Landowners and the Future of Conservation with Texas Wildlife Association

By Caitlin Tran

Tag Archive: conservation

  1. Landowners and the Future of Conservation with Texas Wildlife Association

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    In the heart of Texas, where vast landscapes and thriving communities coexist, a unique challenge has emerged. Our land provides rich natural resources that make Texas the 9th largest economy in the world. Our natural resources have driven the migration of people and businesses alike. Between 2010 and 2020, more than 25,000 businesses relocated to Texas and our population increased by 3.9 million people. As businesses and people move to Texas’ major metro areas, it is critical to understand the connection we all have to the land that provides the state its food, grain, water, and energy.

    80% of Texans reside in urban areas, cities continue to grow, habitats become displaced, and land becomes fragmented. In a state where 95% of the land is privately owned, the health and resources provided by natural spaces depend on the management decisions made by landowners and hunters. In 1985, conservation-minded landowners recognized the need for broader natural resources awareness, education, and collaboration with private landowners, and the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) was formed. TWA rallies Texans to support this mission by inviting all to membership and providing resources, education, and community to those who join.

    As a 2023 Conservation Wrangler, Texan by Nature and the Texas Wildlife Association are working together to share the importance of engaging with private landowners to advance conservation. TWA has a network of landowners that allow access and programming on their lands to educate Texans about wildlife, how hunting contributes to conservation, and the importance of land and water conservation.

    We spoke with Andrew Earl, Director of Conservation at TWA to share their insights for engaging landowners in Texas…

    Can you share an example of a successful strategy you’ve employed to engage Texan landowners in conservation initiatives? What were the key factors that contributed to their success?
    TWA’s success is driven by our community engagement around the state. By working with members within their community the organization builds a more organic connection with our audience and empowers volunteers to take on the role of an ambassador of our mission. These relationships require nurturing, however, this model has scaled our impact and adds invaluable legitimacy to TWA’s work.

    In the context of Texan landowners, how do you address concerns related to property rights and land use decisions? How do you navigate the balance between conservation goals and respecting the autonomy of individual landowners?
    TWA knows that landowners are the best stewards of our lands and resources and that keeping working lands intact is critical to slowing habitat loss in our state. The organization strongly believes that keeping families on the land is the best thing for the long-term health of our natural resources and therefore that property rights must be defended.

    Undoubtedly, land use issues are complex and require nuanced approaches. TWA goes to lengths to both guide best practices through policymaking that considers the needs of land stewards and administer education efforts which give landowners the tools to make the best decisions for themselves and their lands.

    How do you tailor your conservation messaging to resonate with the unique values and concerns of Texan landowners? Can you provide specific examples of messaging that has been particularly effective?
    The Texas Wildlife Association’s conservation initiatives are directly rooted in the values and interests of its membership. TWA’s member committees bring together a diversity of backgrounds that include farmers and ranchers, wildlife managers, land brokers, teachers, researchers, lawyers, and more. This variety of perspectives ensures that the many ecological and financial complexities of the issues facing Texas landowners are accounted for in decision-making processes. The input of these diverse committees is on display in TWA’s collection of educational opportunities, hunting outreach events, and natural resource policy priorities.

    Through TWA’s Land, Water & Wildlife Expeditions program, the organization partners with middle schools by providing five successive lessons that build to a field trip behind the gates of a working ranch. These lessons reinforce the interconnectedness of our lands and how the actions of conservation-minded property owners benefit their broader community.

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

    In understanding the successful strategies employed by the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) in engaging Texas landowners, a few key takeaways emerge for those looking to enhance their own conservation initiatives. 

    Community Engagement: TWA’s success is rooted in building organic connections within communities, empowering volunteers to become ambassadors for the organization’s mission. This approach, though requiring time and nurturing, has proven to be scalable and adds a grassroots understanding and legitimacy to the organization’s work.

    Education and Mentorship: The organization focuses heavily on building conservation literacy at many levels, from lesson plans and instruction in formal education settings to mentored experiences like the Texas Youth Hunting, Adult Learn to Hunt programs, and land & wildlife stewardship workshops. In engaging Texans at various levels of natural resource interest and literacy, the organization works to instill a lifelong stewardship ethic.  

    Meeting People Where They Are: TWA recognizes that landowners are integral stewards of the land and are a pillar in all programs. The commitment to tailoring conservation messaging to resonate with the unique values and concerns of Texan landowners has been a cornerstone of TWA’s success.

    The success of TWA’s engagement with Texas landowners underscores the importance of community connections, education, nuanced approaches to land use issues, and tailored messaging. By implementing these key strategies, conservation initiatives can not only gain support from landowners but also contribute to the long-term health of natural resources and foster a sense of stewardship within communities. Learn more about the Texas Wildlife Association and Conservation Wrangler support in this video.

  2. How Texas Runs on Water Engages the Community around Water

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    Have you ever thought about why Texas has such an iconic shape? It’s because of water! Not one, but three of our state’s boundaries are shaped by bodies of water- the Rio Grande, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Red River. Texans have water to thank for more than just our unique shape, however. Water is at the heart of everything we love about Texas, and it’s our most valuable natural resource. We rely on water for agriculture, technology, recreation, energy, manufacturing, and much more.

