All my life, I’ve never had a place to solidly lay my roots down and call my singular “home.” My mom and dad left England for the United States so that my mom could pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor. After landing in California, my older brother and I began the arduous process of learning English and integrating with the children. This was only the beginning of my many journeys across America.
In total, I’ve lived in five different places. I was too young to remember California but old enough to remember Pennsylvania. My earliest memory in Narberth, Pennsylvania, was eating onigiris at the local Japanese grocery store, squishing the roasted salmon and sticky rice between my small hands. For dessert, my grandmother and I would hurry to the French bakery across from my school and buy a packaged chocolate crepe to enjoy on the walk home. Then, I would watch as the sky turned from being completely clear and littered with clouds to being replaced with darkness and speckled with stars.
Most recently, I moved to Austin as a sophomore in high school. At first, I was skeptical. I had lived in the Northeast for almost all of my foundational years, and I wasn’t used to the intense heat of the Texas sun. Although, once I saw Lady Bird Lake and the dozens of paddle boarders openly gliding across the glimmering water, I was mesmerized. My dad loved the beach, so our vacations usually entailed living in a cottage near the water and waking up every day to the sounds of the deep blue sea. I loved how the coolness of the water protected me from feeling the scorching heat and that I could float effortlessly on the top. Simply put, I fell in love with the water.
I spent my high school years traveling between Austin and New Haven, Connecticut. Both places were vastly different, but their common thread was the lovely bodies of water each city offered me. I could walk around the many rock pools in Connecticut, finding small crabs and starfish nestled within. In Austin, I could splash around in the vast lakes with my friends and feel the mossy rocks beneath our feet as we sat down to rest from swimming. I knew my attachment to water and what lives within it would push me towards a specific trajectory in my future professional career.
Now, another place I call home is Waterville, Maine. Although extremely small and isolated, Maine also has scenic sites and relaxing streams of water. At Colby College, I hope to weave my interest in conservation with business to figure out how companies can move their operations to support and foster sustainable growth. Even though I am often far removed from Texas, what makes me Texan by Nature is my ability to create a piece of home in every place I settle. From California to Maine, I’ve created meaningful memories with each home and carried them with me to the present day. So no matter where I go, Texas will always be a piece of the puzzle I fondly call home.
As part of our mission to uplift conservation efforts across Texas, Texan by Nature hosts quarterly meetings exclusive to over 110 organizations in our Conservation Partner network. Our goal with these meetings is to provide educational resources, best practices, and lessons learned to develop deeper partnerships and collaboration opportunities that drive conservation action.
We kicked off our first Conservation Partner quarterly meeting in 2022 with two COP26 delegates and experts in corporate environmental affairs, Robert Horton, Vice President of Environmental Affairs for Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and Kris Russell, Senior Manager of ESG at Armanino LLP, to explore what we can do at a local level to support the outcomes and global goals of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).
Hosted in Glasgow, last October 31st – November 12th, COP26 focuses on uniting the world to tackle climate change and accelerate action toward the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on climate change.
The goals* of COP 26 are:
Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.
Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats.
What does COP26 mean for local conservation and for the state of Texas?
Kris and Robert presented important highlights of COP26 that are key to conservation efforts in Texas. Currently, Texas sustains the 9th largest economy in the world, making our state’s businesses global leaders and models for sustainable growth.
“Businesses aren’t waiting around for policy to catch up. They see this as an imperative to operate. The issue of climate change is material, and it is something we need to address whether for-profit or non-profit organizations. This is on the radar and on the priority list at the executive level.”
– Kris Russell
While legislative action around environmental affairs and climate change may take years to change, conservation organizations and corporate businesses can work together to collaborate on science-based and metrics-focused projects. It is in this space that Texan by Nature plays a pivotal role. By acting as a strategic partner for industry and an accelerator for conservation, we convene the connections that catalyze action and create measurable impact in our state. As part of our Conservation Partner network, we provide our partners with an array of resources and opportunities to amplify and uplift their efforts.
“Sustainability and conservation, these are fields where you really have to have thick skin, because you hear ‘no’ quite often. And it’s really the creative minds that we have had the opportunity to work with that are making it more of a priority within the corporate agenda in today’s society, and it’s because you are showing that there’s a need to do something, there’s a need to be aware of your impact on the rest of the world.”
– Robert Horton
It is through our extensive network of conservation partners and business members that we continue to drive change. Collaboration between a broad range of stakeholders is key to the future of land, wildlife, natural resources, and the prosperity of Texans statewide.
If you’re interested in joining our mission, click the links below to get started.
Robert Horton, Vice President of Environmental Affairs for Dallas Fort WorthInternational Airport. DFW International Airport is the first airport in North America and the largest in the world to achieve carbon-neutral accreditation. In addition, Robert Horton also serves as the Airport Board Environmental and Sustainability Officer and manages and directs DFW’s Noise Compatibility Program.
Kris Russell, Senior Manager of ESG at Armanino LLP is an experienced environmental consultant recognized globally for implementing sustainability solutions that reduce costs, increase access to capital, improve resilience enrich employee and community engagement, and protect natural resources. As the former Environmental Program Manager of the Dallas Fort Worth Airport, Kris led DFW to become the first carbon-neutral airport in North America and won the 2020 United Nations Global Climate Action Award.
“One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions” – Grace Murray Hopper
Each year at our annual Conservation Summit we gather leaders from conservation, community, and industry to discuss the future of conservation in terms of our natural resources, people, and economic growth. We’ve looked at how collaboration, new models, creative problem solving, and macro trends are shaping the future. One topic that is always top of mind is the way returns are measured and reported.
Most in these discussions agree that the future of conservation depends on returns realized – the traditional business aspect, if you will. Agreement becomes murkier as we dive into the definition of return and what this means regarding conservation. Discussion circles on whether it’s a traditional business ROI of straight currency value, a resource return measured in acres, gallons, tonnes, etc., a people return measured in the number of people impacted, or a combination of all three. The conversation is even more convoluted as leaders discuss and question tools and resources to evaluate return. To date, there is no standard tool or measure across industries, states, or nations, though the UN Sustainable Development Goals act as a rallying point and we look forward to thoughts on standardization coming from #COP26 workgroups.
