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Winter 2015 Volume 13, Issue 1

Protecting the Views You Love, For All, Forever...

Pines and Prairies Land Trust The mission of Pines and Prairies Land Trust is to protect natural and cultural resources and promote sustainable agriculture through education and preservation of open space in Central Texas.

On a Cold December Morning


lbert Pecore did not get where he is today by fortuitous accident; he nurtures a 196 acre spread on choice Fayette County ranchland, rich in native pastures, water features and a prime example of nature’s

munificence. Hidden away in this natural wonder is a farm house like no other. . .starched white, multileveled, immaculate and uniquely his own design. You see, Albert is a man of vision—a retired architect. Over the decades he and his wife Wilda have carefully planned and sculpted the property to be as free and natural as it once was over a century ago—before the plows and cash crops and over-grazed plunder that so often robs our land of its natural wealth. Central to those plans is a timeless conservation easement through Pines and Prairies Land Trust; on this chilly December day, it was time for the annual site monitoring visit. David Vogel and Cristin

by Larry Gfeller

Embree are the PPLT board members conducting this visit; we start by climbing two flights of outside steps to the upstairs living room. First David catches up on recent history. . .what has been

accomplished since last year’s visit (as a member of the PPLT Land Committee, David has conducted each monitoring visit from the beginning). Then Cristin, a professional archeologist, inquires about the old foundation she noticed not far from the house (remnants of the Emil Schlabach homestead), pointing out that it appeared on her map as an historic feature. She notes it can be protected by a preservation easement, if the Pecores decide to add it, and she urges them to consider it. Preservation easements are conservation easements that protect properties that have historic, architectural, or

archeological significance. Preserving the past helps define the present, a truism Albert already appreciates. Before departing to examine the property, Wilda provides a tour of their unusual home, stopping first to tenderly set a vinyl record on an antique record player— warm, joyful Christmas music fills the house. The home stands two stories tall with living areas interconnected by windowed hallways and internal stairs on the south end; from the side view, it evokes the letter “H.” A majority of the living space, be it elevated or ground floor, opens to spacious verandas overlooking the property to the east and west. On the upper east-facing portico stands a spotting scope on a tripod—Albert is intrigued by

hawks. The home is clearly a labor of love that can only be described as singular and refined. He designed and partially built it himself. We are accompanied by the family dog, Macy, a bouncy, playful spirit of energy. On the ground level, there is a completely self-contained apartment—perfect for visiting guests and family. Across a stone patio on the east side lies another separate living space, complete with washer/dryer, bathroom, kitchen and generous windows. Macy is not allowed in this room; it is permanent refuge for Charlie and Shelby Texas (two lounging felines)—the family cats. It will not be Macy’s only disappointment of the day. Continued on Page 3

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Priscilla Jarvis Flies Away The sky presented itself as pink and misty and cut by bars, there came over the muggy air the sound of birdsong, their voices naturally swelling like shoppers gathering at a busy market. Slowly the sunrise began to rain down between the trees. It was the spring Yegua Knobbs Field Day and Bird Census. Priscilla Jarvis had already set up shop, her table ready to receive visitors and record results. Even though she has decided to leave the PPLT Board of Directors after twelve years of service, chances are every spring for years to come, you can find her there. You see, Priscilla has a special relationship with birds and a special place in her heart for this particular piece of PPLT property. Priscilla has been a dedicated conservationist ever since her childhood in Amarillo. She didn’t know it then, as her family struggled through the “dust bowl” 1950s in the Texas panhandle, but the realization that fresh water resources are relatively fixed—that there is no

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by Larry Gfeller

“new” water—opened her eyes to the delicate harmony of nature. Her love of birds came later,

but it was that fondness which eventually connected her to Joan Russell—two visionaries wedded to the land. Shortly thereafter, PPLT was founded and Priscilla began to soar. Nurturing a new entity necessarily means serving as a jack-of-all-trades and Priscilla’s enthusiasm spilled over onto all aspects of her tenure, be it acquisition of land and conservation easements, site visits or bio-surveys. She worked tirelessly on the Yegua Knobbs and Colorado River Refuge procurement, two properties of significant conservation value that remain portfolio highlights