    Image Credit: Texas Water Foundation

    Texas’ population is expected to increase by more than 70% between 2020 and 2070. Because of that, we can expect demand for water to increase as our existing water supply continues to decline. Fortunately, Texas has a State Water Plan that identifies thousands of water management strategies to address these water budget needs. The plan also identifies that almost 45% of all future water will need to come from conservation and reuse. For this reason, water leaders have called for a statewide water campaign to address the behavioral and cultural changes needed to achieve our growing water supply needs.

    Background on TROW

    Texas Runs on Water® (TROW) is a first-of-its-kind statewide water campaign built on Texas’ strong sense of local pride. Led by the Texas Water Foundation, TROW is working to lead Texas into a sustainable water future by inspiring all Texans to reconsider how we use water, and how we value it. TROW encourages all Texans to participate in a viral cultural movement that spurs action and conversation around water. 

    A Regional Approach

    Texas is uniquely diverse, and so are our relationships with water across the state. The TROW campaign is intentionally designed as an umbrella concept that can be localized by region, audience, or water use, with the potential to link water entities, brands, industries, cultural ambassadors, and Texan iconography to water. The state’s thriving economy, wild landscapes, and beloved Texas products and pastimes all exist because of water – denim jeans, tacos, barbecue, and even college football games all Run on Water. Texas Water Foundation hopes that through this campaign, all Texans fully internalize that everything they love about Texas is rooted in water.

    Launched in 2021, TROW was piloted in three locations, gaining millions of views in Houston, the Texas Hill Country, and the Panhandle. In the pilot phase, Texas Runs on Water partnered with Houston Public Works to manage and support a “Houston Runs on Water” campaign. The campaign included paid social media, live ads in the Houston Hobby Airport, bilingual ads in grocery stores, a Houstonia magazine partnership, radio, and additional grassroots efforts to reach the entire Houston community. The regional earned nearly 9 million impressions generating increased awareness of the Texas Runs on Water message.

    Image credit: Texas Water Foundation

    Murals as a Message

    Public art can enhance communities by fostering a sense of identity, provoking dialogue, attracting visitors and investment, and improving overall well-being. Murals can reflect the unique character of a place, instilling pride and a deeper connection among residents. Through diverse artistic expressions in public spaces, murals and other art forms challenge norms, broaden perspectives and stimulate the imagination. Public art also contributes to the economic vitality of an area by drawing tourists, supporting local businesses, and creating job opportunities. By embracing public art, communities can cultivate a vibrant, inclusive environment that celebrates creativity and enhances the cultural, social, and economic fabric of the community.

    Texas Runs on Water has partnered with like-minded conservation organizations to complete three public art installations in Amarillo, San Antonio, and Junction, that tell the unique story of each region’s relationship with water. These murals have helped TROW engage with the local communities in their pilot markets through planning, painting, and unveiling of the artwork. TROW and partners are working on expanding this program, creating unique public art pieces in additional cities all across Texas. Learn more about each completed mural below:

    Image credit: Texas Water Foundation

    Amarillo Mural 

    Where to see it: 800 S Johnson St, Amarillo, TX 79101

    What does it mean? This mural represents Amarillo’s positive connections to water- past, present, and future. On one side, it celebrates a region that bloomed because of water. A cowboy tips his hat in the clouds, a cow grazes on a a field of wheat, a windmill is off in the distance.As you move to the right side of the painting, your brought to a more future-focused image. A young girl swims in a playa laketo symbolize the importance of protecting water for future generations.

    Partners: Blank Spaces Murals, Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District, City of Amarillo

    Image credit: San Antonio Water Systems

    San Antonio Mural 

    Where to see it: 1419 Roosevelt Ave, San Antonio, TX 78210

    What does it mean? This mural, titled “Yanaguana Rain Dream” pays homage to San Antonio’s water history and the area’s indigenous roots. Inspired by the rock art style found in West Texas, the piece features a depiction of the San Antonio River – known to early indigenous people as Yanaguana – and the inhabitants who relied on that water as they shaped and settled the land. Today, the river continues to shape the city. The artwork is a celebration of San Antonio’s unique ties to water. 

    Partners: Cruz Ortiz, Burnt Nopal Creative Studio, San Antonio Water System

    Junction Mural 

    Where to see it: 656 Main St, Junction, TX 76849

    What does it mean? Junction gets its name because it sits at the confluence of the North and South Llano River. These rivers are the lifeblood of Junction’s community – providing drinking water and outdoor recreation, supporting healthy wildlife and fishing, and sustaining residents’ quality of life. Created by local aspiring artists, the mural depicts the iconic Llano river and celebrates one of the town’s greatest pastimes – fishing. For community members and out-of-towners, it serves as a reminder to protect the beauty of the Hil Country. 

    Partners: Hill Country Alliance, Llano River Watershed Alliance, Junction Texas Tourism Board, Big Seed

    Going Social

    Texas Runs on Water leverages the power of social media to educate the community about the importance of water and engage their audience in the promotion of their message: everything we love about Texas runs on water. Social media trends are constantly evolving, and TROW strives to be at the forefront to engage with and reach Texans of diverse backgrounds. As social media platforms have embraced the growing popularity of original video content, TROW has been successful in engaging social media users in Texas and beyond through curated Instagram Reels and TikTok videos. 

