Landowners and the Future of Conservation with Texas Wildlife Association

By Caitlin Tran

Tag Archive: TWA

  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.