Texas is an interesting place to host discussions on conservation and its expected return. Texas is home to seven of the 15 fastest growing cities in the U.S. and Texas’s population has increased over 48% in the last decade alone. Pairing this mass growth and urbanization with the fact that less than 1% of Texans are landowners results in an increasingly diminished connection to nature and our natural resources. Adding Texas’s business leadership in multiple industries makes this picture even more complex. Leaders working in this space are bridging backgrounds, knowledge levels, short-term and long-term goals.
Given the level of interest in measuring and realizing return, it’s somewhat surprising that tools and methodologies are not more standard or utilized. In our work with conservation partners (501c3 organizations), we hear that lack of time, expertise, and resources to gather and monitor the data industry seeks in justifying conservation projects hinders funding and progress. There’s a gap in vocabulary and a lack of a universally accepted approach. Funding is not readily available for the evaluation and measurement aspect of a project. There’s an inability to show that conservation is indeed a profitable endeavor be it measured in currency, people, natural resources, or all of the above.
In our work with industry, we hear there’s frustratingly little data and a lack of standardized framing necessary to utilize on-the-ground conservation for progress towards long-term ESG goals. We hear that proper metrics and evaluation methods have not been scoped within a project. Whether it’s water quality and quantity, carbon capture or sequestration, air quality, or a myriad of other benefits, projects must show that there’s a business side to the conservation that drives long term, bottom-line benefits for both business and natural resources.
Hurdles to Measuring Return
Lack of Time
Lack of Data
Lack of Expertise
Lack of Standard
Lack of Tools
Lack of Standard
Lack of Impact Projection
Lack of Trust in Data Presented
Lack of Funding for Analysis and Monitoring
Money only approved for project work
So how do we do this? How do we continue to innovate while also standardizing the way we measure and report returns? How do we close the gap between conservation and industry? Our Summit in November 2021 hosted a panel that provided examples and drove discussion on this topic.
The onus is on each of us to engage in dialogue with intent to understand our partners and share best practices for estimating, monitoring, and reporting on the full return of our conservation efforts. Through our work with the Texas Water Action Collaborative and our Conservation Partner network, we’re compiling the resources, tools, and services that are available for us to drive progress. This said, project funding must allow for the capacity and tools needed to deliver desired results metrics. Our conservation partners need to scope this into their funding requests, while our industry and community partners need to expect and allow for capacity and tool building to receive reporting of desired metrics to meet their ESG goals.
As we continue to grow, it’s critical that conservation and industry work together to share best practices, fund projects in full (including metrics and evaluation), and engage in dialogue that continues our forward momentum. It’s essential that we work together to frame, fund, and execute broad reaching conservation programs and projects. The first step in this is understanding the returns realized in investing in these conservation projects and programs. This understanding will drive further investment and activity.
What tools, resources, and services do YOU think should be part of this discussion? What examples do YOU see as best in class that others should follow? Email us your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Return on Conservation: The return realized by investing in conservation encompassing positive financial, people, and natural resource impact.
Conservation: The act or process of conserving. The efficient management or restoration of wildlife and of natural resources such as forests, soil, and water.
Sustainability: The process of maintaining change in a balanced environment, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations.
“Water is the driving force of all nature.” — Leonardo da Vinci
Even in the 1400s without the access and knowledge we have today, the importance of water was clear, the relationship to life apparent. Water is the most abundant molecule found in living organisms. About 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is water-covered, and the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth’s water. Given the abundance of water on earth, some wonder about the growing focus on water conservation and availability across Texas and globally.
Melissa Alderson, Conservation Education Manager at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department broke it down well in a podcast given in December 2020:“Of all the water found on earth, ninety-seven percent is saltwater. If you’re doing the math, that means just three percent of all water is freshwater. But, eighty percent of that water is frozen in the Polar Ice Caps and unavailable for our use; so what we’re left with, then, is just one half of one percent for our use. And let’s not forget that we have to share that tiny amount of fresh water with nearly eight billion human beings and nearly nine million animal species – how many individual creatures that actually represents is anyone’s guess.”
Fresh water is critical AND if we do not adopt a regenerative approach, fresh water will become more scarce as our population continues to grow. 81 million people were added to the planet in 2020. As global, national, state, and local leaders address population growth and resource needs, it’s imperative that we bring corporate, conservation, and community efforts together to adopt proven practices in water management.
Fortunately, we have many resources available and efforts focused on sustainable water management. The broadest in scope is The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. The Agenda lays out 17 sustainable development goals known as the UN SDGs. These focus on a global plan for ending poverty and improving health, education, prosperity, and the planet. Water is specifically called out in multiple goals and a critical component to others. These guiding goals can act as a framework for the growing corporate focus on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG). It’s a blueprint for strategists and a common language for leaders across sectors.
The increased corporate focus on ESG, ushered in by brands like Patagonia, vocal investors, and a changing workforce is changing the sustainability conversation in all industries. Announcements are in the press daily with a wide array of targets, viewpoints, and claims. According to investment-management firm Pimco, “Environmental, social, and governance issues were discussed on about a fifth of earnings calls across the world” in 2021. This is up from ESG mentions on 5% of calls in 2019. Every industry is entering into the conversation from energy to capital markets to agriculture to tourism.
With an increased focus on ESG and specifically, corporate water goals, the opportunity for corporate + conservation + community collaboration is growing daily. Conservation groups can provide the expertise and communities the land to develop and implement Nature Based Solutions (NBS) to achieve a sustainable state of water use / regeneration. Nature Based Solutions are broadly defined as sustainable solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience. Specifically they are actions that involve the protection, restoration or management of natural and semi-natural ecosystems; the sustainable management of aquatic systems and working lands such as croplands or timberlands; or the creation of novel ecosystems in and around cities. These solutions provide improved water flow, water quality, air quality, biodiversity, tourism and sporting benefits, and more for growing communities. As industry and communities set higher goals for water sustainability, local conservation and nature based solutions should be a key piece within ESG strategy. There’s a growing list of replicable examples including constructed wetlands, prairie wetlands, restored playas, and reforestation.