    Giveaways and Campaigns are another popular trend on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. To further engage their audience, TROW partnered with the Texas Water Development Board to launch the My Texas Water Photo Campaign to inspire Texans to draw a connection to the water that keeps our state running. The campaign invites all Texans to share photos, reels, stories, or videos on Instagram from past or present experiences that represent their unique ties to Texas water, using the hashtag #MyTexasWater. The annual campaign launched on June 1, 2023 and runs through June 30, 2023. 

    Texas Runs on Water has also appeared in the immensely popular Texas magazine, Texas Monthly, where they emphasized the future water challenges that Texas faces, and the need for a statewide water conservation campaign to inspire change.

    Water is for ALL Texans

    Texas Runs on Water is an invitation to all Texans to take pride in the places they live, and in the water that keeps it running. In order to reach all Texans, it’s important to recognize and appreciate the unique connections that each region has with water and engage with each community on a personal and local level. Texas Runs on Water utilizes participation in community events, custom public art installations, social media engagement, and local advertisements to make the connection with local communities and inspire all Texans to reconsider how we use water, how we value it, and how we can ensure that future generations value it, too.

  3. What Makes Me Texan By Nature – Estela Lopez

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    Rio Grande River
    Exit to the Rio Grande Valley

    I never knew the impact of growing up in the Rio Grande Valley had on me until I moved away for college. had always heard the saying “you know you’re almost in the valley when you take the exit in Corpus”, but I wouldn’t understand the emotional meaning of it until I drove home for the first time and took the exit myself.

    Ring Day 2022

    I was born and raised by two of the most hard working individuals I know, Rosa Maria Lopez and Fernando Lopez, in the not so little city of McAllen,Texas. I never knew the sacrifice my parents made for me until I started sharing my story in college. My mother was born in Mexico and courageously came to the United States with a dream and a prayer. She has been the greatest role model in my life and has always encouraged of all of my dreams. My m​​other and father did not have the opportunity to attend college, and always made it a goal of theirs to have their only child attend college. They sacrificed continuing their education to provide for their family, and now that I have the ability to attend college and pursue a higher education, I dedicate everything I do for them.

    Bougainvillea Tree
    Memories in Mexico

    Growing up in the Rio Grande Valley has been a blessing. It has given me the ability to appreciate the beauty it holds even though the weather is unbearable at times. The proximity to the border and the Gulf of Mexico blesses us with an abundance of biological diversity. The true beauty of the RGV is in the people and the culture. The Tex-Mex culture has always been a defining and influential part of my life. Most of my childhood was spent traveling to Mexico to visit my mother’s side of the family. My greatest childhood memories include spending time at the ranch in Mexico with my family and eating all the delicious food I could possibly consume prepared by the locals in my grandparent’s hometown. My favorite thing to do was ride around with my grandpa in his old truck listening to corridos and looking at all the cattle and the surrounding vegetation. One of the most beautiful aspects of the ranch is a bougainvillea tree that my great-great grandfather planted for his wife, Rosa Ramirez, who I get my middle name from. This tree has survived droughts, freezes, and the hardships that ranching families face. It shows the true power and perseverance that nature has. This tree has always been so symbolic in my family because if this tree can survive anything, so can we.

     

    Antelope Canyon

    Traveling and discovering the beauty of nature is one of my favorite things to do. One of my favorite quotes comes from John Muir, “Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees”, and I couldn’t agree more. Traveling with my family across the U.S. has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. Pictures cannot describe the awe that encompasses an individual when you see first hand the beauty that nature graces us with.

    Antelope Canyon

    My time at Texas A&M University has afforded me the ability to learn more about the great state of Texas. Throughout my undergraduate and graduate education, so many professors have highlighted the diversity that Texas has. Through case studies and group discussions, it’s quite evident the pride that we all hold to be Texan. Nothing gives me greater joy than to tell my story and what it means to me to be from Texas. Walking into a room knowing that growing up in Texas has given me the strength, courage, and ability to conquer anything I set my mind to, empowers me to overcome any obstacle in my way. This is what makes me proud to be Texan by Nature.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  4. What Makes Me Texan by Nature – Sydney Gass

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    By Sydney Gass, Texan by Nature Social Media and Marketing Intern

     

    I was born in Baltimore, Maryland but spent most of my formative years on the Florida coast, searching for shells in the sand, spotting animals in the sea. My earliest memories in nature were the years my family spent in Turks and Caicos Islands, where my afternoons were filled with crystal blue waters and white sands. 

    After a few more moves, we landed in the greater Houston area when I was eight years old – my education and childhood continued to be formed by the wildlife that inhabited the land we lived on. Being homeschooled allowed so many moments to turn into science lessons, from catching snakes to watching deer feed, my love of wildlife was something that came naturally. 

    We spent five years in Texas when my family ended up in Vancouver, British Columbia, an incredibly beautiful city where the mountains and ocean literally meet. My teenage years brought me hiking, skiing, working as a naturalist on whale-watching boats, and spending as much time in nature as possible. I volunteered with the Canadian Wildlife Federation as a youth ambassador and at the Vancouver Aquarium’s marine mammal rescue center, caring for injured and orphaned marine mammals. 

