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

Category Archive: Conservation Partners

  1. 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:

  2. 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.

     

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

     

  6. Conservation Partner: Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance

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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, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance and how they are protecting water resources in the Texas Hill Country. 

    Q: Tell us about the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance and its mission. 

    A: The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA) is a grassroots advocacy group that forms the last line of defense for the Edwards and Trinity aquifers, the most vital sources of drinking water in South Central Texas and the western Hill Country. Based in San Antonio, we work in 21 counties across the Edwards and Trinity aquifer watersheds to implement sensible growth and land use policies, challenge projects that pose risk to our water supplies, and educate the public about these crucial groundwater resources. We love our Hill Country environment with its mysterious caverns, clear springs, and bountiful plants and wildlife; we work hard to protect those natural resources for future generations. 

    GEAA Technical Director Debbie Reid

    Q: What is the history of GEAA? 

    A: In the early 2000s as growth in our region ramped up, citizen-based conservation organizations in San Antonio, San Marcos, Wimberley, Dripping Springs, and Austin recognized the need to work collectively. Our founding groups began meeting during summer 2002, and a few months later, GEAA was born. The first thing we agreed on was the need to develop a plan of action to save the Edwards Aquifer. We worked together and wrote the Edwards Aquifer Protection Plan, a playbook for saving the Edwards Aquifer based on sound science and sustainable economic principles. Our work has continued since then, and we now represent members from Austin to Del Rio.

    “Our karst aquifers can replenish themselves and provide all the water we need, but the one thing they can’t do is protect themselves from being paved over and polluted. Only by working together, as an alliance, can we ensure these precious drinking water supplies last forever.” — Annalisa Peace, Executive Director, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance

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

    A: We’re a coalition of more than 50 member groups representing a wide array of communities and causes that reflect the diversity of our region. We decide which issues to get involved in based on consensus of our member groups, who meet regularly to share issues and hone in on GEAA’s focus for the upcoming year. Our work involves speaking to policymakers and regulators, as well as the general public. We produce and distribute educational materials that will assist public- and private-sector decision makers to take actions to protect and sustain the quality and quantity of Edwards Aquifer flows. We’ve expanded and aided the coordination of existing public interest for sustainable water and land use practices in the Greater Edwards Aquifer region. We also catalyze greater investment by private non-profit and for-profit organizations, government agencies, and individuals in Edwards Aquifer watershed preservation and sustainable water and land-use practices. 

    GEAA Executive Director Annalisa Peace with UTSA students

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

    A: The GEAA internship program engages student interns in semester-long research projects by pairing them with professionals from various fields who volunteer their expertise to head up research projects designed to inform development of policy that promotes preservation of our regional water resources. The program provides students with the opportunity to work closely with experts in their field of study and has leveraged hundreds of thousands of dollars in expertise and research time. Over the years, hundreds of students have refined the skills they will use in their futures careers by participating in GEAA internships. GEAA has been a leader in engaging the citizens of our region in advocacy of water conservation, equitable allocation of our water resources, public policy aimed at protecting water quality, and land use practices that will preserve the culture and ecosystems that make the Texas Hill Country unique. We submitted public comments to national, state and local agencies on a variety of issues pertinent to our mission. GEAA was featured in numerous press reports and radio shows and engaged our more than 50 member organizations in statewide advocacy of policies to protect and preserve our water resources. We are currently working on a public campaign to encourage homeowners and businesses over the aquifer’s sensitive recharge zone to avoid using harmful chemicals that could run off and infiltrate into our groundwater.

    Student thank you letter to the GEAA

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

    A: Our region is one of the fastest-growing in the U.S. People are drawn to this area because of its natural beauty and clear, flowing water. But will people still want to live here if we over-pump our aquifers, bulldoze habitat for our iconic species, and choke our waterways with algae-growing pollution from lawn chemicals and sewage plants? Texas needs long-term, sustainable growth and land-use strategies that balance good science, current economic needs, and the needs of future generations. GEAA works to ensure that San Antonio and our part of the Hill Country can continue to be a place where people live, work, and visit long into the future. 

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

    A: We are excited to share that our team is doubling its size in 2022. We have recently hired two new full-time staffers to learn from and assist Annalisa Peace and Debbie Reid, our aquifer veterans. Expect to see a ramping up of GEAA’s online presence and organizing efforts, including in fast-growing exurban areas such as Castroville, Boerne, and Bulverde. 

