in their communities.

    Q: Tell us about The Texas Master Naturalist Program and its mission.

    A: The Texas Master Naturalist Program mission is to develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities for the State of Texas.

    Many communities and organizations rely on such volunteers for implementing youth education programs; for operating parks, nature centers, and natural areas; and for providing leadership in local natural resource conservation efforts. In fact, a short supply of dedicated and well-informed volunteers is often cited as a limiting factor for community-based conservation efforts. The Texas Master Naturalist Program is training volunteers to help in these conservation efforts.

    Q: What is the history of The Texas Master Naturalist Program?

    A: The Texas Master Naturalist program began in 1997 and has grown from 4 chapters and 400 volunteers to 48 chapters and over 15,220 volunteers today. Our program’s foundation is based upon the partnership between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. What makes the work of a Master Naturalist so important is that they are not only individuals who love nature and offer their time, but are also trained naturalists with specialized knowledge of different ecosystems, species, habitats, and environmental demands.

    How do you work to achieve your mission and who is your audience?

    Q: We achieve our mission through our amazing corps of volunteers and chapters across the state. Through the Master Naturalist training, participants not only learn about natural resources, but they also receive training on how to educate others about natural resources. 

    A primary goal of the Master Naturalist program is to develop an organization of knowledgeable volunteers to help promote conservation and management of natural resources through educating their communities. We welcome all Texans aged 18 and above to join!

    Q: What are some examples of your projects or programs? 

    A: Our Texas Master Naturalist Chapters all work diligently in their local areas to address the environmental needs of their communities. Members have worked on projects such as:

    • Working as a wetland restoration team along a coastal area
    • Assisting with field surveys of endangered species such as the Golden-Cheeked Warbler
    • Presenting interpretive programs to campers at state parks
    • Performing water quality test
    • Restoring a blackland prairie in a city park
    • Assisting a nature center with the establishment of a herbarium
    • Developing and maintaining nature trails and leading informative hikes
    • Improving a wetland habitat along a river
    • Assisting with a turtle patrol along a beach
    • Leading a school class on a nature hike or conducting a workshop at a school
    • Assisting with the Texas Horned Lizard Watch

    Q: What are the ecological and economic benefits of your organization’s projects and programs?

    A: Members of the Texas Master Naturalist Program have made incredible impacts through the entirety of our program since its 1997 inception through this past year, 2021. Our corps of volunteer citizen scientists have:

    • Helped to train – or become – one of 474 new members in 2021 adding to the ranks of some 15,220 who have been trained as Texas Master Naturalists since our program’s inception.
    • Contributed 442,595 hours of service in 2021 and more than 5.9 million hours to date!
    • Master Naturalist volunteer service in 2021 was valued at $10.18 million and more than $131.53 million to date!
    • Obtained 64,551 hours of Advanced Training in 2021 and 877,664 hours of AT to date.
    • Reached over 137,526 youth, adults, and private landowners in 2021 and more than 6.63 million people to date.
    • Added 2 new acres under stewardship and management projects in 2021 and made an impact on more than 229,100 acres of Texas to date.
    • Developed or maintained more than 2,234+ miles of trail to date.

    “As a Texas Master Naturalist, you’ve heard us say that when you put on the dragonfly badge, your name tags, your pins, or your Texas Master Naturalist shirt – you are part of something bigger. You are part of our state’s largest conservation and stewardship movement. YOU ARE our Texas Master Naturalist Family! And our family is awesome!” – Mary Pearl Meuth, Master Naturalist Assistant State Program Coordinator

    Q: Tell us about the future of your organization. Do you have any upcoming initiatives, exciting events, or challenges ahead?

    A: We are excited to host our 23rd Texas Master Naturalist Program Annual Meeting, an event to gather, learn, and celebrate another year of the Texas Master Naturalist Program this fall. We’re preparing this year’s meeting as an in-person event at the Omni Houston on Thursday, October 20th through Sunday October 23rd. This year’s agenda is packed with 100+ concurrent technical sessions lined up with a huge variety of topics–from laws & ethics to native pollinators, from fungi to bird conservation issues and from youth programming to water quality community science.