to this day. Building success is not accidental; it demands living in the belly of the beast, elbow grease and the will to act. Priscilla earned her reputation as a vital cog in the machinery of board decisionmaking, drawing on a wide palette of wellgrounded service. She has tracked membership, helped publish the newsletter, solicited donations, maintained databases, wrote thank-you notes— the grunt work that drives day-to-day progress. A proven leader, she served as board Secretary, Membership Committee chair and provocateur, offering a bold matching challenge in the recent successful public fund raiser. She has been a generous financial supporter of PPLT. “I was involved in many PPLT activities, all enjoyable,” she says. But now it’s time to concentrate on quieter, more personalized pursuits. She will be spending time tending to her own property, 14 acres just outside Elgin, and giving more attention to her best friend—Bob the Dog, a playful “Bluespanweiler” who also relishes the outdoors. Stepping down from PPLT

is one plank in a bridge she is building to a more private, focused future. As president of the Bastrop County Audubon Society, Priscilla will still have her hand in conservation efforts, but a new moon rises bright in the sky. Most of her days will now be filled with personal pursuits—you know, the kind of things that enrich, stimulate, make you smile. Spending time with friends, reading, birding, working out at the gym and traveling—these activities move to the top of the list. Art and cultural activities are also vital to the plan: Austin Opera, Ballet Austin, Blanton Museum of Art, Zach Scott Theater, Gilbert and Sullivan Society. . .well, you get the idea. And what message does she have for those she leaves behind? “Stay dedicated to preserving land. You make a difference!” As this perky, upbeat, optimistic lady now takes wing to fly in a different direction...we feel her absence, like a missing limb. Fly high with a song in your heart, Priscilla, as a stripe of incandescent sky burns beneath!

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Con’t from Page 1 We gather by the barn and prepare to tour the property. Everyone piles into Albert’s 4wheel drive Kawasaki, making it look like one of those thirdworld busses—packed in and over peopled. This is when Macy insists she also can fit, only to be disillusioned. She is so eager to go she has to be removed several times. At the final call, she is restrained on a stationary leash. . .as we pull away, she emotes a sorrowful look, as if considering her own bill of divorce. Albert is an engaged and fervent guide, “I stopped making hay on this property fifteen years ago.” With a steady hand, he steers us around obstacles and through the savannah. As we negotiate the sprawling acreage, the conservation value of the land becomes apparent. . .an immense man-made pond, a section of riparian habitat and 38 acres of coppery native little bluestem singing in the December wind, part of which was recently restored. There are traditional intruders, like king ranch bluestem, johnsongrass and yaupon, but the native grasses dominate, summoning visions of sweeping blackland prairie, natural and undisturbed. In the distance, you can almost see the buffalo graze. Albert has invested significant effort in learning his grasses, pointing out indiangrass, little bluestem, switchgrass, plains bristlegrass, prairie wildrye and eastern gammagrass as we roll along. He’s particularly fond of new discoveries of big bluestem, stopping to cut samples for closer study. He

has even begun his own native grass nursery, transplanting specimens he has picked up along roadsides, ditches and easements. Albert has put down chicken wire to protect the tender roots from encroaching armadillos. The nursery appears to be thriving, even during the dormant season. Ever the gracious hostess, Wilda is our official gatekeeper today. As we snake our way around, she opens and closes the substantial gates that protect each parcel of property (there are sixteen separate permanent pastures). As we methodically run each fence line, Albert points out his efforts to plant

Aside from his delight in native grasses, Albert is busy with other aspects of good stewardship. As we lurch and roll along, he points out brush piles and cut cedar—one job he does contract out—keeping some to benefit wildlife, burning others. He has introduced native pecan trees, closely monitors rainfall amounts, watches changes in the water table, manages erosion, and runs a small herd of cattle. Having tried just about every method once, Albert believes in “pulse grazing.” Instead of dispersing his small herd broadly over the property, he intensely grazes different sec-

acre per year. That nets out to probably be better than many farmers do running small herds or growing small cash crops,” he explains. Albert has three sons. He discussed entering his property into an over- arching perpetual conservation easement with all of them beforehand. They heartily agreed— preserving and protecting the land was important to them too. “How has it been, working with Pines and Prairies Land Trust,” I asked him. “It’s been a good experience,” he replied. “I signed up with PPLT in 2007. . .we’ve been learning together ever since.” So David made his notes, complemented the Percores on their efforts and thanked them for their hospitality. Macy had already forgotten her earlier disappointments. Shortly, we were loaded up and ready to go.