    Q: Q: Are there any other interesting news, events, or facts about your organization that you’d like to share? 

    A:  One of GEAA’s recent focuses has been on flood prevention, using strategies that fall under the umbrella of low-impact development (LID). That’s why GEAA produced an LID manual for our region that emphasizes using rain gardens, bioswales, and other innovative landscaping techniques that use native plants rather than concrete to help stormwater runoff slow down, spread out, and sink in.

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

    A:  Individual memberships provide operational support that is vital to our continued success. For groups based in South Central Texas looking for additional resources and involvement in the broader community, we would love to have you join as a member group. Please contact one of our staff members and we can assist you with joining. We will also post information on our website and social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) about any upcoming volunteer opportunities. 

    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.

     

  7. Conservation Partner: Monarch Joint Venture

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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, Monarch Joint Venture and the work they do in the US, Canada, and Mexico to protect habitat and food resources for Monarchs as they migrate across North America.

    Q: Tell us about the Monarch Joint Venture and its mission.

    A: The Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that partners with federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and academic programs to protect monarch butterflies and their migration across Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.

    Guided by the North American Monarch Conservation Plan (2008) and the annually updated Monarch Conservation Implementation Plan, the MJV takes a science- and community-based approach to deliver monarch and pollinator habitat conservation, education and science initiatives across the U.S., and serves as a catalyst for positive outcomes in tri-national monarch conservation efforts.

    Q: What is the history of the MJV?

    A: Founded in 2008 as part of the University of Minnesota Monarch Lab, the MJV’s structure as a joint venture was modeled after the pioneering North American Waterfowl Management Plan, the largest cooperative effort ever convened to protect wetlands and waterfowl. This structure seemed appropriate since both monarchs and waterfowl migrate over huge and varied landscapes, and both have specific habitat requirements. With monarch populations in steep decline, the collaborative framework of a joint venture has proven to be highly effective in monarch conservation efforts.

    In 2019, the MJV became a standalone nonprofit under the leadership of Executive Director Wendy Caldwell. With a growing staff and a network of more than 100 partners and initiatives across the U.S., the MJV continues to work collaboratively to bring back the monarchs and support healthy habitat for all pollinators.

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

    A: The four pillars of our work are habitat, science, education, and partnerships. In each of these areas, MJV staff are spearheading innovative new programs and coordinating ongoing initiatives that contribute to North American monarch conservation as a whole.

    Our mission and programs serve a diverse audience. MJV partners are governmental agencies, NGOs, academic programs, businesses, and many other types of entities. Our habitat restoration and monitoring programs span the U.S. and partner with farmers, land managers and nonprofits, not to mention everyday people who join our community science projects. MJV educational programs are designed to “train the trainers” so teachers, community organizers, and environmental activists benefit from them. The list goes on!

    “The best thing we can do to help monarchs is to increase and improve the habitats that they have available to them across North America, supporting their needs at each link of their annual cycle. If we can improve their chances of finding good quality habitat, we will help to boost their reproductive success, and therefore the size and success of the population.”

    —Wendy Caldwell, MJV Executive Director

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

    A: The Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) is one of our large-scale, ongoing community science projects. Co-managed by the MJV and University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, MLMP was developed more than two decades ago and is powered by hundreds of volunteers in the U.S. and Canada who collect data on larval monarch populations and milkweed habitat. Since milkweed species are the sole food for monarch caterpillars, and the only plant where monarchs lay their eggs, this monitoring is crucial. Anyone can get involved, and your observations help scientists, conservationists, and butterfly conservation.

    The Monarch Butterfly Conservation Webinar Series is a monthly webinar co-hosted by the MJV and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center. Started in 2014, this long standing educational series features presenters from across the field of monarch conservation. Check out upcoming webinars here, and watch archived webinars to gain in-depth knowledge of history and current events in the world of monarchs.

    The Habitat Technical Assistance Program provides support for creating and restoring pollinator habitat on private working lands in California’s Central Valley and in the Midwestern states. MJV technical assistance includes site visits, pollinator habitat seed mixes, customized conservation management plans, and ongoing guidance for your project.

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

    A: Over the past 20 years, North American monarch butterfly populations have steeply declined, with populations east of the Rockies down more than 80% and Western populations down 99.9%. The situation truly calls for all hands on deck to protect this species! Conserving the monarch population is important for ecological, educational, and inspirational reasons.