    Q: Are there any other interesting news / events / facts about your organization? 

    A: On Tuesday October 11th, at 12p.m. we will host a Texas Master Naturalist Chapter Project Fair as part of our #TMNTuesday monthly online webinars. All are welcome to learn about conservation efforts conducted by Texas Master Naturalist Chapters across the state. Visit the #TMNTuesday website for more information and a link to register: https://txmn.tamu.edu/tmntuesdays/

    #TMNTuesdays are open to the public to join anytime and recordings of each month’s topic are shared on the same website.

    Q: How can people get involved with and learn more about your organization?

    A: The first step is to visit our site: https://txmn.tamu.edu/about/want-to-be-a-master-naturalist/. Texas Master Naturalists not only get their feet wet and their hands dirty, but while doing so, they spend time in a natural setting. Master Naturalist Trainees must successfully complete an approved training program with at least 40 hours of combined field and classroom instruction though a Texas Master Naturalist Chapter. 

    After completing the training above, the candidate donates at least 40 hours of volunteer service back to the state and community. Trainees can complete their 40 hours of volunteer service and 8 hours of advanced training within a year after completion of their initial training to become a Certified Texas Master Naturalist. In subsequent years, the candidate must complete another 8 hours of advanced training and donate 40 hours of volunteer service to maintain their certification (or to re-certify) as a Texas Master Naturalist.

    Texan by Nature is proud to partner with 115+ 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.

  8. Webinar Recap: Land, Water, & Wildlife – Conservation in Action

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    In 2021, Texan by Nature (TxN) and North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) launched a complimentary, four-part webinar series to increase education and awareness of the top natural resource conservation practices in the Lone Star State. The series provided new data, ideas, actionable next steps, and resources for individuals and businesses to get involved. You can watch the first three webinars here or on the Texan by Nature YouTube Channel:

    The fourth and last webinar in the series, “Texas Land, Water, & Wildlife – Conservation in Action,” featured the following speakers:

    Watch the full recording of the webinar:

     

    During the presentations, the following questions were asked via chat. All of the questions and answers can be viewed here:

    Learn more:

  9. Conservation Partner: Houston Wilderness

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    Texan by Nature (TxN) is proud to partner with 100+ 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, Houston Wilderness and how they are protecting, promoting, and preserving wild spaces in the greater Houston area. 

    Q: Tell us about Houston Wilderness and its mission. 

    A: Houston Wilderness works with a broad-based alliance of business, environmental and government interests to protect and promote the 10 diverse ecoregions of the 13+ county area around Houston, Galveston Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico, including coastal prairies, forests, wetlands, and waterways. In serving these areas, our mission is to protect, preserve, and promote the nature of these ecoregions.

     

    Q: What is the history of Houston Wilderness? 

    A: Since 2003, Houston Wilderness has initiated several different projects and programs to protect, preserve and promote our Houston and surrounding areas ecoregions. We have grown to include programs for monarch butterflies and reforestation efforts through the Port of Houston TREEs program. We’re also working with partners in monitoring wildlife around Houston through our RAWARC program- Regional Assessments of Wildlife Along Riparian Corridors. This has allowed us to get a view of the wildlife that uses our beloved Bayous and trails around Houston and has made for some really fun photography. 

    Q: How do you work to achieve your mission and who is your audience? 

    A: Collaboration has been key in getting the work done- everything from the landowners implementing butterfly gardens all over the State to the volunteers that help us get trees in the ground in our Houston Ship Channel T.R.E.E.S. program, we wouldn’t be able to complete all of the great work that we do without our partners. 

    Since the work we do affects all of the ecoregions around the state – our audience includes anyone who uses these green spaces in the ecoregions we service.

