Efforts encouraging Texas ranchers to restore native grasses show promise

Efforts encouraging Texas ranchers to restore native grasses show promise

There aren’t many pastures with native grasses left in Texas. Instead there are invasive weeds like bermudagrass and Old World bluestem. Some Texas landowners and nonprofits are working together to change that. Restoring native grasslands takes years and is an arduous process. But the payout is significant, because when native flora returns, fauna are often not far behind. For example, bobwhite quail are popular and profitable as hunting game. Once a native grassland is established, it requires less weed control…

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J. David Bamberger on fifty years of coaxing his Blanco county ranch back to life

J. David Bamberger on fifty years of coaxing his Blanco county ranch back to life

On an overcast day in early February, J. David Bamberger charged down a trail at his ranch near Blanco, pointing out maples he’d planted more than a decade ago. The ninety-year-old land conservationist wanted to determine why the leaves of some of the trees turned orange last fall, while those on others became deep red or golden yellow. To collect the data he sought, he needed to clear the brush from around each maple. The former door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman…

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Texas on pace for worst wildfire year since 2011

Texas on pace for worst wildfire year since 2011

Last week, nearly 100 firefighters from across Texas loaded up and headed west to join thousands of colleagues in an extended battle against massive wildfires burning across Northern California, one of which has become the largest in that state’s history. While the fires raging in California have garnered national attention and help from fire departments across the country, Texas faces its own particularly severe year for wildfires. Texas is on pace to see the highest number of wildfires in the…

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Ecologist challenges the myths about Cedar, Texas’ most hated tree

Ecologist challenges the myths about Cedar, Texas’ most hated tree

Every year, cedar fever descends on Central Texas, and with it comes a deep-seated, Texas-sized hate for the mountain cedar. “Cedar fever is not just any allergy,” wrote Patricia Sharpe in a 1986 issue of Texas Monthly. “It’s a scourge, a plague that smites the just and the unjust who have the misfortune to live anywhere in a broad strip of Central Texas that stretches from the Red River to the Rio Grande.” But red eyes and a scratchy throat…

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The Hill Country Land Trust video: Managing Cedar

The Hill Country Land Trust video: Managing Cedar

The Hill Country Land Trust has released their second video in a series of videos on land management topics. This video takes a look at how best to utilize and control Ashe Juniper (Cedar trees). Many landowners are concerned about juniper’s ability to overwhelm their property, but instead of clear-cutting and total elimination, viewers are invited to consider a different approach to managing this plant. Learn More: Download a pdf of more detailed guidelines – Managing Ash Juniper.pdf View a…

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STEVE NELLE: Misunderstood mesquite

A great deal of myth, misinformation and folklore surrounds mesquite ? the most common and most unpopular tree in West Texas. For decades, this attractive native tree has been maligned, abused and misunderstood. Yet mesquite survives and thrives, even in the midst of persistent drought and massive human efforts to eradicate it. The most pervasive myth about mesquite is that it uses exorbitant amounts of water and is responsible for the drying of aquifers, springs, creeks and rivers. Common sense,…

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Saltcedar not the suck-up it once was thought to be

Saltcedar not the suck-up it once was thought to be

FORT STOCKTON — Saltcedar, an introduced species choking many Texas waterways, long has been a prime suspect in dwindling streamflows, but a Texas A&M AgriLife team has found that Tamarix, the plant in question, may have been accused falsely of that specific crime. Alyson McDonald, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service range specialist in Fort Stockton, said saltcedar probably was introduced into the U.S. as an ornamental shrub and windbreak plant in the early 1800s. The tree, any of several species…

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The Changing Science of Brush Control for Water Yield

While it was once widely assumed that heavy brush like cedar was keeping rainwater from recharging our streams and groundwater systems, science seems to indicate that it’s not quite that simple. When done with care and an eye toward restoration, brush control can be beneficial to ecosystem health. Just be realistic about the likelihood that it will fill your stream or stock pond. Read more from Texas Wildlife Magazine.

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Can brush control program enhance water supplies?

“A state program meant to encourage old-school range management and new-school water saving methods has become the subject of a peculiarly Texas controversy. The State Soil and Water Conservation Board will decide Monday how to disburse millions of dollars to clear brush from ranches in the name of boosting water supplies. Money has already been set aside for projects to begin this summer.” Read more from Asher Price at Statesman.com.

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The Great Grassland Myth of the Texas Hill Country

How many times have you heard that the Hill Country was once a great vast grassland with only a modest covering of trees and brush? Although this longstanding myth is deeply ingrained and embraced by many government agencies, biologists, landowners and professionals, it is false and misleading. Learn what the Hill Country was really like prior to 1860 from eye-witness accounts, and why it is important to understand the past. Read and share from Steve Nelle.

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