    Monarchs need the same habitat as many other pollinators and wildlife, so if monarchs are in trouble, then many other creatures are as well. Because monarchs are so well known and their decline is easy to see, they’re like the proverbial canary in the coal mine for pollinators.

    Regarding economic impact, declining pollinator populations directly affect human food systems. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), about 2/3 of the world’s food crops rely on pollinators in order to produce fruits and seeds. That means that as pollinator populations decline, so do resilient food systems. The FAO indicates that up to $577 billion worth of “annual global food production relies on direct contributions by pollinators.” (source)

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

    A: We need everyone to get involved to support North American monarchs! Check out the MJV website for resources to help you get started. Here are a few ideas: 1. Create pollinator habitat by planting native milkweed and nectar plants in your yard or community. Since habitat loss is a primary cause of monarch and pollinator population decline, creating new habitat is one of the most valuable things you can do to help. Plus, nectar plants = flowers, and who doesn’t want more flowers in the garden? 2. Join a monarch community science project, so that your backyard monarch observations help create a continent-wide data set that scientists and conservation organizations can use. 3. Spread awareness about monarch declines and conservation opportunities in your community.

    Learn more about Monarch Joint Venture on their website and follow along on their InstagramTwitter, and Facebook for regular updates. 

     

  8. Conservation Partner: Wildlife Habitat Federation

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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, Wildlife Habitat Federation, and how they are restoring prairie and grassland habitat for Texas wildlife and educating the public about the importance of these wild spaces.

    Q: Tell us about Wildlife Habitat Federation and its mission. 

    A: Wildlife Habitat Federation (WHF) is a non-profit organization headquartered in Cat Spring, Texas that provides on-the-ground restoration, management and generational sustainability of prairie habitat for the conservation of soil, water, air, and wildlife.

    Q: What is the history of Wildlife Habitat Federation?

    A: WHF was founded in 2004 by three conservationists alarmed by the growing loss of prairie habitat threatening regional wildlife species. They recognized that restoring land to its native prairie ecology is key to the survival of wildlife species and essential for natural ecosystem services such as flood control from water retention and healthy microbial soil conditions.

    A Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA-NRCS provided funding for our first project which was building a 7-mile corridor of restored native grasslands from the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado County north to Cat Spring. Independent research by Texas A&M researchers has documented 31 species of upland birds utilizing restored grassland habitats in this area.

    Other landowners in the area became interested and committed to putting their land back into native habitat. Support from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Department, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and several private foundations allowed us to increase our restoration services, technical guidance capacity and to help landowners enroll in applicable government financial assistance programs.

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

    A: WHF educates landowners and others about the benefits and need for native prairie habitat through annual field days; presentations to public and private groups and organizations; exhibiting at local and major public events; one-on-one meetings with individual landowners; phone consultations; website (www.whf-texas.org); articles for newspaper; magazines and social media.

    WHF has created several urban and suburban “pocket” prairies in and around the Houston area for schools and various conservation organizations. These projects have made great hands-on-demonstration sites for students and the surrounding community to show how diverse and beautiful native habitat is.

    Monarch nectaring on Liatris psilostachya.

    We restore native habitat on private lands and urban pocket prairies by providing: site visits and management plans; technical guidance and specialty equipment use, etc. to conduct: prescribed grazing; controlled burns; targeted tillage; invasive species control; and/or sowing of cover crops, native grasses and forbs. WHF helps landowners connect with and complete applications for funding from sources such as Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Natural Resource Conservation Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The habitat management plans developed for each landowner provide information specifically about what is on their land in regard to soils, plant species, wildlife, livestock, and which have positive or negative effects related to the individual landowner’s conservation goals. The plans then provide a timeline of best management practices for achieving those goals.

    We have always been concerned about the availability of locally sourced native seeds. Local ecotype seed may take a bit longer to become established than commercially grown seed, but in the long run, it outlives the non-local seed varieties. WHF is currently partnering with Texas Native Seeds on a major seed evaluation and selection project. This project will greatly enhance the availability of affordable locally adapted seed for future restoration projects.

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

    A: So much of what we do is helping individual landowners achieve their conservation goals. Though not famous or large, each is making a contribution to the health of our environment. Every acre that is enhanced or restored to native species makes a difference. It is through the dedication of many landowners that we have impacted over 88,000 acres in Texas.