    Houston Wilderness connects people to the 10 ecoregions in multiple counties around Greater Houston through large-scale environmental policy initiatives, including facilitation of key programs including: 

    • 8-county Regional Conservation Plan: A long-term collaborative of environmental, business, and governmental entities working together to implement resilience plan for the Gulf-Houston region
    • Texas Monarch Flyway Strategy: A statewide effort to restore, increase and enhance Monarch habitat across four major regions in the state
    • Port of Houston TREES Program: A multi-year collaborative project focused on large-scale tree plantings along Lower Buffalo Bayou, Lower Brays Bayou, and 25 miles of the Houston Ship Channel. Use of our targeted Super Trees allows this project to be successful in carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services.
    • Collaborative Grant Organizing Program: Houston Wilderness works with multiple stakeholders and federal/state agencies on collaborative grant proposals and funded projects, often in “pioneering” areas of environmental planning and resilience in the Greater Gulf-Houston Region

    All of these programs ensure that relevant stakeholders are at the table and collaborative solutions are supported and implemented. 

    “Houston Wilderness is doing the work to help link so many hardworking stakeholders in ensuring the ecological health of our city and surrounding areas,” – Ana Tapia, Sr. Director of Environmental Programs. 

    Monarch butterfly moments after Houston Wilderness revamped and cleaned up the butterfly garden at the Houston Health Department.

    Q: What are some examples of your projects or programs?

    A: An example of our programs is our ongoing goal along with the City of Houston and multiple stakeholders to plant 4.6 millions trees by 2030! The Tree Strategy Implementation Group (TSIG) came together in early 2020 to create a strategy to accomplish the Resilient Houston

    Plan’s goal to plant 4.6 million new native trees by 2030. The 14 Native “Super Tree” species have been identified for their high levels of ecosystem services in air pollution and water absorption, carbon sequestration and tree canopy size. Those trees include: Live Oak, Boxelder, Laurel Oak, Red Maple, River Birch, American Elm, Slippery Elm, Tulip Tree, American Sycamore, Green Ash, Loblolly Pine, White Ash, Water Oak, Sweet Gum.

    The primary goal of large-scale native tree plantings, and reforestation is to create and/or restore multi-species forests at various sizes in areas that were traditionally forested in the region in order to provide critical ecosystem services to residents and wildlife. 

    The aforementioned RAWARC program has gained a lot of attention- especially through one of our partner’s Buffalo Bayou Partnership- their camera has caught a large variety of native Houston wildlife along the Bayou and made for some fun social media interactions. 

     

    Minyue Hu helps plant a rare Slippery Elm in Pasadena Memorial Park as part of an Eagle Scout project.

    Q: What are the ecological and economic benefits of your organization’s projects/programs?

    A:  Our Port of Houston TREES program tackles air pollution in Houston that’s known to pose an increased risk of asthma attacks and cardiac arrest according to researchers at the Houston Health Department, Houston Fire Department, Rice University, and Baylor College of Medicine. The planting of large-scale native trees provides high levels of air quality benefits, particularly when targeted in high health-risk areas such as the ones shown in the map below outlining our targeted areas. Our intention is always to put nature first as we help develop Best Management Practices to help increase ecological benefits of our programs. 

    Q: Tell us about the future of your organization. Do you have any upcoming initiatives, exciting events, or even challenges ahead? 

    A: Our Annual Luncheon celebrates the 10 ecoregions of Greater Gulf-Houston Region with area elected officials, stakeholders, interested parties and friends. Public officials from up to 15 different counties are invited to attend! 

    SHELL, Lionstone Investments, SMB Offshore, Bank of Texas along with other volunteers helped to plant 1,000 trees along Greens Bayou to help in mitigation of storm effects.

    Q: How can people get involved with and learn more about your organization? 

    A: Check out our website! We have all of our programs listed as well as ways you can contribute or volunteer. We also have an Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where we post about upcoming events and tree plantings! 

    Additionally, Houston Wilderness has created three specialized versions of its Wilderness Passport

    The Wilderness Passport provides an accessible guide to visiting the natural world in the Houston area in the context of our local ecoregions. The Wilderness Passport lists state parks, wildlife refuges, museums, arboretums, and nature centers in each of our 7 land-based and 3 water-based ecoregions.

    Texan by Nature is proud to partner with 100+ 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.

     

  10. Conservation Partner: NRCS Texas Q&A

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    Texan by Nature (TxN) is proud to partner with 105+ 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, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and how they are supporting resource management and conservation in agriculture. 