A constructed wetland is a wastewater treatment system that mimics and improves the effectiveness of the processes that help to purify water similar to naturally occurring wetlands. Constructed wetlands can be used for either secondary or tertiary wastewater treatment.
Provide raw water and improve water quality through natural treatment mechanisms powered by sunlight, wind, plants, and microbes
Remove sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus from the water, provide wildlife habitat, and create areas for education and recreation
If location and planning permits, a constructed wetland is a cost-effective alternative to building a new reservoir and pushes back the need to construct additional water supply projects
Of the 254 counties in Texas, 28 along the Texas coast contain hundreds of thousands of acres of crucial natural infrastructure. Often called “Kidneys of the landscape,” Texas’s coastal wetlands take the form of potholes, ponds, swamps, ephemeral lakes, and marshes – some permanent, some seasonal – and they provide crucial habitat to millions of migrating and resident birds each year. Although heavily impacted by development and agriculture, landowners are working with biologists to restore wetlands along the coast, reaping the benefits of stormwater storage, greater water quality, reduced sedimentation, and improved economic outcomes for both agricultural and recreational land uses. Corporate funders and land increase the restoration rate of these wetlands and achieve multiple ESG goals including water impact, biodiversity, and local economic development.
Provide critical staging and wintering habitat for thousands of waterfowl and migrating birds
Reduce and mitigate the effects of stormwaters, especially during large weather events such as hurricanes
Naturally filter water, removing harmful runoff, improving water quality, and reducing sedimentation
Across the Texas panhandle, thousands of recharge points for the Ogallala aquifer dot the landscape. Called playas, they are shallow, ephemera pools with clay soil basins that crack as evaporation dries them out. When it rains, these pools fill and water seeps through the clay to recharge the aquifer, until the clay fully saturates, sealing the bottom and filling the pool. When playas are full, they provide water and habitat to wildlife, including millions of migrating birds each year. Playas are critical to maintaining enough aquifer recharge to sustain human life and activity in the Texas Panhandle. Simple restoration techniques – often filling pits or removing built up sediments – allow playas to return to their natural function. Landowners are incentivized by programs such as the Texas Playa Conservation Initiative to restore these playas, generating valuable income and maintaining life-sustaining natural resources. Corporate partners are funding or performing restoration to achieve water reduction goals.
Key playa benefits:
Playas provide recharge to the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest aquifer in the United States and the largest water source to residents in the Texas Panhandle
Functioning playas natural filter water, ensuring higher quality and quantity in the recharge
Whether wet or dry, playas provide thousands of acres of habitat for birds and other wildlife year-round
Forest land is known to cover 62.42 million acres in Texas, totaling 36 percent of our state’s area. Watersheds are known to be regulated by nearby forests through various hydrological processes such as water infiltration, runoff and erosion reduction, water filtration, and flood control and storm protection through water regulation and disturbance prevention. Due to trees’ large, woody roots and their ability to absorb water in various ways, they are nature’s sponges and help maintain releases of water into streams and rivers, effectively maintaining water quality and quantity. Reforestation globally is a known option for carbon sequestration. Pairing the carbon benefit with water outcomes is an opportunity for many communities and industries to surpass goals.
Enhanced water filtration in key riparian buffer zones thus decreasing water treatment costs and enhancing the quality of drinking water
Increased water infiltration and runoff reduction due to afforestation and strategic forest management techniques
Creation of areas for education, wildlife habitat, recreation, and carbon capture through a nature-based solution
If location and planning permits, afforestation surrounding riparian buffers can be a cost-effective strategy for water quality management and reduces the need for water treatment
While sustainability and conservation can seem like a confusing alphabet soup of competing frameworks and options, there are many examples of collaborative efforts that address long term goals in water and additional focus areas like carbon and biodiversity. Learning from, replicating, and funding these solutions will increase the trajectory of progress for industry and communities alike. Creating strategies that include this type of industry, conservation, and community collaboration will lead to truly regenerative practices and address broader ESG and UN SDG frameworks. There’s no better time to start than today. After all, water is the driving force of all nature – our future depends on its care.
Texan by Nature and North Texas Municipal Water District have launched a free webinar series, “Conservation – The Texas Way.” This four-part series provides education and awareness of the best water conservation practices in the Lone Star State. The series shares new data, ideas, actionable next steps, and resources for both individuals and businesses.
The first webinar, “Conserve Today. Water Tomorrow,” was held on August 17th, 2021. It covered the state of water in Texas, Texas’ state water plan, water resources, water’s journey from lake to tap, and how everyone can take actionable steps to conserve water. You can watch it here.
The second webinar, “State of Texas Natural Resources,” was held on January 19, 2022. It covered Texas land trends and predictions, current watershed protection efforts, texas forest service projects, the impact of population growth, urbanization, and land conversion, and more!
Joni Carswell, CEO and President – Texan by Nature (moderator)
I was born an hour from the Texas border in Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas, a northern Mexican city whose name directly translates to “Beautiful Valley.” Among locals, it is known as the city of the three lies. Lie number one is that it is not a city; it’s a small municipal town of about 48,000 inhabitants with a can-do attitude and a sly sense of humor. Lie number two is that nestled at 98 feet of elevation, with wide-open skies and no mountains in sight, it is not a valley. Lie number three is debatable because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and any place with good food and friendly people is beautiful to me.
At the age of six, my bold and ambitious parents made a decision that would change the course of our lives forever. They were to move with their three children to a new country, an hour north, to another valley with no mountains, The Rio Grande Valley. When people refer to South Texas, they are rarely talking about the RGV, but on the map, the valley is home to the southernmost tip of Texas, the mouth of the Rio Grande River, and some of my first childhood memories.
As a kid, you don’t realize the weight of your parents’ decisions, struggles, and sacrifices; you are just happy to be along for the ride. The ride for me at six years old was going to work with my parents. Sometimes I would go to work with my dad, walking in the scorching Texas sun from house to house in Harlingen, Texas, with an old lawn mower seeing if any of the residents needed yard work. Sometimes it was waiting for my mom on Jackson Street at the Mexican restaurant where she washed dishes and helped cook.
