The Ward Walker 7-Oaks Ranch became a Texan by Nature Monarch Wrangler in 2016 for their efforts to create habitat essential to the monarch butterfly. The Ward Walker family has been working to remove invasive species, such as redberry juniper (Juniperus pinchotii) using mechanical methods and prescribed burning. The family also practices rotational grazing and has been seeding native grasses, wildflowers, and forbs on the property to benefit many species of wildlife such as the monarch butterfly, quail, and turkey. Milkweed plants (genus Asclepias) are essential for monarch butterfly reproduction; monarchs lay their eggs on the milkweed and the larvae utilize the milkweed as a food source.
7-Oaks Ranch is located on the monarch migration route, so they want to do what they can to help the state insect of Texas as well as all pollinators such as bees and hummingbirds. In 2017, 7-Oaks was able to plant 400 milkweed “plugs” in cooperation with Texan by Nature and Monarch Watch, who donated the plants. Their mission is to address changes in agricultural practices and development which decimated monarch habitat, and to restore habitats for monarchs, pollinators, and other wildlife. Monarch Watch is initiating a nationwide landscape restoration program called “Bring Back the Monarchs.”
The goals of this project are to restore 20 milkweed species, the only food source for monarch caterpillars, to their native ranges throughout the United States and to encourage the planting of nectar-producing native flowers that support adult monarchs and other pollinators. Restoration efforts also include removing invasive Red Berry Cedar, employing prescribed fire and mechanical removal with a dozer. 7-Oaks Ranch is also busy making sure there is as much water available as possible for the wildlife. This water is made available through rain catchment watering stations, troughs as well as “overflow” areas. These surface water additions attract a wide variety of wildlife including butterflies, dragonflies, frogs, quail, songbirds and mammals of all types. Additionally, the family has installed bird boxes to increase nesting habitat for songbirds on the property.
On May 1, 2018, the Walker family was elated to be honored with the “Conservation Award, Region II” by the Texas Soil & Water Conservation District. Ward Walker 7-Oaks Ranch is a great example of the conditions for community enrichment and education, leading by example on a project that residents and businesses can both become a part of.
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