    Brittany Anderson, Soil Conservationist, Pampa field office providing technical assistance in the field with mobile technology.
    Brittany Anderson, Soil Conservationist, Pampa field office providing technical assistance in the field with mobile technology.

    Q: Tell us about NRCS and its mission.

    A: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides America’s farmers and ranchers with technical and financial assistance to voluntarily put conservation on the ground not only helping the environment but agricultural operations, too.

    Our Mission: We deliver conservation solutions so agricultural producers can protect natural resources and feed a growing world.

    Our Vision: A world of clean and abundant water, healthy soils, resilient landscapes and thriving agricultural communities through voluntary conservation.

    Q: What is the history of NRCS?

    A: On April 27, 1935, Congress passed Public Law 74-46, in which it recognized that “the wastage of soil and moisture resources on farm, grazing, and forest lands . . . is a menace to the national welfare,” and it directed the Secretary of Agriculture to establish the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) as a permanent agency in the USDA. In 1994, Congress changed SCS’s name to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to better reflect the broadened scope of the agency’s concerns.

    Land must be nurtured; not plundered and wasted.” – Hugh Hammond Bennett, NRCS’ first chief. 

    Cattle and Emery Birdwell on the Birdwell Clark Ranch in Henrietta, Texas.

    Q: How do you work to achieve your mission and who is your audience?

    A: NRCS helps America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners conserve the nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources with free technical assistance or advice for their land. Common technical assistance includes natural resource assessment, conservation practice design and natural resource monitoring. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment. NRCS offers financial and technical assistance to help agricultural producers make and maintain conservation improvements on their land.

    Soil Scientist Nathan Haile examines soil condition in soil samples taken in the pasture.
    Soil Scientist Nathan Haile examines soil condition in soil samples taken in the pasture.

    Q: What are some examples of your projects or programs? 

    A: Through NRCS’ financial assistance programs landowners and/or operators receive incentive payments to implement conservation practices on their land. Previously, an outside partner and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts provided additional incentive payments for conservation practice implementation to encourage greater participation and more conservation.

    NRCS provides financial assistance through Farm Bill Programs such as:

    NRCS uses Landscape Conservation Initiatives to accelerate the benefits of voluntary conservation programs, such as cleaner water and air, healthier soil and enhanced wildlife habitat. NRCS conservation programs help agricultural producers improve the environment while maintaining a vibrant agricultural sector.

    Programs like The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCCP) work with landowners and agricultural producers to meet conservation challenges collaboratively.

    Additionally, NRCS supports agriculturalists affected by natural phenomena with targeted funding. In response to recent wildfires in Texas, NRCS has made funding available through EQIP to assist with the cost of animal mortality and deferred grazing. Affected agriculturalists should apply by July 5. See counties eligible for assistance here.

    USDA Targets Funds in Texas to Help Landowners and Managers with Wildfire Recovery and Restoration
    USDA Targets Funds in Texas to Help Landowners and Managers with Wildfire Recovery and Restoration.

    Q: What are the ecological and economic benefits of your organization’s projects/programs?

    A: Benefits of NRCS programs include water quality improvement, nutrient runoff reduction, water quantity use/loss reduced, soil loss prevented, wildlife habitat creation and improvement, soil health improvement, and air quality improvement.

    Additionally, NRCS can partner with organizations to leverage financial assistance program funds and promote broader conservation practice implementation and natural resource improvements.

    Q: Tell us about the future of your organization. Do you have any upcoming initiatives, exciting events, or challenges ahead?

    Here’s a few of our exciting upcoming events in 2022:

    See a full list of upcoming NRCS events here.

    Farm Bill Program financial assistance is available yearly. Urban and small farm agriculture is a new opportunity for USDA. NRCS will be adapting conservation practices to provide valuable assistance in helping provide local health, food, and security.

    Cotton boll maturing on Bobby Byrd's cotton plant in Hale County near Plainview, Texas.
    Cotton boll maturing on Bobby Byrd’s cotton plant in Hale County near Plainview, Texas.

    Q: How can people get involved with and learn more about your organization?