    I started my undergraduate education in forestry at the University of British Columbia. But, after one conservation course, it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the field. I shifted degrees and received my Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Management. I was able to take an interdisciplinary approach to my degree, with courses in business, economics, ecology, conservation, psychology, and visual arts. I worked with master’s students studying the impact of urban development and agriculture on the critical habitat of endangered salmon species. I also studied the human impact on black bears within various communities and worked with the government to better educate tourists.

    About halfway through my degree, my love of photography morphed with science into a minor in communications and marketing. I was enthralled with sharing the beauty of our world and the importance of protecting it by taking science-heavy materials and turning it into something tangible, exciting and inspiring. I spent the past year working with Oceana Canada on their social media team. 

    I’ve found myself back in Texas after eleven years away and I’m constantly reminded of the beauty of such unique landscapes. This spring was one of the first times I’d seen Texas wildflowers across the hill country and I couldn’t catch my breath, it was unlike anything I’d seen before. Although I’m not born and raised in this incredible state, I don’t believe I truly am “from” one particular place. The stunning topography, incredible gulf coast, diverse wildlife, and endless opportunities for conservation make me proud to be Texan by Nature. 

  5. Creating a Return on Conservation™ Index: Texas Partnership for Forests and Water

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    If you could follow the water from your faucet all the way back to where it came from, it may lead you to a lush Texas forest. In fact, 40 percent of the surface drinking water supply originates from forests and woodlands. Future projections indicate that up to 1 million acres of forest lands are at risk of being converted to other uses by 2060, making the long-term conservation of these landscapes imperative to current and future drinking water supplies. In fact, over 11.7 million Texans receive their drinking water from the 3.8 million acres of high-priority forested watershed outlined by the Texas A&M Forest Service.

    Brazos River

    The Texas Partnership for Forests and Water (TPFW) is a statewide collaborative led by Texas A&M Forest Service that works to conserve and enhance forested watersheds across the state. The mission of the Texas Partnership for Forests and Water is to sustain and enhance healthy, productive Texas forested watersheds that provide safe, reliable drinking water and forest products through strong partnerships, collaboration, funding, and action. The initiative’s main goal is to maintain and expand healthy forests in drinking water source watersheds through strong collaboration between the forest, conservation, corporate, and water sectors.

    In 2022, Texas Partnership for Forests and Water was selected to participate in Texan by Nature’s Conservation Wrangler accelerator program. Through our work with TPFW, we determined that the partnership would benefit from the quantification of the social, economic, and environmental benefits of their efforts. The collaborative works closely with corporate funders through Green Futures, a collaborative program that works with a wide array of local and state networks to accomplish community forestry projects.

    To authenticate the economic and environmental impact highlighted by the ROC™ Index, TxN worked with third-party economic evaluation experts, EcoMetrics, ensuring values were unbiased and met current industry standards.

    Lesson Learned: Collaboration is Essential

    Collaboration between like-minded businesses and conservation organizations has been essential to the success of the Texas Partnership for Forests and Water Green Futures plantings. When multiple leaders come together under one common goal, it is easier to share knowledge and best practices. It also makes the collection of accurate metrics and data a smoother process. The use of partner expertise and metrics collected was critical in creating this Return on Conservation™ Index.

    To learn more about the Green Futures tree planting that was used for the creation of this ROC™ Index read through Texas Partnership for Forests & Water’s Demonstration Project Case Study developed through the Conservation Wrangler partnership.

    Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge

    The Business Case for Water

    For businesses in and moving to Texas, water stewardship is key to continuing operations. According to the 2022 Texas State Water Plan, about 30% of future water will have to come from conservation strategies. The business case for investing in local conservation projects like TPFW is already made. By year five of the project, 1,600 trees planted in McKinney, Texas, will intercept and filter 462,894 gallons of rainwater benefitting Wilson Creek and Lavon Lake, North Texas’ major supply of water. In addition, the community will see the added benefit of 101,513 lbs of carbon sequestration resulting in cleaner air. Companies can report verified and tangible progress toward the world’s most pressing development goals like climate change and clean water and sanitation all while creating a positive environmental and economic ripple effect in the communities in which they operate. 

    Replication Opportunities

    Beyond garnering investments, TxN Return on Conservation™ Index also serve as a roadmap for other projects working with similar resources to replicate these economic and environmental impacts. The replication of the Texas Partnership for Forests and Water model has the potential to make a big impact in a state like Texas where 40% of the surface drinking water supply originates from forests and woodlands. Projects focused on forest management, riparian restoration, volunteer coordination, and more can study how Texas Partnership for Forests and Water achieved and articulated positive impacts in these categories, and then achieve a positive impact themselves.

    Davy Crockett National Forest

    Other organizations can also use Texas Partnership for Forests and Water’s work as a model to increase their collaboration with other programs and individuals. When we utilize the unique knowledge and experience that others hold, without trying to recreate the wheel, we can end up with a much better outcome. Whether your final goal is a one-day beach clean-up or a multi-year ecosystem restoration, collaborative efforts make your work more robust.

    If you’re interested in reviewing the Texan by Nature Return on Conservation™ Index for Texas Partnership for Forests & Water or other local conservation projects, click here

  6. What Makes Me Texan by Nature – Madeleine Kaleta

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    I grew up nestled amongst the trees in a valley between the mountain in a small town in upstate New York. My family’s history runs deep in this state, with the entire family residing in one of three cities. So, I stayed and followed my interests in animals and science and received a Bachelor’s in Zoology with a minor in bio-cultural anthropology at SUNY Oswego. Throughout my studies, I quickly found my love for wildlife conservation in faraway internships with a passion to preserve all aspects of the land, and I knew I had to explore more of our natural world. 