One of the unique traits of the valley is that 90% of the population is Hispanic and generally bilingual. When you listen to a valley resident speak, you might be hearing Spanglish in its purest form. The friendly mix of Mexican and Texan culture is more apparent in the Rio Grande Valley than in any other area of Texas. This collaborative relationship between both cultures allowed for my parents, who do not speak English, to not only get by but grow and build an entirely new life together in this beautiful state.
After years of working hard and making the most of all the opportunities this great state granted us, my parents were finally able to purchase their very own little piece of Texas. It was a small plot of land in a rural Texas town 1⁄2 a mile from the Rio Grande named Santa Maria, Texas. When people tell me they come from a small town, I mention that my graduating class at Santa Maria High School was 36 students. I am from a small Texas town where the football players were also the band at the Friday night lights half-time show. The football field was next to the sugar cane field, and our cross-country team practice was running to the Rio Grande and back. My adolescence was spent riding ATVs through the mud in the backcountry farm roads with my best friends, trying to learn how to ride the horses when my friend’s parents were not home, and tasting the raw sugar cane stalks right from the crops.
The only historical marker in my tiny hometown is La Iglesia Antigua, an old gothic church built in 1882 along Old Military Highway 281. I can neither confirm nor deny that a part of my adolescence was spent sneaking into this church with my friends to catch a glimpse of the Lechuzas (barn owls) that lived inside it. As Tejano folklore goes, La Lechuza is a witch who shapeshifts into a giant owl to haunt those who have wronged her. She lures people with her whistles before swooping down to attack them. The only way to protect yourself from La Lechuza is to throw salt, curse at her, or in the case of the teenagers of Santa Maria, run and scream and tell everyone at school your version of this legendary Tejano folk story — 10/10 would recommend.
That little piece of Texas that my parents built our home on, which was once a dry plot of land with only a cactus and a pecan tree to call its own; grew into a lush green garden with palms, corona de Cristo plants, and bugambilia flowers planted by my father and his green thumb. These resilient plants became symbolic of our journey in this beautiful state, proving that beautiful things can still flourish even in harsh conditions with limited resources.
There are many generations of Texans now and more to come that grew up just like me, a little bit Willie Nelson, a little bit Ramon Ayala, a little bit Beyonce, a little bit Selena, a little bit of BBQ and Brisket, a little bit of Tacos de Bistec and Barbacoa. During my adolescence, I often tried to suppress the fact that I spoke one language at home and another at school. Still, as I grew up, I realized that I had been given a unique opportunity to have two perspectives of the world and two lived experiences of what it means to be a Texan, and that is a gift.
While not particularly outspoken, I knew I was born to be a storyteller. While studying Mass Communication at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, I would write a story that would change my life yet again. As part of a feature writing class, I followed a local athlete leading to his upcoming Mixed Martial Arts bout for the Texas Featherweight Title. He was tall, tattoed, and handsome. A United States Marine with hazel eyes and a smile that makes his whole face wrinkle. He spectacularly won the title that night, and if you could not already tell, I developed a huge crush on him. I agreed to go on a date with him following his fight, and when I went home, I called all my friends to tell them that I was going to marry this man and have his baby.
One year later, my wishes came true. Our daughter Kimora was born in 2016 and changed our lives forever. I finally understood where the courage behind my parent’s decision to migrate to this beautiful country came from. Becoming a parent transforms you; the moment you hold your child for the first time, a new gear is unlocked. Suddenly, I was given a burning, infinite drive to be strong, protect my family, and do everything in my power to broaden the perspective of my daughter’s life and opportunities, just like my parents did for mine.
You wouldn’t expect it from a small-town family living at sea level in the Texas Gulf Coast, but we love the mountains. I first fell in love with mountains on a trip to Big Bend National Park in ultra-remote west Texas, where the sunsets are painted with hypnotic purple hues and the moon is as bright as the sun. Surrounded by towering mountains bigger than anything I had ever seen in the flatlands I called home, I felt overwhelmed with a deep sense of gratitude and love. The Chisos Mountains in Big Bend formed around 40 million years ago, an amount of time so long that we, with our finite lifespans, will never truly grasp. Yet there I was, the Mexican girl from the Valley with no mountains, tired from a strenuous hike, hands sweating with a fear of heights, standing at their highest peak, realizing that I had found a feeling I would strive to replicate as much as I could for the rest of my life.
A couple of months later, I found myself writing my name on the record book at Guadalupe Peak. The highest point in Texas and the 14th highest point in the United States. The steepest part of the hike is the first mile and a half, almost as if Guadalupe is saying, “I’m just gonna tell it like it is” in proper Texan fashion. I made it to the top of Guadalupe Peak, and when I woke up the following day, I looked for a higher peak to climb.
When asked what makes me Texan by Nature, I thought back to the moment at the top of each of these mountains. The time at the peak of a mountain is rented. You work hard for it, you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, you endure a little pain, and even if you’re out of breath or afraid, that fleeting view is always worth it. It reminds you that even though you can’t stay in this beautiful place forever, you are now stronger for having worked for it.
Native or naturalized, Tejanos have grit. We love to do BIG challenging things because we know that they transform, sharpen, and strengthen us. We’re not afraid to be bold and make courageous changes when the circumstances call for it. Texans take pride in their differences but will always offer you a seat at their table because two perspectives are better than one. I’m proud to be Texan by Nature and help accelerate the mission of keeping our land, wildlife, and people prosperous for generations of Tejanos to come.
We are excited to bring you the Texan by Nature 20 (TxN 20) for its third year! The TxN 20 is an effort to recognize the best work in conservation coming from businesses operating and based in Texas. It’s an opportunity to showcase innovation, commitment, and best practices from a variety of industries.
To select the 2021 TxN 20, the TxN Team evaluated submissions as well as conducted independent research across 2,000+ of Texas’ publicly traded and private companies within 12 industry sectors. All companies were evaluated on a 17-point scoring system to narrow down the list of the top 60 companies in Texas. A selection committee of top industry leaders was formed to evaluate the top 60 companies and select the final honorees for the TxN 20.