    A: Follow and like NRCS on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

    Contact Rob Ziehr, Assistant State Conservationist for Partnerships and Initiatives at Robert.Ziehr@usda.gov or 254-742-9888

    Texan by Nature is proud to partner with 105+ 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.

    All photos and captions courtesy of NRCS Texas.

  11. Conservation Partner: TAMU Natural Resources Institute

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    Texan by Nature (TxN) is proud to partner with 105+ 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 A&M Natural Resources Institute and how they are using honey bee conservation to positively impact military veterans.

    Q: Tell us about the Natural Resources Institute and its mission.

    A: The Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute (NRI) is made up of 80+ researchers, scientists, extension agents, and policy experts stationed in 12 states across the U.S. who are all interested in promoting the value of land stewardship and wildlife conservation. Between our in-house expertise and our extensive partner network, we’re uniquely positioned to identify information gaps existing anywhere from natural resource policy to the knowledge base of private landowners. Our mission is to solve complex natural resource challenges through discovery, engagement, innovation, and land stewardship.

    Q: What is the history of NRI?

    A: Officially staffed in 2007, NRI became a grant-funded (public and private) natural resource research and extension unit, led by the Land Grant University mission under Texas A&M University. As a member of the state’s land-grant system, our initiatives are founded on the basic need to enrich Texas with comprehensive agricultural and life sciences knowledge and services to restore connections among people, agriculture, food, science, and the economy.

    NRI researchers constructed and installed artificial Burrowing Owl nests at Holloman Air Force Base.  The operation included a small chemistry lesson on diluent choice for 4,4 methylene diphenyl diisocyanate, the primary ingredient used in creating the natural rock roadbed in the artificial nests!

    Q: How do you work to achieve your mission and who is your audience?

    A: NRI leads four major program areas – land, wildlife, military, and private lands. 

    • With our Land Trends and Demography program, we use geospatial tools and landscape planning to support research and extension projects with accurate, scientific data; 
    • Our Wildlife Conservation and Mitigation program conducts research that addresses the current problems surrounding wildlife and habitat management and promotes their stewardship to landowners and policymakers; 
    • Our Military Land Sustainability program works to support military readiness and land stewardship through integrated management practices on military bases; 
    • Using engagement and partnerships, our Private Land Stewardship program allows us to provide landowners with research results and solutions to some of their most pressing natural resource challenges.

    “We work every day to stay ahead of some of the most complex natural resource concerns, but an immense part of what we do depends on thoughtful collaboration with other experts in the field. We thrive in this space where we’re able to positively impact entire ecosystems together and prove a return on investment for the people who benefit from wild places and healthy working lands. It’s exhilarating to see this institute move when there’s a call and it’s even more exciting to get to tell our stories.”  – Brittany Wegner, NRI Project Specialist

    Working with our partners at Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve to demonstrate the value of prescribed fire on private lands through “Leopold Live!“.

    Q: What are some examples of your projects or programs? 

    A: NRI is known for our ability to be nimble and to find the right expertise for the challenge in everything we do. 

    The Texas Land Trends project under our Land Trends and Demography program monitors the status and changes in land use, ownership size and land values of working lands. Research results are published as topic-based reports through txlandtrends.org, an award-winning interactive website. Users can also explore and query the Texas Land Trends data through the web-based mapping service. Texas Land Trends provides decision-makers and stakeholders with timely information to support the conservation and strategic planning of working lands within a spatially explicit context. Here’s a preview of a few tools we’ve developed through the Texas Land Trends project:

