Texas conservation nonprofit Texan by Nature has named its picks for conservation projects for 2021, which include water, pine trees, birds — and horned lizards in San Antonio.
Texan by Nature (TxN) is a group founded by former First Lady Laura Bush that partners with conservation groups and businesses, acting as an accelerator for conservation groups and a strategic partner for businesses. Their projects and programs include Conservation Wrangler, TxN Certification, Symposia Series, and TxN 20.
Conservation Wrangler is its accelerator program to catalyze the best conservation projects in Texas. Selected projects are science-based and demonstrate a positive return for people, prosperity, and natural resources.
"This year’s Conservation Wrangler applications were incredibly impressive and represented a wide range of focus areas and geographies," says Joni Carswell, president and CEO of TxN. "In addition to natural resource benefits, the projects represented collaborative, wide-ranging partnerships and new opportunities for delivering and measuring impact. Our work with the selected projects will expand conservation efforts and results across Texas. We look forward to sharing Conservation Wrangler learnings, best practices, and opportunities to participate in and scale conservation efforts and returns."
This set of projects impacts land, water, habitat, and more, representing the vast ecological diversity of Texas. They'll be recognized on November 3 at the George W. Bush Presidential Center at the annual Conservation Summit.
The selected 2021 Conservation Wranglers include:
San Antonio Zoo — Texas Horned Lizard Reintroduction Project
Since the late 1960s, horned lizard populations have declined or disappeared in many areas due to loss of habitat, the introduction of exotic grasses, fire ants, and pesticide use. This species was added to the state list of threatened species in 1977 and was adopted as the Texas state reptile in 1993. Private landowners, working alongside SA Zoo biologists, are implementing landscape management practices that benefit the Texas horned lizard, even hoping to eventually establish a climate-controlled "lizard factory" to help maintain a robust Texas horned lizard population. The San Antonio Zoo was the subject of a lawsuit, due to its confinement of a lonely solo elephant, Lucky; they finally adopted two more elephants in 2018.
Texas Water Trade— Restoring Comanche Springs
Texas Water Trade (TWT) was founded with the mission to harness the power of markets and technological innovation to build a future of clean, flowing water for all Texans. That includes their effort to restore Comanche Springs in Fort Stockton. Once known as the Spring City of Texas, Fort Stockton’s 30-million-gallon-a-day spring has not flowed reliably since groundwater pumping accelerated in the 1950s. TWT and partners are creating a pilot market for a restoration of the spring.
Texas Longleaf Implementation Team — Expanding Longleaf Ecosystem Restoration in Texas
The Texas Longleaf Implementation Team was created to establish and restore upland and wetland longleaf pine savannas. Of former longleaf pine landscapes, less than 3 percent remains of the Southeastern landscape and only 2 percent of the original 3 million acres remains in East Texas. Longleaf pine communities are essential for migratory birds, resident wildlife, and a host of rare and endemic plants and animals. Sound stewardship of longleaf pine forests can generate income through forestry products, hunting and recreational leases, carbon trading, and other mitigation programs.
Audubon Texas— Matagorda Bay Rookery Island Conservation
Audubon Texas, a state program of the National Audubon Society, has been active across Texas and on the coast since 1923. The agency manages 177 islands along the Texas coast, including 12 islands within Matagorda and San Antonio Bays. Matagorda Bay is a priority because it is home to iconic bird species such as the Roseate Spoonbill and the Brown Pelican. Constructed from dredge spoils in 1962, Chester Island, a 73-acre rookery island in Matagorda Bay, hosts around 20,000 breeding pairs of at least 18 species every year. The agency plans to partner with local communities, businesses, and industry partners to expand constructed habitat and awareness of bird conservation efforts.
All four groups will receive 12-18 months of support and resources including:
- Promotion via social media, newsletters, blogs, website
- Content production in the form of videos, collateral, and messaging
- Program management and impact reporting
- Connections to technical, expert, and industry support
- Recognition and participation in annual Conservation Summit & Celebration
Last year’s Conservation Wranglers included Exploration Green, Texas Brigades, Texas Children in Nature Network, Paso Del Norte Trail, Respect Big Bend Coalition, and Trinity River Crew.
"Each year, Texan by Nature selects innovative projects that demonstrate replicable conservation efforts in our state," Mrs. Bush says in a statement. "The Conservation Wrangler program proves that conservation is essential for the health of our natural resources, our people, and our economy. Congratulations to the 2021 Conservation Wranglers, and thank you for the terrific example you’ve set for all Texans."