     

    The day after graduating, I loaded my life into my car and took off for my first official job in wildlife conservation. I traveled the country, only staying a few months at each temporary job, and one of those places was West Texas. No one in my family was surprised to see me end up in this beautiful and wild state. This was the first place in my journey where I was constantly amazed by the novelty and landscape as I drove across the state. It was nothing like home, but working on private ranches all across west Texas, I quickly appreciated the diversity. From the bogs and dense trees of East Texas, to the canyons and rolling plains, the birds of the Rio Grande, and all the amazing people and cultures I have encountered along the way.  

    While that job soon ended, I ultimately returned a few years later to begin my current master’s degree in biology with a focus in avian ecology research at UNT. While birds are a huge focus in my passion, I quickly realized the ecological complexities of the world. I found so much value in preserving other aspects such as land and water resources, but also engaging with local communities. A huge takeaway I learned in my bio-cultural anthropology background, was the best way to conserve nature, was to work with and help the local community. I feel this is the cornerstone to all great conservation successes across the world.  

    While I continue my current degree, my perspective and passion for combining conservation and community has only further solidified. Texan by Nature spoke strongly to me as an organization. Their contributions not only to the conservation of Texas natural resources, but also to aiding businesses and local community programs couldn’t have been a more perfect fit. I am excited to join them in our endeavors to catalyze and conserve so many meaningful projects and projects to protect this state. I may not have grown up a Texan, but I chose it. Contributing to the prosperity of the people and land of Texas is what makes me Texan by Nature. 

     

  7. What Makes Me Texan by Nature – Faith Humphreys

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    By Faith Humphreys, Texan by Nature Programs Intern

    Although my birth certificate says I was born in Kansas, in my heart I was born in Texas. My mom is from Ohio, and my dad is from Kansas, but they met and fell in love in Texas. My family moved to Abilene, Texas, when I was just one year old, so Texas holds my earliest memories.

    As a little girl, I was known as the crazy dinosaur girl who refused to play with dolls. Pretending I was a T. rex by holding meat forks in my hands was much more fun than playing dress-up. I was blessed to grow up with sweeping views of the Callahan Divide from my backyard with abundant space to explore nature. Expeditions with my sisters to “Faith’s Lake” (a small pond) were common, along with captures of many small critters and romps in the mud after notorious west Texas thunderstorms. Being constantly exposed to nature sparked curiosity for my plant and animal neighbors. I attended zoo school in the summers and quickly realized I wanted to be a zookeeper because I couldn’t think of a better job than one that allows you to take care of wild animals all day.

    My family traveled a lot, and one of our favorite spots was Possum Kingdom Lake. We had a lakehouse on PK and spent many July 4ths there with my cousins and grandparents. We loved loading up the boat with cokes and hotdogs then watching the fireworks over Hell’s Gate. We also made trips to Waco to visit my oldest sister and go to Baylor football games, however terrible they were back then. I came to love the game of football, which would come in handy later as a football coach’s wife.

    As I grew up, I learned more about the peril that wildlife around the world and in Texas was increasingly facing. However, unaware of any “real” careers in wildlife conservation, I chose to study business at Baylor University. During my college years, I loved running and hiking at Cameron Park, kayaking on the Brazos, and of course going to every Baylor home football game. I also discovered the beauty of Austin and the Hill Country during my visits for the ACL music festival.

    After graduation, I married my high school sweetheart (with a reception at the Abilene Zoo) and lived in San Antonio for three years. I fell in love with the Hill Country even more, especially with all the yummy authentic Tex-Mex food. We loved hiking at Eisenhower Park and Friedrich Wilderness Park and shopping at the numerous HEBs in town. We then moved to Texarkana for my husband’s job and fell in love with the forested landscape of the Pineywoods. It was unlike anywhere else I had seen in Texas. Caddo Lake completely captured my heart with its dreamy bald cypress swamps.

    After a couple years, we moved back to our hometown in west Texas, and I finally started pursuing my passion for conservation professionally through a master’s degree online with Clemson University. Although Clemson is in South Carolina, my term projects allowed me to choose local study sites, so I was still able to learn more about the unique flora and fauna of the Rolling Plains. I also became a Texas Master Naturalist and loved learning about all the ecoregions of Texas during my training. It’s been very rewarding to teach kids who don’t have an expansive natural area beyond their backyard about the wonders of our native wildlife. Just as rewarding is helping with trash cleanups around Lake Kirby and writing articles about native wildlife for the newspaper.

    Texas, every part of it, has treated me well over these past 27 years, and it is truly a privilege to be able to give back to its natural resources by working for Texan by Nature. The diverse people and landscapes that Texas encompasses feed my desire for new and exciting experiences. My appreciation for this diversity is what makes me Texan by Nature.