    • Data Explorer: This tool allows users to curate land trend data based on their area or areas of interest. Custom data queries by users generate an output of summary statistics, which demonstrate land demographic data in three primary categories: land use, land values, and ownership. These data are displayed through interactive mapping, tables, graphs, and general text to allow unique visualization of occurring changes on the selected areas of interest.
    • Texas Early Notification Tool (TENT): This tool allows users to create custom queries based on their area or areas of interest. If the area selected intersects a military asset notification area that warrants early notification, the tool will generate an output with the notification areas and associated point of contact information. These data are displayed through interactive mapping, tables, and general text.
    • Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program (REPI): This tool provides users with GIS locations of all military installations nationwide with completed REPI transactions, along with relevant information and resources for these projects such as economic data and project profile pages. Custom query feature allows users to pull REPI data for multiple installations at the local-, state-, and regional-level.
    • TxMAP: Over the last year, our geospatial analysis team ideated and developed a web-based desktop mapping application called TxMAP allowing users to see how the water, wildlife, military and demography data we use relates to the land around it. Readers can explore the data layers to answer questions and better visualize natural resources across Texas through boundaries and markups, and then publish and print a summary of their findings. Individualized map reports created in TxMAP can be used for policymakers, conservation organizations, state and federal agencies and private landowners and managers giving a comprehensive review of desired geospatial information.

    Under the Wildlife Conservation and Mitigation program, the most recently pursued project in partnership with East Foundation, the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife at the Cincinnati Zoo, the University of Tennessee Comparative and Experimental Medicine Program and Center for Wildlife Health, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is a study of the viability of potential actions designed to establish a new population of ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) in South Texas to both help prevent their extirpation and increase their numbers in the U.S.

    Through this project, officially called “Developing and Assessing Strategies for Reintroducing Ocelots to Historical Texas Habitat,” NRI and our partners are exploring the feasibility of reintroducing the endangered ocelot to a portion of their historical range in Texas that is distinct from known populations’ currently occupied habitat.

    The project’s exploratory research efforts include:

    •  1) assessments of where ecologically and socio-politically suitable ocelot habitat may occur in South Texas (and thus where possible reintroduction sites may occur);
    • 2) the methods for sourcing individuals for an additional population of ocelots;
    • 3) strategies for successfully releasing ocelots into the wild;
    • 4) development of plans for the long-term management of reintroduced ocelots; 
    • and 5) determining the long-term viability of a reintroduced population given ecological constraints.

    Another wildlife-related project under the Private Land Stewardship program called “The Reversing the Quail Decline Initiative” was one of NRI’s most wide-reaching projects for six years and provided extension programming, research summaries, and other valuable resources to landowners who were interested in learning about or pursuing quail conservation on their property. We held the ever-popular “QuailMasters” programs to teach landowners all about native quail and the management of their habitat, gathered statewide population data through the Texas Quail Index, and shared blogs and videos that reached thousands of Texas viewers.

    NRI also collaborates with the Texas Water Resources Institute on our freshwater mussel program where researchers study the biology, population distributions, and conservation statuses of declining freshwater mussel species. The research conducted in this lab helps promote aquatic ecosystem and species conservation and inform policymakers as to whether certain species should be listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

    Since 2011, NRI’s freshwater mussel research program has provided information on mussel taxonomy, population distribution and ranges, and other science-based knowledge and solutions for state and federal natural resource agencies.

    An ongoing partnership under the Military Lands and Sustainability program is the Sentinel Landscapes Project where NRI works with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) who relies on critical land, air and sea space in which it can train troops and test vital weapon systems. These testing and training areas, once remote in location, now face increasing encroachment. Housing developments and schools built adjacent to installations pose safety concerns. Conversely, noise and dust from military training exercises are a nuisance to those same schools and housing developments. The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership is an innovative collaboration to promote compatible land use around important military facilities.

    While large rural landscapes such as farms, ranches and forestland are vital to sustaining agricultural and timber productivity and protecting wildlife habitat, they are also good neighbors to military bases. Private landowners maintaining rural lands, in some cases for decades and without due recognition, have significantly contributed to the nation’s defense.

    Through the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, the Interior and Defense are recognizing and incentivizing landowners to maintain working lands, undertake conservation practices that benefit wildlife habitat, and continue land-use practices that are compatible with the military’s mission.

    NRI understands the unique relationship between natural resources and national defense and is assisting these departments in implementing Sentinel Landscapes. It provides its management expertise in programs and policy development where national defense requirements and natural resource interests meet, especially as we consider DoD as one of the largest land managers in the U.S

    A helicopter hovers at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM), which supports the majority of remaining prairie habitat in the Puget Sound.
    The Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) Sentinel Landscape encompasses 63,000 acres of military training area, including over 7,000 acres of impact area, 86 ranges and mortar points, 13 drop zones, and two airfields.  In addition, the sentinel landscape supports the majority of the remaining prairie habitat in the south Puget Sound.