Texas leads the nation in number of farms and ranches, with 248,416 farms and ranches covering 127 million acres, making up 73 percent of a state that’s 95 percent privately owned. Not only do these lands provide food and fiber for the world, they also provide critical wildlife habitat and ecosystem services to the 29.1 million Texans that call the Lone Star State home. From 1997 – 2017 there was a net loss of 2.2 million acres of working lands to non-agricultural use. Texas ingenuity within the agriculture industry is helping produce more with less and increase environmental stewardship along the way.
Learn more about the 2021 TxN 20 honorees from the agriculture industry and see a list of industry highlights below.
Alamo Group is a global leader in the design and manufacture of high quality agricultural equipment for farms and ranches and infrastructure maintenance equipment for governmental and industrial markets. In 2020, Alamo Group announced their 2025 targets, and they are proud to report that they are on track to meet these targets with approximately 20% of their total electric energy already coming from renewable energy and recycling nearly 85% of their total waste. Additionally, employees of Alamo Group are also closely involved with conservation efforts during events like their Annual Geronimo and Alligator Creek Cleanup event where employees and their families collected nearly a ton of trash and cleared nine miles of roadways and creek banks.
For the second consecutive year, Sanderson Farms has been selected as a TxN 20 Honoree. Sanderson Farms is one of the largest poultry producers in the United States. Resource conservation and sustainable operations are incorporated throughout their operations. Sanderson Farms quantitatively tracks their financial return on investments in conservation and sustainability efforts, marking the importance of sustainability beyond just environmental preservation. In fiscal year, their financial return on their investment in conservation was $2,418,000 with $1,418,000 through biogas savings and over $1,000,000 through water reuse systems.
In addition to this year’s TxN 20 honorees, learn more about best practices in conservation and sustainability coming from companies across the agriculture industry.
Darling Ingredients is currently developing low emission goods and services through a joint initiative called Diamond Green Diesel. This initiative recycles animal fats, used cooking oil, and inedible corn oil into renewable diesel fuel to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019, they reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 85%, which equates to 2.4 million megatons of carbon dioxide. Darling Ingredients was a 2019 TxN 20 honoree.
Since 2014, the Audubon Conservation Ranching (ACR) program has worked with beef producers, state and federal agency partners, industry experts, and other NGOs to develop an innovative, producer-centered, market-based certification program. ACR established an innovative, market-based approach that connects conservation conscious consumers to farmers and ranchers that employ bird-friendly management practices in raising their livestock. Based in Texas, Burgundy Pasture Beef, raises grass fed cattle on Audubon-certified bird-friendly land.
Bee A Solution is a commercial apiary whose mission is to provide solutions to save threatened honeybee population through actively contributing in the apiculture industry by creating stationary pollinator habitats, migrating colonies for pollination, and sustainably producing honey for sale. Most commercial apiaries observe a 20-50% loss of their colonies due to environmental and health stressors while Bee A Solution’s sustainable practices have produced a 0% loss of colonies over the course of 4 years.
In 2020, Tyson Foods, Inc. became the first food company in the United States to verify sustainable beef production in their supply chain through their BeefCARE program. This program ensures that their cattle is sourced through verified producers that promote practices that positively impact the land and animals.
Pilgrim’s Pride aligns their sustainability targets to the UN SDG goals. In 2020, they met their goals of reducing greenhouse gas emission intensity by 14% and natural gas use intensity by 17%. Additionally, this year, they set a goal to reach a net-zero target by 2040.
In 2021, the Texan by Nature team is excited to celebrate our 10-year anniversary! To give a big thank you to all of our friends and followers, we are hosting a giveaway on the 10th of every month on our Facebook and Instagram. These giveaways are made possible by the following amazing businesses and organizations – learn more about these sponsors in this blog.
Blue Bell Ice Cream | Chisos Boots | David Marquis | Dell Technologies | East Foundation
Fin & Fur Flims | H-E-B | Hiking Texas | Laura W. Bush | Desert Door | Farmer Brothers
Texan by Nature | Texas Monthly | Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Texas Humor | Howler Brothers | Mad Hippie
Each month, the giveaways have a theme. January started with “How are you Texan, by Nature?”, February was “Where do you explore the great outdoors?”, and March was “What’s your favorite Texas wildlife critter and why?” There will be 9 more fun and engaging giveaways to come, so be sure to follow along on our Facebook and Instagram!
Throughout March, we received many comments of the diverse critters you can see across the Lone Star State – this blog lists all of those species, and a few fun facts about them.
To kick it off, our March #TxN20Giveaway winner was Jessamyn (@rockinred24 on Instagram), and her favorite critter is our very own Texas State Reptile, the Texas Horned Lizard. Jessamyn said, “My favorite Texas critter is the horned lizard or “horny toad” because they can shoot a stream of blood out of their eyes for up to 5ft! Can any other animal do that?”
Jessamyn wasn’t the only horned lizard-lover who entered our March giveaway:
“Hard to think of just one favorite. I am going to say horned lizards out of nostalgia for growing up with them in the backyard in Fort Worth.” – @mariannfbrown on Instagram
The Texas Horned Lizard or “horny toad” is a flat-bodied and fierce-looking lizard listed as a threatened species in Texas. It is the only species of Horned Lizard to have dark brown stripes that radiate downward from the eyes and across the top of the head. They can be found in arid and semiarid habitats in open areas with sparse plant cover. Because Horned Lizards dig for hibernation, nesting, and insulation purposes, they commonly are found in loose sand or loamy soils. They feed primarily on Red Harvester ants and excrete a specialized mucus to keep from getting bit by the ants as they eat.
Texas Horned Lizards weren’t the only reptile nominated, @camrynkiel on Instagram said, “My favorite Texas critter is the Texas tortoise because it’s the smallest tortoise in the US and the only native tortoise to Texas!”