  8. World Environment Day: Water Resources for Texans

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    As sure as the sun rises each morning, water flows through every part of our daily life. Without water, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the business operations, supply chains, and technologies that make Texas the 9th largest economy in the world would cease to exist. It may be the beauty of our land, the friendly individualism of our people, the pro-business, pro-innovation attitude of our state, but more people are moving to Texas than are leaving the state every single week. Now home to 30 million people, our population is expected to reach 54 million by 2050. While our ingenuity as Texans is infinite, our natural resources are finite. The Lonestar migration will inevitably add pressure to our state’s land, water, wildlife and infrastructure. The actions we take now have the power to shape our state’s future. 

    As we celebrate World Environment Day, we’d like to take a moment to consider the future of water. What stewardship knowledge, resources, or positive behaviors can we share? How can we engage more people to join the dialogue around water conservation? We believe it starts with awareness and education. Let’s dive in!

    Where’s all the water?

    Underneath ¾ of our state lie 23 aquifers. Think of aquifers as large underground storage tanks made of permeable rock and sediment. These natural reservoirs absorb and store water underground when rain falls or snow melts. This water is called groundwater and when extracted, it serves as drinking water for our communities, irrigation for crops and as a natural resource for industries. In fact, over 55% of the state’s water supply comes from groundwater according to the Texas Water Development Board.

    Having trouble visualizing what’s underground? This video from Environmental Defense Fund shows the interconnectedness of water and gives a tour of the water right beneath our feet.

    Bubbling up in the springs of the Hill Country or in the desert oasis of Balmorhea State Park, the health of Texas’ aquifers is critical to conserving one of our state’s most precious natural resources. 

    Are there different types of water?

    Surface water is water from rivers, lakes, reservoirs and other open bodies of water on Earth’s surface. Texas boasts 191,228 miles of river and streams, 10,196 reservoirs covering more than 3.5 million acres, and 6.3 million acres of wetlands. Surface water is replenished through rain or snow and plays a crucial role in the water cycle by evaporating and condensing returning to the Earth as precipitation.

    Drinking water is water that is safe for drinking and cooking and provided by water utilities.

    Stormwater is water from rain or snowmelt and it collects in rivers, lakes and aquifers.

    Wastewater is water drained from homes and businesses that includes human waste and pollutants. This water must go through a treatment process before returning to the environment.

    Recycled water is treated wastewater that has been filtered, disinfected and treated to be used again as for non-drinking purposes.

    Greywater is water drained from activities like taking showers, washing dishes, laundry etc. this water does not contain human waste or harmful chemicals.

    Strategies such as “One Water” have been developed to ask and guide communities to consider and manage all waters running through it holistically. These water management practices integrate drinking water, wastewater, and greywater as a single resource. Through this approach, communities can achieve long-term resiliency to benefit both the environment and the economy. 

    Henderson, Katie & Deines, Allison & Ozekin, Kenan & Moeller, Jeff & Fulmer, Alice & McGregor, Stefani. (2020). Talking to Customers and Communities About PFAS. Journal – American Water Works Association. 112. 24-33. 10.1002/awwa.1498. 

    Where’s the water going?

    From stormy cloud to raindrop, to lawns to puddles to streams and down the gutter, where’s all the water going? Take that journey on the next rainy day. With River Runner, you can watch the path of a raindrop from anywhere in the contiguous U.S. – start from a city near you:

    Whether you’re in Austin or El Paso, your raindrop journey will likely take you all the way across our state and ultimately lead you to our bays, estuaries, and the Gulf of Mexico. Why does this matter? As water flows through our daily lives, communities and businesses, it takes with it what we put in. Litter on our roadways, improperly disposed medications, and harmful chemicals like fertilizers can wreak havoc on diverse ecosystems and the plants and wildlife that call them home, locally and miles away.

    How can I help keep water clean?

    There are committed organizations all across Texas working to keep our communities and our water resources clean. Keep Texas Beautiful (KTB) and programs like 2022 Conservation Wrangler Stopping Litter and Plastics Along Shorelines (SPLASh), are working to combat litter and even track it in the Texas Litter Database

    If you want to join the over 87,000 volunteers to keep our state litter free, consider contacting a local KTB affiliate near you or join SPLASh for a clean-up event.

    As we head out for summer hikes and outdoor recreation, a good rule of thumb is to always practice the 7 Leave No Trace principles:

    By practicing and sharing these 7 simple actions, we can help protect our natural world and our precious natural resources. 

    Texans can help reduce litter that ends up in waterways by taking simple actions like avoiding single-use items like plastic water bottles, coffee cups and utensils, carrying reusable bags, or even simply securing trash and recycling properly at the time of disposal. 

    In addition, using nature-friendly products in our homes and lawns can help us reduce our ecological footprint and reduce pollutants in our water sources. Nature-friendly products are designed to be less harmful to beneficial insects like bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. By using these products, you help protect these important organisms that play a crucial role in plant reproduction and biodiversity.

    This World Environment Day, we hope you will join us in being Texan by Nature. Here’s a few ways you can get involved:

    • Join one of our 140+ Conservation Partners at their events.
    • Financially support a Conservation organization whose mission resonates with you.
    • Advocate for and implement nature-based solutions 
    • Join the Texas Water Action Collaborative (TxWAC) if you have a water project that needs funding or want to fund a water projects to meet business water stewardship goals.

