What Makes Me Texan By Nature: Estela Lopez

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  1. 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.














  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. TxN 20 Highlights — Municipal Services

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    2022 TxN 20: Texan-led leadership in conservation for a sustainable future in Municipal Services.

    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 keep Texas running: Agriculture, Architecture, Financial Services, Food, Beverage, & Grocery,Technology, Energy, Healthcare, Municipal Services, Retail, Transportation, and Construction & Manufacturing. 

    Meet the 2022 TxN 20  Honorees leading sustainability in Municipal Services: City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD).

    $1.2 million invested in expanding recycling to parks citywide2022 Honoree City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department

    Who is the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department?

    The Austin Parks and Recreation Department has been the steward of the City of Austin’s public lands since 1928.  As such, they protect and maintain parkland and urban forest. Austin PARD preserve trails, and offer a variety of sports, recreation, educational enrichment, arts programs, cultural opportunities, nature and aquatic activities.

    How the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department sets the standard

    Austin PARD demonstrates that individual efforts can make a big impact: two staff members of the Austin Nature and Science Center sheltered at the center during Winter Storm Uri to care for the wildlife. Because of their dedication, 100 animals were protected during Winter Storm Uri and suffered no significant impacts due to the storm or stress. From wildlife to waste disposal, Austin Parks and Recreation Department’s  Recycling Implementation Plan has invested $1.2 million in expanding recycling to parks citywide by installing landfill and recycling receptacles as paired units on concrete pads with two-way dome lids and clear labels in English and Spanish. PARD Forestry recycles all debris from its tree maintenance program. Once a month, Austin residents can take home free logs from trees that have been removed from the parkland for safety reasons resulting in 980 tons of brush and 80 tons of wood recycled annually.

    Why Forward Thinking Leaders in Municipal Services Matter

    Leadership in environmental sustainability from Municipal Services makes it possible to take care of the places we call home. With a state recycling rate of 22%, below the national average, the efforts of the City of Austin PARD to expand recycling are essential to close the gap in responsible waste disposal in Texas. Austin PARD’s innovative stewardship of urban forests, which provide ecosystem services like erosion control and improved air quality, engages the community with circularity by offering free firewood from landscape management.

    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 agriculture industry.

    Industry Innovator: Waste Connections

    Waste Connections is a waste disposal company that offers recycling and trash pickup as well as special and hazardous waste disposal. The company has demonstrated its commitment to sustainability by outlining a 15 year sustainability target plan and allocating $500 million to achieve the plan’s goals. Waste Connections has also installed 50 gas recovery systems to capture methane gas from landfills, reducing air pollution, and 28 of those gas recovery systems power homes and businesses in the surrounding areas.  

    Industry Innovator: City of San Marcos

    The City of San Marcos is known for its natural beauty and resources, which are stewarded by city management. The City of San Marcos offers its citizens incentives to be more sustainable, including rebates for solar energy and rainwater harvesting. San Marcos also manages the Community Forestry Program, which maintains and restores urban forest ecosystems on over 2004 acres.  

    Industry Innovator: Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center

    Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio sets a statewide example by incorporating sustainability into all their event operations. Trash bags at the convention center are 100% biodegradable and recycling bags are 100% recyclable. The center also uses only Green Seal Certified cleaning products and has invested in energy efficiency by installing solar thermal film on all windows.

    Get Involved:

    Is your company at the forefront of sustainability in Texas? Share your work with Texan by Nature by submitting Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) data that showcases how your company benefits people, prosperity, and natural resources to 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).
  6. TxN20 Industry Highlights — Healthcare

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    2022 TxN 20: Texan-led leadership in conservation for a sustainable future in Healthcare.

    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. 

    Providing Care for Our Environment, the Texas Company Diverting 9,000 lbs of Single-Use Medical Devices – 2022 Honoree: Texas Health Resources

    Who is Texas Health Resources?

    Texas Health Resources is a large Arlington-headquartered health services system that serves much of North Texas and is one of the biggest providers in the country. Their impact extends far beyond human health toward the environment that supports us. Not only did they divert 9,000 pounds of single-use medical devices from landfills, but Texas Health Resources recycled 2 million pounds of materials, such as cardboard, paper, and plastics, and saved 4.1 million kilowatts of energy. 