    Q: What are the ecological and economic benefits of your organization’s projects/programs?

    A: Many of our programs directed at private landowners teach them how to implement conservation practices on their land. Healthy, biodiverse land not only creates valuable habitat for wildlife, but increases the inherent value of the property. Our sentinel landscapes program maintains the health of military lands and their neighboring rural lands, economically benefiting the Department of Defense by reducing the need to relocate military installations around sensitive species and reducing future land maintenance costs that may arise due to climate change or urban encroachment.

    We also recently began calculating the value of ecosystem services on conserved and managed lands, a term used to describe things like clean air and water, carbon sequestration and wildlife habitat that are necessary to live—essentially affirming the valuable public benefits of conserved land. For example, we discovered that the state taxpayers receive a 27:1 return on investment for conservation easements, where the state funds $4 million per biennium (since 2015) and the annual value of ag commodities, water regenerations and wildlife consumption tops $10 million on those same lands.

    Q: Tell us about the future of NRI. Do you have any upcoming initiatives, exciting events, or challenges ahead?

    A: Top of mind for everyone right now is our new opportunity to collaborate, and even integrate in some regards, with the Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management (RWFM) within the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences. Our director, Dr. Roel Lopez recently accepted a dual appointment to continue serving as NRI’s director and the department head for RWFM. We’ve worked closely with the department since our inception to ensure RWFM (previously Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences) students are granted access to real world, contracted and field research experiences under PIs as they pursue their masters and doctoral degrees.

    Through this collaboration, we’ve started to see opportunities for our project and service crossovers like, geospatial services for extension specialists to help them solve challenges across the state on private land.

    We are also currently hosting a live video series once a month on Facebook called Leopold Live! where we and experts from the Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve discuss practical wildlife and habitat management techniques and answer questions from viewers. Some of this season’s topics include using game cameras, supplemental water, and herbicides and brush management.

    Q: How can people get involved with and learn more about NRI?

    A: Our work focuses on connecting with landowners and managers, other researchers, students and conservation organizations. One of our ongoing goals is to make sure that research and insights end up where they can be used, rather than sitting on the proverbial shelf. We launched the seasonal NRI Sourcebook in 2020 where you can find the latest research and resources all in one place complete with abstracts and a brief demonstration of what the work means for conservation. We want readers to use the information, to dive into the research and allow it to catalyze initiatives dependent on sound science. 

    Those interested can always follow us on social media (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter) where we share our latest resources and updates. You can also sign up to receive our articles, editorial and think-pieces on Medium at https://tamu-nri.medium.com/

    If you would like to contact us directly, email us at nri@tamu.edu or visit our website at nri.tamu.edu.

    You can read the latest issue of the NRI Journal, as well as past issues, here.

    Texan by Nature is proud to partner with 105+ 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. Conservation Partner: Texas Children in Nature Network

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    Texan by Nature (TxN) is proud to partner with 105+ 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 Children in Nature Network and how they are enriching children’s lives and futures through nature.

    Q: Tell us about Texan Children in Nature Network and its mission.

    A: The mission of Texas Children in Nature Network (TCiNN) is to ensure equitable access and connection to nature for all children in Texas. We do this through the support of a collective impact network with over 500 partners across the state working in eight regions. The network brings together educators and school administrators, nature and conservation professionals, health care workers, and communities all working to engage more children in the outdoors. 

    What is the history of TCiNN?

    Q: TCiNN was founded after the passage of SB 205 in 2009, which called for six state agencies in Texas, including Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, to work together to find a way to have more children spend more time outside. In 2010 TPWD gathered nature leaders from across the state and TCiNN was born. For ten years TCiNN was part of TPWD and in 2021 became its own independent non-profit organization. 

    Q: How do you work to achieve your mission and who is your audience? 