     

  9. 5 Texas Conservation Organizations Helping Texans Get Outdoors!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Fellowship of the Outdoors, Dallas-Fort Worth

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

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

    Connect with Fellowship of the Outdoors here

    Gardening Volunteers of South Texas, San Antonio Area

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

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

    Connect with Gardening Volunteers of South Texas here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Connect with LGBT+ Outdoors on Facebook and Instagram

    One Step Closer

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

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

  10. What Makes Me Texan by Nature: Danielle Blanco

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    What makes me Texan by Nature? I have lived most of my time outside the great state of Texas, but the adventure that is my life eventually landed me here and taught me a whole string of lessons along the way.

    I grew up by a small lake just outside of Chicago, IL. My brother and I spent time fishing (with our Mickey Mouse fishing poles) during the summer and ice skating during the winter. We had a small foot powered paddle boat and I remember riding alongside my mother and watching the ducks as she did all the hard work paddling. Every year, we took a trip to Lake Michigan to enjoy the sunshine and the beach. I have since been told by my Puerto Rican husband that I can’t call the shores of Lake Michigan the beach, but us Midwesterners did our best!

    Years later, we relocated to a suburb just outside of Atlanta, GA, and my brother and I went from fishing and ice skating on the lake to goofing off in the woods behind our house. My parents always encouraged us to explore and discover, but to also respect the environment surrounding us. What we brought into our outdoor adventures always came back out with us. Leave-no-trace principles were a part of my life before I even understood what that truly meant.

    After college, I joined the Peace Corps. In July 2012, my plane landed in the Republic of Guinea in the middle of the night, and I started an adventure that would completely change my life. I spent the next two years in a remote village, with no cell phone service, no running water and no electricity. 

    When I wasn’t teaching at the local school, I was hiking the mountains in the Fouta region and riding my bike to local markets. I learned how to cook over an open fire and to use ingredients that I had never tried before. During the dry season, I would sleep outside in my hammock, so I could catch tiny amounts of breeze and appreciate the beauty of the stars. I lived my life at a slower pace, not worrying about what was next, but rather, how I could enjoy my Guinean friends and family in that moment.

    Texas was always part of the plan and in 2016, my husband and I finally made the move to Dallas. I remember the first time I drove down highway 75 and saw hundreds of colorful wildflowers lining the streets. It certainly made the drive to work each day more interesting. Fast forward a few years, a few houses, a new city, and two children later and now my oldest daughter picks the same colorful wildflowers to present to every friend she meets in her life. Texas has shown my family true hospitality and kindness and we are so thankful to have found our home here.

    My life moves at a much faster pace these days, but we do our best to stop, slow down, and appreciate the beauty around us. Just like my parents taught me, I encourage my girls to explore, learn and discover, but to respect the world around them.

    While I may not be Texan by birth, I am grateful to be a part of the Texan family. I am proud to be Texan by Nature and to help make my impact on our mission to support conversation across Texas!

     

  11. 2022 Summit Summary

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    The Texan by Nature Conservation Summit is an annual opportunity for leaders in business and conservation to convene and catalyze conservation in the state of Texas. Through panel presentations and Q&A sessions with the audience, the summit drives dialogue and highlights emerging sustainability solutions.

    The 2022 summit took place on November 2 in Dallas. Following two years of limited in-person attendance due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Texan by Nature team was happy to welcome 286 in-person attendees at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. To engage with partners far and wide, a virtual attendance option was available, and 665 leaders and advocates joined us virtually through video stream. In the post-summit attendee survey, an impressive 100% of respondents reported learning something new, up from 93% learning something new in 2021. 

    The overarching theme of the day was ‘The Future of Conservation.” The future of conservation, just like Texas’s beautiful landscape and leadership role in industry, is ever-evolving. The Summit explored human dimensions, ecosystem-level thinking, and best-in-class collaborations with the goal of inspiring new partnerships and driving conservation innovation and impact. 

    Texan by Nature CEO Joni Carswell’s opening remarks called on the audience to take an active role in shaping Texas’ conservation future: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Watch the opening remarks, full panel presentation recordings, and closing remarks from former First Lady and TxN founder Mrs. Laura Bush below.

    The Human Dimension

    As our population grows, the broad impact of human interaction with natural resources becomes clearly visible. From stewarding our resources to realizing the full health and economic benefits of working with and engaging with nature, new models and opportunities are emerging. The human aspect of conservation is multidimensional including coalition building, community engagement, urban planning, workforce development, health & healing, entrepreneurship, personal stewardship, and more. 

    Panelists included:

     

    Ecosystem Thinking

    Conservation and industry leaders often think and speak of ecosystems in similar yet very different ways. Conservationists most often refer to natural systems while industry leaders may refer to their supply chain or internal processes. Few entities look at the entire ecosystem and the interaction between industry and nature. With the rise in circularity discussion and goals, the need to view the entire ecosystem inclusive of industry and nature, creates a significant opportunity for impact, engagement, and economic growth. 

    Panelists included: 

     

    Models of Success

    The future of conservation relies on sound science, collaboration, metrics, prioritization, and reporting. There are projects and initiatives across Texas modeling these characteristics. From supporting our natural world and generating tourism, to feeding our population, to managing our waste, to collectively solving challenges, these projects and initiatives can be replicated in Texas and around the globe creating a thriving future for people and natural resources alike. 

    Panelists included: 

     

    If you’re interested in sponsoring our 2023 Summit – learn more here!