    The Texas Health Resources Community is able to operate through a variety of roles, including 370 employees that are involved in conservation. Employees in Engineering, Plant Operations, Facilities Management, and Supply Chain Management – work in roles that are tied to the conservation of natural resources. Approximately 20% of those employees have roles involving significant investment in and oversight of building automation systems and other efficiency-related technologies, processes, sourcing, products, and usages.

    Outside of their organization, Texas Health’s Blue Zones Project® Fort Worth (BZP) works with the city of Fort Worth, area school districts, and numerous other city and county governments and community partners to increase health and well-being through a multitude of efforts. From instituting policies that promote well-being to encouraging local schools, businesses, restaurants, and community leaders to adopt healthy behaviors.

    Why Forward-Thinking Leaders in Healthcare Matter

    Healthcare matters for the millions of Texans who rely on the industry to provide quality care and support for themselves and their loved ones. In Texas, eight of the 25 largest employers are related to the medical industry as a hospital or place of research. The Dallas-Fort Worth area has a healthcare industry valued at $52 billion and in San Antonio, one out of every six Texans is employed in healthcare-related jobs and careers. These providers recognize the benefits of a healthy environment on community health and lead the way in advancing conservation through greater resource efficiency and sustainable supply chain strategy while maintaining high-quality care. 

    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 agriculture industry.

    Industry Innovator: Alcon

    The American-Swiss company Alcon specializes in eye care products that help improve their clients’ vision. In 2020, they certified ~95% of manufacturing sites to ISO 14001, making it a standardized environmental management system, with a goal of 100% certification in 2021. Alcon implemented a Zero Manufacturing Waste policy, with ~60% of sites 100% landfill-free for non-hazardous waste disposal. 

    Industry Innovator: AmerisourceBergen

    The Pennsylvania-based AmerisourceBergen strives to provide pharmaceutical products, value-driving services, and business solutions that improve access to care. In 2021, they committed to setting a science-based target in line with the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi) guidance. They reduced greenhouse gas emissions by using hybrid vans to deliver medicines and medical products to Alliance Healthcare customers as well as adding an electric vehicle to their animal health fleet in the U.K. 

    Industry Innovator: Johnson & Johnson

    The New Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnson believes that good health is the foundation of vibrant lives which is why its mission is to keep people healthy at every stage of life. In 2021, they had a 34% reduction in CO2 emissions in 2016. Johnson & Johnson also added on-site solar arrays at their facilities in China, Columbia, South Africa, and Thailand. 

    Get Involved:

    Is your company at the forefront of sustainability in Texas? Share your work with Texan by Nature by submitting Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) data that showcases how your company benefits people, prosperity, and natural resources to 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).
  7. TenXTen: Hike Ten Texas Ecoregions

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    The Lonestar State is not only big, it’s diverse: Texas is made up of 10 ecoregions that range from the arid High Plains to the lush Gulf Coast. How many ecoregions of Texas have you explored? Whether you’re a seasoned Texas traveler or new to the state, TenXTen highlights hikes from each ecoregion of Texas for inspiration about where to explore. 

    Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Photo: Houston Zoo

    1. The Piney Woods – El Camino Real de los Tejas: Mission Tejas State Park near Grapeland displays the state’s natural and social history on the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail. Hike in the shade of towering longleaf and loblolly pine forests that provide habitat for endangered species like the Red Cockaded Woodpecker, and pay a visit to the site of the first Spanish mission in Texas, Mission San Francisco de los Tejas, established in 1690. To get involved with conservation in the Piney Woods region, follow @texaslongleaf

    Great Egret, Photo: Mark Doing

    2. Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes – Heron’s Walk Trail: Galveston Island State Park offers many different habitat types to explore, from dunes to grasslands and from freshwater to bayside habitats. The Heron’s Walk Trail goes through the bayous, marshes, and salt flats that make this region so unique, offering hikers the chance to see wading birds like herons, cranes, and egrets. At 1.4 miles round trip, the Heron’s Walk Trail leaves time and energy to explore the park’s freshwater ponds, a popular hangout for alligators.

    3. Post-Oak Savannah – Lake Fayette Trail: Historically dominated by oaks, the Post Oak Savannah ecoregion was shaped by wildfires and bison migration. As conditions changed, the ecoregion’s flora and fauna shifted to include cedar elm and sugarberry, which hikers can enjoy just outside of Fayetteville at the Lake Fayette Trail. This trail connects several parks along the lake shore, affording the opportunity to see wildlife like Armadillos and a variety of native Texas birds.