    In 2018, WHF and the Katy Prairie Conservancy worked with Katy High School to create a native prairie outdoor classroom that was later christened “The Tiger Prairie” after their school mascot. This gave 350 enthusiastic students a hands-on outdoor learning experience through all of its building phases. The students and teachers have won state and national recognition for their project. The Tiger Prairie will serve as a great teaching tool for years to come, not only for the teachers and students, but for the local community as well. Learn more at: www.tigerprairie.org – Tiger Prairie is TxN Certified!

    WHF was selected by Resource Environmental Solutions (RES) in 2018 to assist in the restoration of 3200 acres of grassland habitats on the North Texas Municipal Water District’s Riverby Mitigation Site in Fannin County Texas. This on-going project serves to mitigate the environmental effects of the development and installation of the 16,000-acre Bois d’ Arc Reservoir.

    Of the organization’s projects, WHF Program Director Garry Stephens said, “During my career with USDA-NRCS I have worked with many landowners on the installation of many thousands of acres of grassland habitats strictly in an advisory capacity. Working with WHF over the past 5 ½ years has been extremely satisfying in that I am now able to see projects from planning to putting them on the ground and being able to see them mature.”

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

    A:Less than 1% of the original 9.5-million-acre upper portion of the Texas Coastal Prairie remains today. WHF is countering this habitat loss by restoring land to its native prairie ecology, and the impact of WHF’s work extends well beyond the actual acreage restored. Such lands provide ecosystem services crucial to the proper functioning of the environment. This creates and strengthens wildlife habitat and fosters native plant communities that include natural levels of biodiversity. The massive root systems of native grass and forbs limit flooding by helping to retain rainwater and improve natural water cycles serving to filter sediment and nutrients from entering our creeks, rivers, bays, and estuaries.

    Garry Stephens in an extensive field of Liatris psilostachya.

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

    A:WHF recently became one of eleven national grant recipients, and the only Texas recipient, of the 2020 National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Southeast Aquatics Fund. This funding has allowed WHF to address the increasing demand for its conservation services and to optimize impact by adding two wildlife conservationists to its staff. This program supports our education and outreach efforts which include site visits and the development of habitat management plans for landowners in the Lower Colorado, Lower Brazos, and San Bernard watersheds.

    Q: Are there any other interesting news / events / facts about your organization that you wish we would have asked/covered? 

     A: WHF began its work in 2004 in a single county and is currently working to assist landowners with the restoration and management of their grassland habitats in 39 counties in Texas.

    WHF has been instrumental in the development and implementation of various local, regional, and statewide partnership projects, strategies and initiatives, such as Houston Wilderness’ Gulf-Houston Monarch Flyway Strategy.

    Cattle assists in seedbed preparation efforts for grassland restorations by enhancing certain aspects of soil health.

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

    A:WHF’s website shows who we are, what we do and contains a lot of information to help people understand the process and benefits of converting habitats into native species. Through our website people are able to donate to our efforts. For those interested in WHF services, there is an online questionnaire through which a landowner can contact us. Learn more about Wildlife Habitat Federation on our website and follow along on our Facebook for regular updates.

  9. Conservation Partner: Headwaters at the Comal

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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,  Headwaters at the Comal, and how they are restoring a former industrial site into a place that will teach people of all ages the importance of our natural resources.

    Q: Tell us about Headwaters at the Comal and its mission. 

    A: The Headwaters at the Comal strengthens the relationship of the community and nature by showcasing the significance of the Comal Springs, the largest of the great springs of Texas. We are rejuvenating 16 acres at the headwaters of the Comal River where people can learn, have fun, and experience history and nature. We want to inspire lifelong practice of enjoying, protecting and stewarding cultural and ecological resources in those that live in, visit, and make decisions about Texas Hill Country natural resources.

    Q: What is the history of Headwaters at the Comal?

    A: The Headwaters non-profit was created in 2017 to partner with New Braunfels Utilities on the implementation of a community envisioned, Lake|Flato designed a master plan.  The plan, implemented in stages, converts an unsightly, abandoned fleet facility and utility yard into a premier environmental education center inspiring hearts and minds on the importance of conservation to the community.  The first phase, completed in November 2017, removed approximately 4 acres of asphalt and impervious cover and replaced it with a green stormwater system channeling close to 11,000 pounds of pollutants away from the headwater springs of the Comal River and created community accessible walking trails and interpretive signage.  It also repurposed an old metal building into a beautiful open air pavilion. 

