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 and less water. It also stores more carbon.

“Ranchers know that they can manage their prairie more economically, and that their bottom line grows,” says Matthew Wagner, retired deputy director for the Wildlife Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He still serves as a kind of midwife for ranch owners trying to restore native grasses to their property. Right now, he’s helping restore the Weston Ranch near New Braunfels.

It hasn’t been an easy process, according to Wagner. First, the team has to clear the area, which has as many as 800 huisache trees per acre. These trees, also called sweet acacia, are widespread in South Texas, with small populations in Brazos and Travis counties. While they are native, they don’t facilitate the grassy landscape that Wagner and the ranch owner are trying to create.

Read more from Ellen Airhart with Texas Climate News here.