Albert and David

native grasses where they don’t occur in sufficient abundance. “With the help and expertise of the Wildlife Habitat Federation a blend of native grass seeds were drilled into pastures in need of rejuvenation,” he exclaimed. The work is year round: if not planting or transplanting grasses or maintaining a pristine fence line, he keeps a regimen of planting cool season rye and legumes in pastures that have not been converted to native grass. Albert and Wilda do this work without outside assistance.

tions, moving the animals frequently—just like the buffalo did. During a private moment, while getting a closer look at his riparian area, I ask Albert why he is doing all this. “After purchasing the property in the 1950s, I never did intend to farm. I started with cattle and a riparian easement. I bet most of the farmers in Fayette County have never put pencil to paper regarding riparian easements. The federal government pays me $50 per

In three hours we had witnessed what happens when man and nature cooperate. It used to be a mutual necessity, when the land provided life itself. Now, in this age of smart phones, Internet and international marketing agreements, technology has set us free and blurred our primordial connection with the land. The majority of Texas is privately owned. Although our relationship with the land may have changed, the truth has not. We still need each other. Only through enlightened landowners—like the Pecores— can we restore this vital connection.

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Meet Cristin Embree This past November, Cristin Embree joined the PPLT board. She is a registered professional Archaeologist with an M.A. in Anthropology. She is currently self-employed as a ceramic consultant and cultural resource manager. Besides volunteering with PPLT, Cristin is also working with a team of archaeologists, historians and preservation professionals to develop a non-profit organization that works in partnership with educational institutions, regional centers, cultural establishments, community organizations and cultural resources management firms to promote and facilitate the stewardship, public appreciation, and value of archaeological heritage. Not only that

(and what a mouthful!), she has two small children and she and her husband live in a historic home in Elgin. PPLT is excited about the opportunities and expertise Cristin will bring to the organization. She will certainly help us beef up our cultural resources inventories, advise us on projects on our preserves and hopefully bring an educational program through PPLT to the public. We are also considering how we can better protect cultural resources through current and future conservation easements. Cristin’s expertise in management and fundraising will also bring much needed skills and we are looking forward to utilizing them for our first annual fall fundraiser! Stay tuned for details.

Cristin Embree (rt) and Wilda Pecore at the recent monitoring visit on the Pecore’s farm.

Special Thanks to the Following Donors Benefactors


Priscilla Jarvis Ken Meyer, Texas Aggregates, LLC Melissa Cole in Memory of Mike Reusing The Weatherspoon Charitable Foundation

Jon Beall Don Chapman Frank and Elizabeth Evans Brush Freeman Joan Hardy Burgess Jackson James Jeffries Harold Kutsche Cynthia Leigh Ronald and Susan Martin Robert McCurdy Willie Pina Louise Ridlon

Partners Rachelle and John Cyrier Marsha Elrod Dave McMurry Ellen Prediger Liz Pullman Monte Williams Miriam and Robert Vaughn

Welcome John Hart Asher II


by Larry Gfeller the University of Texas, Austin.

ohn Hart Asher II loves tallgrass prairies—the kind we used to have pushing up from Mexico, plunging through the fertile midsection of our nation and rolling on into Canada. That great endless sea of blond is now all but gone, replaced by urban centers, highways, pipelines and agricultural cash crops. It’s John’s job to help bring them back. As one of our newest PPLT board members, John works as an environmental designer for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. His main focus: prairie restoration. You can see his work along an 8-mile stretch of the San Antonio River, at the George W. Bush Presidential Center Prairie and among native green roof projects around central Texas. Oh yes, he also serves as an adjunct professor for the school of architecture at

John Hart lives in Austin with his wife, Bonnie Evridge, and their 1-year old son, Adler. Bonnie works for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality— which means life runs at warp speed in the Asher home these days. Bonnie and Adler are native Texans; John hails originally from Jackson, Mississippi. After finishing his undergraduate work at the University of Mississippi and completing a master’s degree in underwater archeology from East Carolina University, John Hart came to Austin in 2004 to pick up another master’s degree—this time in landscape architecture. He’s is no stranger to volunteer work, having served as a grant award juror for Keep Austin Beautiful and given his time last year to advising the design of a YMCA community garden in northeast Austin. He enjoys

Joan Russell Carita Simons Rob and Holly Sutherland Jeff and Debra Wahrmund Kunda Wicce Kathleen Wolfington

