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 and fried-chicken mogul jokes that it’s his latest in a long line of projects: Free the Trees.

Half a century ago, Bamberger, who made his fortune as an executive at Church’s Chicken, bought what he saw as the most worn-out expanse of ranchland in Blanco County. He removed introduced species, planted native grasses, and nurtured the property, slowly bringing the dry, eroded land back to life. Today Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve comprises 5,500 acres of lush waving grasses, flowing creeks, and rolling Hill Country landscape. It serves as an example of success in land conservation circles. Students visit to learn about nature or participate in studies, and landowners attend workshops to study land stewardship. We spoke to Bamberger as the ranch celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year.

Read more from Pam LeBlanc with Texas Monthly here.