     

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

    A: Headwaters at the Comal focuses on “four headsprings” of impact:

    • Educate & Demonstrate: Inspire a lifelong practice of enjoying, protecting, and stewarding ecological and cultural resources in those that live in, visit, and make decisions about Hill Country natural resources. 
    • Protect & Conserve: Ensure protection and conservation of the Comal Springs/Comal River system, including the headwaters and the endangered species it supports, in perpetuity.
    • Partner in Research: Allow for exploration and discovery of this “new” site; connect New Braunfels with regional science and social science; identify and demonstrate solutions to real world problems.
    • Create Community: Provide an innovative, nature-oriented gathering and meeting space that builds a regional ethic of valuing cultural and ecological resources. 

     

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

    A: Headwaters at the Comal offers educational programs for all ages. Some of these include:

    • Youth S.E.A.M Series:  Pre-school and elementary aged children participate in hands-on science, engineering, art and math (S.E.A.M.) focused activities in the outdoor pavilion at the Headwaters. These themed programs provided fun, hands-on activities that introduced students to key science concepts.
    • Burned Rock Midden Program: Local boy scouts were given a tour of the archaeology excavation and then helped build a burned rock midden (prehistoric stone cooking oven). During this program, scouts learned about the habits and foodways of the ancient peoples of Central Texas. 
    • Watershed Watchers:  Weeklong, half-day summer camps.  Campers participated in daily nature walks focusing on mindfulness.  Then hands on, interactive, and investigative field experiences are shared focused on topics including: groundwater, watersheds, succession, geography, the water cycle, weathering, erosion, and deposition.  These lesson plans were developed in partnership with local teachers and based on 5th grade science TEKS. 
    • Native Landscaping 101: This lecture series presented in partnership with the local chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas is geared towards the whole family.  Participants learn about the importance of native plants in protecting water resources and providing habitat for native species, how to build and install a rainwater barrel, and the benefits of starting a compost pile.

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

    A: Comal County has grown by 58% in the last 10 years, and the amount of development and loss of native habitat is staggering.  We must engage those moving here on how to be good stewards of the special, sacred springs of Texas–Comal Springs being the largest. The Comal Springs are also home to four endangered species endemic to this region and many more species whose numbers are threatened with extinction.  By restoring this very special place at the beginning of the Comal River we aspire to engage those who live, work and play here on the importance of conservation. These ecological and economic benefits are difficult to define but certainly the loss of the springs or extinction of any one of these creatures could be catastrophic. 

    “It’s so special to work on an urban restoration project in one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. There’s no place in the world like New Braunfels and the Texas Hill Country, so it’s rewarding to do the important work of sharing this ecosystem and educating residents young and old on how we can protect and preserve these beautiful Comal Springs for generations to come.” Lauren Strack, Assistant Manager.  Lauren has been with the project since September 2017.

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

    A: We are currently focusing our energy on providing high quality, engaging programs as we move into a final push for funding the next phase of redevelopment.  This second phase will provide much needed conditioned space and amenities for expanding our programs and impact. 

    Q: Are there any other interesting news / events / facts about your organization that you wish we would have asked/covered? 

     A: Our strong partnership with New Braunfels Utilities and visionary master plan has put the Headwaters in the unique position to collaborate with a Municipal Utility on implementing a regional One Water plan.  One Water is an integrated planning and implementation approach to managing finite water resources for long-term resilience and reliability, meeting both community and ecosystem needs. When complete the Headwaters will demonstrate on-site reuse, including a blackwater reuse system, rainwater harvesting, green infrastructure stormwater management, low-impact development options including permeable paving option, rain gardens and be a gathering place for stakeholders to engage in Regional One Water planning and implementation.

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

    A: We have a website (www.headwatersatthecomal.org) with lots of information including a fly through video of the master plan, a series of educational videos from our 2019 archaeology excavation, ways to become a supporter, volunteer, visit or sign up for the monthly newsletter.  If you use social media you can find Headwaters at the Comal on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

  10. Conservation Partner: Frontera Land Alliance

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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, The Frontera Land Alliance, and how they are protecting West Texas landscape through conservation easements and community outreach.

    Q: Tell us about The Frontera Land Alliance and its mission.

    A: The Frontera Land Alliance (Frontera) works with landowners to protect their property in perpetuity. This is accomplished by placing a conservation easement on the property, which protects the land. Frontera believes that by reaching out to educate our community on the value of our West Texas landscape and its benefits, we can create a more sustainable environment for both present and future generations.