Thank you! working in his yard, his pocket prairie and gardening. Board members take note: when the weekend work is done, his reward is smoking all kinds of meat (to perfection) on his backyard grill—a skill that should be put to the test at our earliest convenience! PPLT’s Maria Alonso recruited John to join the Board of Directors. John is happy to be here and happier still when seeding a prairie or setting it afire. As for his function on the board, John Hart’s keeping his options open, but he admits a natural attraction to the Land Committee, for reasons that should now be obvious. He says, “. . .the eastern Texas area feels like home and I am excited to help create more restoration areas for future generations. . .the plain and simple truth is that healthy ecosystems benefit people as well as fauna and we can all enjoy the benefits of restoration and conservation efforts.” Thank you, Maria. Welcome, John!

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Letter from the President: Smitty Covey I had planned to quietly "ride into the sunset" and continue my pursuit of a relaxed retirement, but alas, since our last newsletter I have been persuaded to continue one more year as President of Pines and Prairies Land Trust. I thank our talented Board of Directors for their trust in me and promise to continue to strive for continued growth and recognition of Pines and Prairies Land Trust as a leading land conservation organization. I want to welcome our new board members Cristin Embree and John Hart Asher to service on the Board of Directors. Cristin and John are already active in helping us to continue to grow Pines and Prairies Land Trust and to meet the changing demands of land conservation. Welcome aboard Cristin and John. We also have new officers with Maria Alonso being elected as VicePresident and Jarle Lillemon being elected Treasurer. We had some other changes in board makeup as Kathy Kirk and Priscilla Jarvis have resigned. Priscilla served many years as a member and as Secretary of the Board of Directors and we sincerely thank her for her contribution to PPLT and wish her all the best in her future endeavors. Kathy served with us a short while but assisted us tremendously in improving our management of financial resources.

The Pecore Farm (photo by Larry Gfeller)

According to the Land Trust Alliance, "urban sprawl overtakes two acres of productive agricultural land every minute." That is an alarming statistic. Thankfully, Land Trust organizations like Pines and Prairies Land Trust are working all across the nation to protect the limited land resources we have. A 2013 report by American Farmland Trust found that local governments and land trusts have protected 5 million acres of farm and ranchland nationwide. The Texas Land Trust Council reports that Land Trusts in Texas have protected over 1.5 million acres of Texas farm and ranch lands. We at the Pines and Prairies Land Trust are continuing to protect lands in Caldwell, Bastrop, Fayette, Lee and eastern Travis counties in perpetuity and we want and need your help to do this. One item of interest to all of us in the land conservation business is that the enhanced federal deduction for conservation easement donations expired on December 31, 2014. We think that the unfortunate expiration of this enhanced deduction will reduce our ability to protect land in the future. PPLT will continue to work with our fellow land trusts to make this tax incentive for land protection permanent. We need your input, we need your participation, we need your leads on landowners that are interested in protecting their land resource from development. We are looking forward to a very big year at Pines and Prairies Land Trust and look forward to working with all of you to help preserve clean air, clean water and open space.

Nicole Harris, Intern

Melanie Pavlas, Executive Director Facebook Twitter

Smith Covey, President Maria Alonso, Vice-President Jarle Lillemoen, Treasurer

We’re on the Web!

Board and Staff

John Hart Asher II Travis Brown Cristin Embree Alan Jaeger Jeremiah Jarvis David Vogel

106 Conference Drive #2A Bastrop, Texas 78602 Phone/Fax: 512-308-1911 E-mail:

Announcements:  A HUGE thank you to everyone that donated to the 5K Matching Gift Campaign—Priscilla Jarvis present-

ed PPLT with her generous check. We can’t thank her and our donors enough!!!  Nature Lessons began February 12. See our website or Facebook page for the schedule.  We have a new website! Thanks to Maria Alonso and Jarle Lillemoen for helping us set that up.  Join PPLT on March 28th from 2-5 for an Accreditation Celebration and Volunteer Appreciation Event to

be held at Bone Spirits Distillery in Smithville.  We will be moving our office in the coming months to Downtown Bastrop. Stay tuned for details.  Want to get our newsletter electronically? Shoot us an email….  We are participating in Amplify Austin again this year, March 5-6.

Look for us here: 

Know a business that would sponsor PPLT? Let us know or sign up through the Amplify website.

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Winter 2015 newsletter  

Winter 2015 newsletter