These very docile creatures are primarily vegetarian; they feed heavily on the fruit of the common prickly pear and on other mostly succulent plants available to them. Although the life span is unknown, some believe that breeding age is attained in about 15 years and that longevity may be as great as 60 years. Related fossil forms in this genus have been found in the Pliocene in Central Texas, dating back to approximately 10 million years B.C.!
Learn how to recognize these tortoises in this video.
Another reptile nominated as a favorite Texan critter, “The Bullsnake because of its impressive rattlesnake impersonation!” – @lexagwalt
The bullsnake ranges from three to five feet in length and is beige to light brown with dark brown or black blotches. Their belly is pale yellow with black spots. Despite their seemingly menacing attitude, they are non-venomous, and will not strike unless severely provoked. Bullsnakes are beneficial to the Texas ecosystem, because they feed on mice, cotton rats, gophers, and other small mammals, thus controlling their populations.
It’s no surprise that another one of our state animals was mentioned, the Nine-banded armadillo is our Texas State Small Mammal.
“We love the armadillo, because they’re funny when they run away, and have natural armor!” – @doddk4 on Instagram.
“Armadillos!! I cannot wait to live in TX!” – @pamanela149 on Instagram.
Despite their name, nine-banded armadillos can actually have anywhere from seven to eleven bands on their armor. The term “armadillo” means “little armored one” in Spanish, referring to the presence of these bony, armor-like plates that cover the mammal’s body. A common misconception is that nine-banded armadillos are able to roll up into spherical balls similar to a pill-bug, but in reality, only two species of armadillo (both three-banded) are able to roll up completely.
Learn more about these naturally-armored animals in this video.
Entering another Texan mammal, the Javelina! “My favorite is the Javelina – they have a bad reputation of being ferocious but really also have just terrible eyesight!” – @speakdashruth on Instagram
Javelina are often mistaken for pigs, but they are actually in an entirely different family than pigs. Although they look similar, the two species have completely different anatomy, from their toes to their teeth. Javelina are herbivores (plant eaters) and frugivores (fruit eaters). Their favorite food is succulent prickly pear cactus pads, because they have such a high water content that keeps the mammals hydrated.
One of the more elusive mammals of Texas was also a very popular favorite amongst our March giveaway applicants. @lindsay.martinez14 on Instagram said, “My favorite is the ocelot – I love all wild cats and the ocelot is especially beautiful and in need of our help!”
“Ocelots – because they are beautiful and endangered.” – Tasha Cer on Facebook
“So hard to pick a favorite, but I do love ocelots. I remember being so amazed to learn that they live here – I had never thought of them as Texan, and I think it’s just the coolest that they roam wild and free here.” – @megslieknope on Instagram
A bit bigger than the average house cat, Ocelots are about 30 – 41 inches long and weigh 15 – 30 pounds. Historical records indicate that 80 to 120 Ocelots once roamed all throughout south Texas, the southern Edwards Plateau, and along the Coastal Plain. Today, the cats’ range has shrunken significantly, with only about 30 to 35 individuals left occupying the south Texas brush country and lower Rio Grande valley. Ocelots are considered to be endangered because their historic habitat has been cleared for farming and industrial development.
A very, very cute mammal made the list next, “River otters! So playful and cute…our kids love seeing them.” – @beckslynnedub on Instagram
This species is perfectly adapted for life in the water. With webbed feet, a short neck and legs, and a very streamlined body, River Otters are skilled swimmers and divers, and can remain underwater for up to several minutes. Because of this affinity for water, Otters prefer to live near lakes, large rivers, and streams. Along the Texas Gulf Coast region, they can also be found in marshes, bayous, and brackish inlets.
A species found in the arid desert made the list, “Mine is the Desert Bighorn Sheep. Elusive, majestic, and making a comeback!” @vanderbander on Instagram
Did you know that as the result of restocking efforts started in 1954, Texas has eleven herds of free-ranging desert bighorn sheep? This species has immensely contributed to the development of wildlife management practices since the beginning of their reintroduction, because of their need for consistent population sampling. The field of wildlife management has experienced huge improvements in survey methods as technology has advanced, and the Desert Bighorn has been a test species for many systematic survey methods along the way.
The largest land animal in North America is Tim’s (@thibodeauxaustinboudreaux on Instagram) “favorite Texas critter”, mentioned in our March giveaway, “Bison! They don’t roam like they once did, but they are perfectly built for Texas and its wide array of weather and landscapes!”
The Bison is an iconic American species, a true icon of our heritage, spirit, and culture. Once over-hunted and threatened to the brink of extinction, the Bison does very well today thanks to the hard work of conservationists. Not only found in Texas, Bison herds can now be seen in many states, with a population size in the tens of thousands. Caprock Canyons State Park, San Angelo State Park, and the Fort Worth Nature Center are just a few Texas locations to view Bison herds in the wild.
Texas is proud of our diverse abundance of bats, one of the only mammals capable of true flight. One of our favorites is “The Mexican free-tailed bat because they eat all the mosquitos!!!” – @hillcountrydrone on Instagram
This species of bat can be found throughout Mexico and most of the western and southern U.S. The densest concentrations of free-tailed bats are found in Texas, where they roost in maternity colonies numbering in the millions. These massive maternity colonies are formed in limestone caves, under bridges, and in buildings. It is estimated that 100 million Mexican free-tailed bats travel to Central Texas each year to raise their young, and they consume approximately 1,000 tons of insects nightly. A large proportion of these insects are agricultural pests, which is why bats are so essential to Texas ecology. The Mexican free-tailed bat is also recognized as the State Flying Mammal of Texas.
To highlight another one of our flying Texas critters, Michael Niebuhr on Facebook said, “I love watching ospreys fish in Galveston Bay.”
Along the Texas coast, Ospreys can be seen flying over the water, plunging feet-first into the Gulf to catch fish in their talons. After a successful strike, the bird will fly away from the water, carrying the fish head-forward with its feet. Due to the chemical thinning of their eggshells, the Osprey was seriously endangered by the effects of pesticides in the mid-20th century. Since DDT and other related pesticides were banned in 1972, the Osprey made a triumphant comeback in many parts of North America.