    Post Oak Savannah


    4. The Blackland Prairies- Connemara Meadow Nature Preserve: Texas is home to the endangered Blackland Prairie ecosystem, only 1% of which is intact globally. The Connemara Meadow Nature Preserve outside Allen is one place to see preserved and restored Blackland Prairie habitat and the wildlife that its rich variety of soils supports. 

    Check out Connemara’s network of trails to see flora and fauna like the Texas state bird the Northern Mockingbird, Blazing Star wildflowers, and raccoon relative the ringtail, and more which you can identify with this field guide from the North Texas Master Naturalists.

    Photo: LLELA


    5. The Cross Timbers- Bittern Marsh Trail: The Cross Timbers ecoregion contrasts the grassy expanse of nearby prairie habitat with its forests of blackjack and post oaks. The trail network at Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA) is a great place to see the mixed wetland and forest habitat of the ecoregion. LLELA includes the Bittern Marsh Trail, which starts at the shore of Lewisville Lake and takes hikers through a hardwood forest to a marsh. Wetland animals hikers are likely to see include frogs, turtles, Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, and ducks.

    6. The South Texas Plains – Estero Llano Grande Trail: Rare plants like the black lace cactus and regional species like the Rio Grande Frog can be found in the South Texas Plains ecoregion. 

    Rio Grande Frog, Photo: Don Champlin

    Scout for these natural beauties and more at Estero Llano State Park, where you can also visit a World Birding Center location for field guides and birding information. At certain times of the year, you can see colorful migratory birds like the Roseate Spoonbill alongside the thorny beauty of cactus and mesquite.

    7. The Edwards Plateau- Flint Rock Loop Trail : The Edwards Plateau region is famous for its rocky limestone terrain, creeks and rivers, and sweeping Hill Country views. These are prominent features of the Flint Rock Loop Trail at McKinney Falls State Park. This moderate trail takes hikers across Onion creek and into a forested area, and leaves time and energy to enjoy the park’s waterfalls, swimming, and fishing.


    McKinney Falls, Photo: Jim Nix, Nomadic Pursuits

    8. The Rolling Plains- River Bend Nature Center: The spacious geography of The Rolling Plains provides views of wide open spaces and a variety of habitats for native Texas species like the prairie dog and Bobwhite Quail.

    Prairie Dogs, Photo: River Bend Nature Center

    River Bend Nature Center in Wichita Falls offers trails through its 15 acres of preserved forest and wetland habitat, a live butterfly enclosure, and the Ruby N. Priddy Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, where visitors can see over 100 native species in recreated Rolling Plains ecosystems.

    9. The High Plains – Rock Gardens Trail: While Palo Duro Canyon is known for the iconic Lighthouse rock formation at the end of the Lighthouse Trail, the canyon has more than one rock worth seeing.

    The Rock Gardens Trail gets its name from the boulders scattered over nearby hillsides where lizards and snakes enjoy basking, and this trail takes hikers to the rim of the canyon for a spectacular overview of the country’s second-largest canyon.

    10. The Trans-Pecos- Paso del Norte Trail: As part of the Chihuahua Desert, the Trans-Pecos region is distinctive in its landscape and ecology. Spanning 68 miles, The Paso del Norte Trail puts the region’s desert landscape and wildlife like Burrowing Owls on display, and benefits the binational community of El Paso through access to biking and hiking trails as well as paved trails through urban sections.

    The ten Texas ecoregions support a biodiverse state flora and fauna population and offer something for everyone to connect with through exploration and conservation. Where will you start? 


  8. Lights Out Texas 2022 Spring Recap Blog

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    Lights Out Texas is a campaign of education, awareness, and action that focuses on turning out lights at night during the Spring and Fall migrations to help protect the billions of migratory birds that fly over Texas annually. The goal of Lights Out Texas is to reduce migratory bird mortality by increasing statewide participation at the business, local official, municipal, and community levels, as well as collecting and reporting data.