    Frontera’s core values are what drive the organization. We believe that education builds awareness resulting in smarter choices regarding the protection and conservation of our natural resources. Frontera focuses on the need to strategically preserve valuable open space for the natural habitat and beauty it provides our community and its visitors. Investing in conservation is also an investment in the local economy, public health, and our quality of life.

    Q: What is the history of The Frontera Land Alliance?

    A: Frontera, a non-profit t 501(c)3 organization, was founded in 2004 when community members realized there was an urgent need to preserve the most important remaining natural and working lands in the greater El Paso and southern New Mexico region–through conservation easements if possible. Frontera is valued as a leader in environmental stewardship, is non-partisan, and is nationally accredited.

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

    A: Community conservation is an approach to land conservation that starts with people. In order to preserve land and water we need more people who care about these issues to become involved.

    Frontera started an outreach program with the purpose of educating community members in our region about the benefits of land conservation. This also involves engaging local organizations, businesses, and civic groups. We have also developed the knowledge and expertise to provide guidance to land owners who want to maintain the character of their land. We serve the Texas counties of El Paso, Hudspeth, and Culberson, and Doña Ana and Otero in New Mexico. Frontera works with government, non-government, nonprofits, and private landowners to preserve their land with easements.

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

    A: We are continually exploring new conservation easements and maintaining existing ones. Frontera seeks out landowners interested in placing a conservation easement on all or part of their natural open-space, farm or ranch. We then monitor the lands which have been placed under our care.

    For example, Thunder Canyon is a 24-acre arroyo set aside in 2007 through an exciting partnership between the Canyon’s neighbors, the City of El Paso and Frontera. The people living around the canyon worked with the City and Frontera to forge an agreement through which the City purchased the land from the developer and the residents agreed to repay the City. Frontera holds the conservation easement that ensures the land will never be developed. Everyone involved is extremely satisfied with this arrangement.

    In 2019, volunteers donated a total of 600 hours of their time to assist in reaching out to and interacting with nearly 9,000 children, teens and adults. Various volunteer activities include, but are not limited to, the removal of trash from Resler Canyon, removing graffiti from Franklin Mountains State Park, and collecting native seeds for replanting.

    Additionally, our Nature Discovery Program focuses on education and recreation and hosts monthly activities that are open to everyone. This program offers individuals the opportunity to go outside and experience nature in person.

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

    A: Siglo Group in partnership with the Texas Land Trust Council, quantifies the value of lands (including those now under conservation easements) that have been conserved by or with assistance from the Texas land trust community, including The Frontera Land Alliance. The study found that the more than 1.6 million acres of land put into conservation with the help of Texas land trusts are estimated to have provided more than $1 billion in benefits to Texas taxpayers each year.

    Land conservation is also important because over the last two decades, El Paso County lost 11,755 acres of natural area to development, which is just over 18 square miles. To put that in context, it’s more than about half the size of Franklin Mountains State Park.

    “As I drive up the road leading to the mountain, and as soon as I pass the developed area, I begin to feel a calmness that I hadn’t realized I’d missed. The open land, the tranquility and the peace, all consumed me until my mind and body were overtaken by the beauty of this place.” –Frontera Land Alliance Member

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

    A: As with any non-profit, we always face new challenges. Our organization is focused on educating our community and creating an awareness of the need to preserve our land. This involves constant outreach and inventive ideas to reach everyone in our diverse community. Our planned events for this year are numerous, but perhaps most exciting are the special events we’ve planned to thank our supporters for their steadfast belief in our mission.

    Q: Are there any other interesting news / events / facts about your organization that you wish we would have asked/covered?

    A: 2020 was a difficult year for everyone, especially non-profit organizations. For a time our future looked bleak because all of our events were cancelled due to the pandemic. We’ve managed to forge ahead with guarded optimism, continued our outreach to the best of our abilities, and are planning for 2021/22. We’re proud to say that thanks to our friends and supporters–we survived!

    We have an overwhelming appreciation for Texan by Nature and other like-minded organizations who join us in our efforts to save our “special places and wide open spaces”! Thank you!

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

    A: People who want to learn more can visit www.fronteralandalliance.org

    Learn more about Frontera Land Alliance on their website and follow along on their social media channels for regular updates – Facebook and Instagram.

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