Another feathered fellow to make the list, “My favorite texas critter is the ruby-throated hummingbird. They are so little and feisty.” – @lauren.m.reed on Instagram
Tiny but mighty, the Ruby-throated hummingbird can beat its wings over 50 times per second. To accomplish this feat, these birds will consume up to twice their body weight in nectar and small insects every day to support their incredible metabolism. Ruby-throated hummingbirds have an impressive migration despite their size, with some birds traveling all the way from Canada to Costa Rica. Urbanization is a huge threat to this species because most migratory birds fly at night. Bright lights of commercial and residential buildings attract and disorient birds, causing collisions and leaving birds vulnerable to threats on the ground. Read more about protecting migratory birds in Texas here: bit.ly/LightsOutTexas
An animal found on the TV screen and throughout Texas, “I think the roadrunners are hilarious!” – @field_trip_fridays on Instagram
The Roadrunner is a rather famous species in the southwest, featured all throughout American culture, from folklore to cartoons. Recognized by its long tail, and expressive crest and facial features, the Road-“runner” primarily walks and runs on the ground, flying only when necessary. This species has been recorded running up to 15 miles per hour, with much faster sprints when chasing prey. The Roadrunner’s courtship ritual includes chases on foot, followed by one of the birds approaching the other with a gift, usually food, a stick, or a blade of grass.
A species we may have all seen across the Lone State State, “Northern bobwhite! My favorite because it’s the best game bird to watch, study, or hunt. No other upland game bird in Texas or perhaps the US has the culture surrounding it like the Bobwhite.” – @bradkubecka on Instagram
The Northern Bobwhite is the only native quail in the eastern United States. It has a call that is a familiar sound of spring in the farmlands and brushy pastures of Texas. These birds are more often heard than seen, as they like to live within dense low cover. The Northern Bobwhite disappeared from much of the northern part of its range, and even declined severely in more southern areas. This decline is likely due to fragmentation and degradation of the grassland habitat that the Northern Bobwhite rely on.
Learn more about this popular favorite in this video.
Another iconic species made the list, “The red-tailed hawk because of their amazing call.” – @juan_elissetche on Instagram
The Red-tailed hawk is the most prominent and familiar large hawk in North America. This species is the largest hawk, usually weighing between two and four pounds. The female is nearly 1/3 larger than the male, similar to most raptor species, and can have a wingspan of up to 56 inches. With its large, broad wings, this bird of prey is perfectly adapted to soar effortlessly across any landscape. Adult Red-tailed hawks can all be easily identified by their trademark reddish-brown tail, but the rest of their plumage is surprisingly variable, ranging from brown to white depending on their location across the United States.
And for our critters that live in the water, “My favorite is Redfish. Love their diverse habitat and unique spotting each fish has. Unfortunately, they were hit hard with the recent freeze but so happy organizations like CCA Texas are working to help build their numbers back up.” – @atx_flyfishing on Instagram
The Red drum is appropriately named, males will attract females to mate by vibrating a muscle in their swim bladder, producing a drum-like noise. This species of fish has a distinctive black spot near their tail that is believed to help trick predators into attacking the red drum’s tail instead of their head, allowing the fish to escape. The Red drum prefers shallow waters, about one to four feet deep, so superficial that their backs are sometimes exposed above the water while swimming. This fish is often found along the edges of bay areas with submerged vegetation and soft mud. Red drum are also commonly found around oyster reefs. This species can live in freshwater, and have been found many miles upriver. During cold spells like Texas experienced in February of 2021, large numbers of red drum can be found upriver in tidal creeks and rivers
Our last Texas critter is “The dog day cicada, of course, because their calls are a celebration of Texan summer!” – @itsnotastinkbug on Instagram
This periodical cicada species that occurs in Texas completes their life cycle in a whopping 13 years. Females lay eggs that burrow deep into the soil once they hatch, completing several cycles of growth and molting before emerging from the ground in large broods to start the cycle all over again. Adult Dog-day cicadas will emerge almost every year, from April through July, depending upon species and locality.
Texan by Nature turns 10 this year! In order to celebrate and show our gratitude to our supporters, we launched a monthly giveaway series for 2021. Anyone can enter these giveaways throughInstagram orFacebook, and winners are selected at random each month. This giveaway would not have been possible without our generous sponsors. Below is a list of all of the sponsors and the amazing items they donated to our #TxN10Giveaway.
Dell Technologies Solar Charger [Included in the #TxN10Giveaway every month in 2021]
Dell Technologies helps organizations and individuals build their digital future and transform how they work, live and play. Dell Technologies was recognized for their outstanding conservation and sustainability efforts in the 2019 and 2020 Texan by Nature 20. With two TxN Certified Projects (Dell Campus Pollinator Habitat andDell Design for the Environment) and as a Platinum Sponsor for Texan by Nature’s Conservation Summit, Texan by Nature is deeply grateful for Dell Technologies’ support and for their commitment to conservation. Learn more.
HEB Texans Helping Texans Kodi Tumblers [Included in the #TxN10Giveaway every month in 2021]
H-E-B, named America’s favorite grocery store, is a Texas-based company that has served the community for 116 years. Recognized for their fresh food, quality products, convenient services, commitment to environmental responsibility and helping Texans H-E-B is a brand that all Texans stand by. H-E-B is a Platinum Sponsor for Texan by Nature’s Conservation Summit, and they were recognized for their outstanding conservation and sustainability efforts in the 2019 and 2020 Texan by Nature 20. Texan by Nature is deeply grateful for H-E-B’s’ support and for their commitment to conservation. Learn more.
Former First Lady & TxN Founder, Laura Bush
Signed Copy of Our Great Big Backyard Book [Included in the #TxN10Giveaway every month in 2021]
Former First Lady Laura Bush, and her daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, co-wrote a best-selling children’s book, Our Great Big Backyard, as a tribute to our national parks and to show the importance of children connecting with nature. In 2011 Mrs. Laura Bush founded Texan by Nature with a few of her close friends (Regan Gammon and Katharine Armstrong) to unite conservation and business leaders who believe our state’s prosperity is dependent on the conservation of our natural resources. Learn more.