    This effort was originally launched in 2017 by Houston Audubon and American National Insurance Company following a major bird collision event involving 400 birds in Galveston. Right around this time, Cornell Lab of Ornithology developed their BirdCast migration forecast maps using historical radar data. Later, Lights Out Texas took hold in Dallas-Fort Worth, led by Texas Conservation Alliance, The Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and Dallas Zoo with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Colorado State University supporting efforts and Texan by Nature helping with outreach in Fall 2020. Throughout 2021, Texan by Nature (TxN) collaborated with these leading organizations to facilitate Lights Out Texas at the statewide level in order to standardize the approach to messaging, communication, and volunteer efforts across all Texas organizations. In 2022, the management of Lights Out Texas for Spring of 2022 was co-facilitated by Texan by Nature and Audubon Texas, with a total transition of the statewide initiative to Audubon Texas in the Summer of 2022.

    As fall bird migration quickly approaches, please save the date for going lights out at night:

    • Full Fall Migration Period: August 15 – November 30
    • Critical Peak Migration Period: September 5 – October 29

    We hope you will join us in turning out lights at night from 11 pm to 6 am throughout fall migration and celebrate the success from spring bird migration below.

    Spring 2022 Lights Out Texas Campaign by the Numbers

    • Social media and outreach toolkits were distributed to 115+ conservation organizations across Texas.Outreach to media outlets resulted in  67 earned media placements receiving 680,846,200 impressions.
    •  627 earned social media posts reached 9,055,537 accounts, receiving 51,823 likes/reactions and 8,419 shares.
    • Through email outreach efforts, 800+ businesses operating in Texas were targeted with Lights Out Texas messaging and 57 businesses confirmed participation in turning out lights at night for migrating birds.
    • 11 cities and 2 counties made proclamations.
    • Individuals, municipalities, and businesses made 440 Lights Out Texas pledges through Texas Conservation Alliance’s Lights Out for Wildlife Certification, and an additional 299 pledges were made with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
    • Four organizations conducted on-the-ground volunteer efforts to understand bird-building collisions, 124 people contributed 1,212 volunteer hours and documented 362 bird casualties.

    Media Highlights

    Check out these social media posts, quotes, and articles featuring Lights Out Texas from this past spring.

    City of Dallas Proclamation- Mayor Johnson: On Earth Day, Mayor Johnson proclaims ‘Lights Out Nights’ in Dallas to help migratory birds,” was featured on medium.com  

    Conservation Organizations

    Conservation organizations across Texas conducted volunteer efforts in conjunction with Lights Out Texas to better understand bird-building collisions and bird-migration dynamics. Texas A&M University, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Oklahoma State University, Texan by Nature, Houston Audubon, Texas Conservation Alliance, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and Travis Audubon collaborated to develop standardized volunteer guides and training videos to guide statewide efforts.

    Municipal Participation

    Eleven cities and two counties across Texas made Lights Out Texas proclamations:

    • City of Austin* (Spring 2022)
    • City of Buda (Spring 2022)
    • City of Dallas* (Spring 2022)
    • City of Dripping Springs* (Perpetually) 
    • City of Fort Worth* (Spring 2022)
    • City of Houston (Spring 2022)
    • City of Kyle (Spring 2022)
    • League City Texas (Spring 2022)
    • City of San Marcos (Spring 2022)
    • City of Wimberly (Spring 2022)
    • City of Woodcreek (Spring 2022)
    • Hays County (Spring 2022) 
    • Travis County* (Spring 2022)

    *These cities made proclamations in Fall 2021 as well.

    Texas Conservation Alliance Volunteers

    Thank You!

    A special thank you to Heather Prestridge, Curator, Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collections, Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology at Texas A&M University for providing support, expertise, and expediting permits and sub permits needed for volunteers to collect specimens and to Tania Homayoun, Ph.D, Texas Nature Trackers Biologist at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for support, expertise, and for creating an iNaturalist project for Lights Out Texas.

    A big thank you goes out to the following organizations that made Lights Out Texas possible for the 2021 Spring campaign:

    Lights Out Texas Founding and Coordinating Organizations

    Lights Out Texas Supporting Organizations


    Houston & Gulf Coast

    Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex

    San Antonio

    West Texas



    Learn More

    In 2022, the management of Lights Out Texas for Spring of 2022 was co-facilitated by Texan by Nature and Audubon Texas, with a total transition of the statewide initiative to Audubon Texas in the Summer of 2022. Learn more and see the latest Lights Out Texas Resources at tx.audubon.org/urbanconservation/lights-out-texas 

  9. What Makes Me Texan by Nature – Ella Ip

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    By Ella Ip, Texan by Nature Intern 

    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.