Natural resource stewardship and a love for the Texas Hill Country are at the center of the Bennett endowment and an upcoming conference.
“This is the first endowment ever left directly to AgriLife Extension,” said Dr. Larry Redmon, AgriLife Extension state forage specialist in College Station. “We are excited about helping landowners protect their piece of Texas. In doing so, we believe other parts of the state will also benefit.”
Redmon, who has been given a new title, Bennett Extension specialist, to go along with his new responsibilities of managing the trust, said AgriLife Extension is wasting no time putting the money to use with a Bennett Trust Land Stewardship program.
The first educational efforts to be made through the Bennett endowment will be the “Protecting the Legacy of the Edwards Plateau” conference, to be held April 23-25 in the Inn of the Hills Resort and Conference Center at Kerrville.
“The Bennetts loved their property located near Dripping Springs and were very interested in protecting the Edwards Plateau for generations to come,” Redmon said.
Dr. Rick Machen, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist from Uvalde, said the Kerrville conference will bring “the best and wisest, accomplished stewards, visionaries and legacy-leavers together as educators. Those with a passion for natural resource stewardship and a love for the Texas Hill Country will want to be there.”
The preliminary agenda for the first day includes discussions on recognition and management of encroaching plants, native tree health and care, water as wealth, and managing competition between wild and domestic herbivores.
Also on April 23, a workshop entitled “Retaining Your Piece of Texas – Creating/Sustaining a Heritage” will address issues related to estate planning and elder law.
Day two of the conference will provide attendees a chance to take one of three “behind the scenes” tours, Machen said.
Tour A, centered on natural resource stewardship, includes a visit to the historic Hillingdon Ranch in Kendall County, which has been in the same family for over 125 years. This tour features a pasture walk with Robin and Carol Giles and a demonstration of various types of equipment in brush management and how live oak wilt is combated.
“Robin is the grandson of the ranch’s founder, Alfred Giles, and he and Carol have a contagious passion for stewardship and conservation that provides environmental benefits for all Texans,” Redmon said.
Tour B visits sustainable vineyards, orchards and gardens in Fredericksburg and Gillespie County to provide a glimpse of essential elements for stewardship success.
Tour C will highlight wildlife management and the hunting industry in the Edwards Plateau, featuring landowners with a reputation for being good stewards of their wildlife resources, he said.
The final day of the event will feature insight on keeping a legacy alive by focusing on legacy threats such as water quantity, quality and emerging regulatory issues, Redmon said.
“Everyone involved in the planning process is excited about this event and what the Bennetts will enable us to do,” he said. “This will be a unique opportunity for all of us.
“Mr. Bennett loved the Edwards Plateau and left a legacy that will afford landowners and resource managers ongoing opportunities to acquire knowledge and sharpen their skills as responsible stewards of this unique and storied part of Texas,” he said. “The proceeds from the invested endowment will provide unparalleled private sector support for AgriLife Extension educational efforts in the region.”