Blue Bell Creameries
Two Pint Gift Certificates [Included in the #TxN10Giveaway every month in 2021]
Starting in 1907 a group of local businessmen in Brenham, Texas, decided to establish the Brenham Creamery Company and make butter from excess cream brought in by area farmers. A few years later, the creamery began making ice cream and delivering it to neighbors by horse and wagon. It was in 1930 that the company changed its name to Blue Bell Creameries after the native Texas bluebell wildflower. Butter was produced until 1958 when Blue Bell began to focus full time on making ice cream. Blue Bell Creameries, is a true Texan company that proudly makes its ice cream the old fashioned way. Learn more.
One-Year Magazine Subscription [Included in the #TxN10Giveaway every month in 2021] and Two BBQ Club Memberships [March & August #TxNGiveaway exclusive]
For almost half a century, Texas Monthly has chronicled life in the Lone Star State, exploring its politics and personalities, barbecue and business, true crime and tacos, honky-tonks and hiking. Did you know that the Texan by Nature 20 was featured in Texas Monthly in 2019 and 2020? Learn more.
Desert Door Tasting and Round of Drinks for Two [Included in the #TxNGiveaway every month in 2021]
Desert Door spreads the Texan spirit by reviving the raw material, sotol, used for the first alcoholic beverages in Texas as early as 800 years ago. Desert Door promotes conservation in Texas by partnering with land stewards around the state. They partnered with 7 Oaks Ward Walker Ranch to use prescribed fire to foster new plant growth, expand wildlife populations, and create a healthy ecosystem. These fires help restore native grasses which prevent soil erosion and allow for proper water distribution on a mass of land where drought is recurring. Desert Door takes excess Sotol plants from this land and turns it into a premium spirit. Learn more.
Hiking Texas Sticker Pack [Included in the #TxN10Giveaway every month in 2021]
Hiking Texas is dedicated to helping adventure seekers find the best trails, camping and lodging options across the Lone Star State. Find the best spots to hike, camp, relax, and experience the Texas outdoors — all with expert advice, incredible photography, travel resources, stories and destination guides. 10% of the proceeds from every purchase is donated to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation. This supports the proper stewardship and management of more than 90 Texas State Parks and historic sites and helps connect people to nature, provides access to outdoor recreation, and aids in conserving land, water, and wildlife for all. Learn more.
East Foundation YETI Tumbler, Ocelot Bandana, and Pocket Knife [Included in the #TxNGiveaway every month in 2021]
East Foundation, a TxN Conservation Partner, promotes the advancement of land stewardship through ranching, science, and education. We manage over 217,000 acres of native South Texas rangeland, operated as six separate ranches in Jim Hogg, Kenedy, Starr, and Willacy counties. Learn more.
2 Bags of Farmer Brothers Coffee [Included in the #TxN10Giveaway every month in 2021]
Since inception in 1912, Farmer Brothers sustainably produces coffees and teas and serves 60,000+ food and beverage establishments around the nation. Farmer Brothers was recognized for their outstanding conservation and sustainability efforts in the 2019 and 2020 Texan by Nature 20. Learn more.
David Marquis [Included in the #TxN10Giveaway every month in 2021]
The River Always Wins Book
David Marquis is a writer and activist who lives in Dallas, Texas. Throughout his career he has worked to create lasting, positive social change in the environment, education, and human rights. Raised in West Texas during the drought of the 1950’s, he has an abiding interest in water and conservation issues. The River Always Wins offers up a metaphor for hope in troubled times. Using the musicality of refrains and short chapters, this prose poem creates a rhythmic understanding of the power of water to both challenge and heal. Learn more.
Fin & Fur Films
Signed Copy of The River & The Wall Book [January, July, September, and November #TxN10Giveaway Exclusive]
Fin & Fur Films is the production company of Ben Masters, a filmmaker, writer, and horse packer currently directing a series of conservation short films.Texan by Nature is proud to be the primary fiscal sponsor of,Deep in the Heart, a Fin & Fur Film project that is the first blue-chip wildlife documentary about the great state of Texas. Learn more.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Texas Parks and Wildlife State Park Pass & Gift Assortment [February #TxN10Giveaway exclusive]
Texas Parks and Wildlife’s (TPWD), a Texan by Nature Conservation Partner, mission is to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. There are 89 state parks in Texas! Learn more.
Texas Hat [March #TxN10Giveaway Exclusive]
The Yes To Texas clothing brand and Texas Humor store are built upon the company’s intense love for this great state that we call home. Their products and store serve the purpose of spreading the gospel of Texas. Texas Humor is a husband and wife owned small business founded in the garage of our first home together in 2013. Learn more.
$250 Gift Certificate [April #TxN10Giveaway Exclusive]
Named after the mountains in Big Bend National Park, Texan boot company, Chisos, mission is to create comfortable and ethically/sustainably made boots while spreading the Texan spirit and promoting Texas land conservation. Chisos Wild-Caught Texas Alligator Cowboy Boots, are Texan by Nature Certified. Every boot, every Chisos purchase supports Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s mission of stewardship, conservation, leadership and engagement with Texas’ natural beauty. Learn more.
Mother’s Day Mad Hippie Gift Basket [May #TxN10Giveaway Exclusive]
Skin-care company, Mad Hippie, strives to create naturally-based skin care while dedicating their mission to increase sustainability in the beauty industry. From utilizing bioresin sugarcane tubes, to printing with soy inks on FSC certified paper, giving $1 of every web sale to conservation, and controlling our downstream waste through a partnership with Terracycle, Mad Hippie is dedicated to the preservation of the planet. Learn more.
$100 Gift Card [June #TxN10Giveaway Exclusive]
Located in Austin, Texas, Howler Brothers’ clothing designs honors the soul, passion and timeless style of sports such as surfing and fly fishing but are updated historic garment ideas with modern influence from waves, water, geography, fashion and art. Learn more.
Texan by Nature is very grateful to be supported by these businesses, organizations, and individuals that are as passionate about conservation as we are! If you are interested in participating in our monthly giveaways, please visit ourInstagram orFacebook on the `10th of every month – goodluck!