    Contact info@texanbynature.org for questions.

     

  12. TxN 20 Industry Highlights — Architecture, Design, and Development

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    2022 TxN 20: Texan leadership in conservation for a sustainable future in Architecture.

    The Texan by Nature team is excited to present the fourth annual list of Texan by Nature 20 (TxN 20) Honorees. TxN 20 recognizes outstanding work in conservation and sustainability from Texas-based businesses.

    It’s an opportunity to showcase innovation, commitment to conservation, and best practices from the industries that keep Texas running: Agriculture, Architecture, Financial Services, Food, Beverage, & Grocery, Technology, Energy, Healthcare, Municipal Services, Retail, Transportation, and Construction & Manufacturing. 

    Turning their pledge into action, this company has diverted 100.73 Metric Tons of CO2 through carbon offsets purchases – 2022 Honoree: Overland Partners

    Who is Overland Partners?

    Overland Partners is a San Antonio-based architecture and urban design company setting the standard in infusing stewardship into architectural practice.

    Overland Partners implements a rigorous sustainability review process, reevaluating their goals and commitments every three years with 100% of their employees committed to carbon emission reduction. Their pledge to the American Institute of Architecture’s 2030 commitment means they have reported emissions data annually since 2014.

    From this commitment comes action. Overland Partners’ PV panels reduce the amount of electricity generated from fossil fuels. Through the purchase of annual carbon offsets for its operations, Overland Partners offset 100.73 Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in 2021. These offsets translate to the carbon offset from roughly 600 mature trees. The work doesn’t stop there. Overland Partners’ in-house composting program amounts to 5,475 gallons of waste (454 pounds of methane) diverted from landfills each year.


    A Global Design Powerhouse Saving 21 Billion Gallons of Water — 2022 Honoree
    Stantec

    Who is Stantec?

    Stantec is an international engineering, architecture, and design consulting firm that serves a wide range of projects and communities. Experts in innovation, Stantec worked with a top technology company to help improve water conservation and prevent pollution across its supply chain, supporting everything from engineering to capacity building. 

    Stantec’s conservation efforts start at the source, investing $4.4 million to support communities, granting $830,000 in STEM scholarships for underrepresented and BIPOC communities, and providing more than $610,000 in STEM grants. During the annual Stantec in the Community Week (SITC) Stantec employees engage in conservation and volunteering efforts for the communities they serve. In 2021, 2946 employees donated time to 341+ community organizations.

    Why Forward-Thinking Leaders in Architecture, Design, and Development Matter

    Reducing consumption of non-renewable resources, minimizing waste, and creating efficient, healthy, and productive environments are key to building a sustainable future. By making environmentally conscious design decisions at every phase of a project, architects and designers are reducing the negative impacts and carbon footprint of our environment. Smart, forward-thinking designs ensure a future tradeoff of less carbon emissions, less energy consumed, and more water conserved throughout a building’s life cycle. These decisions, combined with community efforts and investments in conservation are driving Texas to a more sustainable future.

    How TxN20 Honorees Are Selected Each Year

    To select the 2022 TxN 20 Honorees, the TxN Team evaluated submissions and conducted independent research across 2,000+ of Texas’ publicly traded and private companies in 12 key industry sectors. 

    All companies were evaluated on a 17-point scoring system, from which the top 60 highest-scoring companies moved on to the final round of TxN 20. A selection committee of top industry leaders and experts was then formed to evaluate the top 60 companies and select the final 20 businesses recognized as TxN 20 Honorees.

    Honorable Mentions: Standouts in Sustainability

    In addition to this year’s TxN 20 honorees, here are three industry standouts for best practices in conservation and sustainability coming from companies across the architecture, design, and development industry.

    Industry Innovator: Dewberry

    • Since 2014, Dewberry has reported annual sustainability data for the American Institute of Architecture 2030 Commitment. 94.3% of their projects have met the 25% lighting density reduction target.
    • Dewberry’s Engineering Innovation Building demonstrates a commitment to sustainable design, with a large native grass space and a high-efficiency mechanical system providing a 30% indoor water use reduction and saving 6,795,990 gallons of water thus far.

    Industry Innovator: Jacobs

    • Jacobs has overseen large global projects, such as the Pensacola East Bay Oyster Habitat Restoration Project, which, in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, placed 33 oyster reefs along the Santa Rosa shoreline and has expanded to the continent’s largest reef reconstruction project.
    • Focusing on the future, Jacobs’ Butterfly Effect program is a new Climate Response Education Initiative teaching young students to learn about sustainability and making positive impacts on climate change.

    Industry Innovator: Gensler

    • With over 188 million square feet of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) registered and 110 million square feet of LEED-certified building projects, Gensler has been able to divert 150 million tons of waste and save 1.2 billion gallons of water annually. 
    • Within a decade, Gensler has committed to eliminating all future net emissions.

    Get Involved:

    Is your company at the forefront of conservation and environmental sustainability in Texas? Do you want to be recognized for your efforts? Contact Texan by Nature at programs@texanbynature.org.

    To be considered for the official TxN 20 list, companies must:

    • Have operations and employees based in Texas;
    • Share a demonstrated commitment to conservation & sustainability;
    • Showcase tangible efforts, impact, and data in conservation;
    • NOT be a conservation-based nonprofit (501c3).
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