    A: The Texas Children in Nature Network’s mission is to ensure equitable access and connection to nature for all children in Texas. We serve an important role in the non-profit landscape of Texas, working as a collaborative model and focusing on helping partner organizations do great work. A key component of the collective impact model is a strong backbone organization guiding the work of the collaborative, TCiNN engages with over 500 partners across the state of Texas to fulfill this role. We are a place where health care professionals, teachers, conservationists, and community and business leaders convene to work together to accomplish our mission, with our partner reflecting a wide range of levels of work within their community. TCiNN works with our regional collaboratives across the state to increase the time children are spending in nature everyday, we work in local communities across Texas with a variety of organizations. While we are still a primarily white-led organization, TCiNN is making strides to increase our diversity in leadership to include more people of color, as well as working with BIPOC led community organizations on the local level. 

    Q: What are some examples of your projects or programs? 

    A: TCiNN’s programs include:

    • Cities Connecting Children to Nature: CCCN is a collaborative effort from the Children and Nature Network and National League of Cities to work towards creating a nature rich infrastructure and implementing systems change to create more equitable access to nature for children in cities across the United States. TCiNN is currently working with three cities in Texas (Austin, Houston and San Antonio). Recently TCiNN was chosen as a state collaborative to lead the efforts further in Texas, and take the model we have been working to create in our three CCCN cities in the state to more communities in Texas. 
    • OLE (Outdoor Learning Environments): OLE! Texas is a collaborative initiative in the state working with several state agencies, including the Department of State Health Services and Texas Tech University, to create nature learning spaces in early childhood centers across the state. This effort opens up nature spaces for children ages 0-5. OLE! Texas is currently working on ways to increase our outreach to more low-income centers and Headstart programs across the state. 
    • Professional Development: TCiNN commits to share best practices and professional development with our partners. Since October of 2020 TCiNN has been offering at least one webinar each month featuring topics in our new Strategic Plan. These webinars have been focused on how to create more access for children to the outdoors, and have highlighted many of our DEI efforts over the past year. Some examples of our webinars have been: “Austin’s Environmental Leaders: a youth led discussion on equity and adventure in the outdoors,” “Birdability: because birding is for everybody and every body,” and “Outdoor Adventure for Youth in Public Housing.” We offer these webinars at a “pay what you can” price point, we also share the recordings of all our webinars on our YouTube channel for anyone to view and learn from.

    In addition, we also offer an annual Summit for our partners to learn from each other, nationally renowned keynote speakers, and network with each other. The 2021 Summit was held in Fort Worth and featured keynotes Angela Hanscom, author of Balanced and Barefoot, Lisa Carlson, Immediate Past President of the American Public Health Association, and an Equity Panel on the importance of equity in the outdoors. 

    Brazos Bend State Park photo shoot emphasizing accessibility at Texas State Parks. Brazos Bend State Park photo shoot emphasizing accessibility at Texas State Parks.

    Q: What are the ecological and economic benefits of your organization’s projects/programs? 

    A: By engaging children in nature today we are instilling a love of nature in their lives. These children will grow to become the conservation leaders of tomorrow. 

    Q: Tell us about the future of your organization. Do you have any upcoming initiatives, exciting events, or even challenges ahead? 

    A: Texas Children in Nature Network is excited to announce two big projects for the new year:

    • TCiNN was chosen as one of five Regional and State Cohorts with the Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) initiative with the Children and Nature Network and the National League of Cities. This will allow TCiNN to provide support for more Texas communities who are looking to center nature in more of their municipal planning.
    • In conjunction with the work TCiNN will be doing with the Regional and State Cohort with CCCN, Texas Children in Nature Network will be bringing on three Health and Nature Liaisons to work in three metro areas in Texas to engage communities in using nature as a public health policy. Ultimately the goal of both projects is to engage on a community level to engage families in learning the barriers to nature near them, address those barriers, and create more access and connection to nature for children and families in Texas. 

    Q: How can people get involved with and learn more about your organization? 

    A: The best way to engage in the work of Texas Children in Nature Network is to join one of our regional collaboratives. These groups meet throughout the year and work on a local level to increase access to nature. 

    You can also follow TCiNN on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

    Texan by Nature is proud to partner with 105+ 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.

     

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