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TEXAS LAND CONSERVANCY

Protecting the Nature of Texas.

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Staff power! From Minnesota and Florida come two wonderful new staff members, anxious to help conserve Texas land.

Finding their way Students from the Austin Nature and Science Center braved the heat for an adventure at Eagle Rock Ranch.

So, there’s this drought... Our intrepid stewardship directors are seeing the effects of Texas’ historic drought as they travel the state.

Upcoming events Check out the calendar-we have several volunteer opportunities right around the corner!

Stewardship Briefs Want to get on Daniel’s bad side? Try poaching on one of our nature preserves. He and Leigh request a little respect for the land.

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Two stellar new staff join TLC T

by Kate Vickery LC prides itself for being a lean organization, able to achieve big conservation goals with a very small staff and carefully-used resources. An all volunteer organization for the first 20 years, TLC welcomed its first executive director in 2000, and has slowly grown over the past decade. We have been a small team of three since I joined the staff in 2008 and I’m often asked how we are able to conserve so much land with so few people. “We’re efficient,” I always tell them. This mentality has served us well over the years, and while we are staying true to our roots, our landowners and Texas at large will now benefit from an increase in our staff capacity. Thanks to generous grants from the Meadows Foundation and Houston Endowment, we are now able to maintain a full-time stewardship staff of two, doubling our capacity to serve landowners and achieve our conservation goals. Leigh Stuemke became our second stewardship director in June, joining Daniel Dietz as our “boots on the ground.” In August, we also welcomed our new outreach coordinator, Callie Thompson, who has years of experience working in the non-profit community in Austin. I am thrilled to be working with these two great women and sat down with them this week to help you get to know Callie and Leigh, too. Why do you want to work for TLC? Callie: I am new to Texas but have fallen in love with its rare mix of landscapes and have joined the Texas Land Conservancy to do what I can to preserve these lands. Wherever I have lived, from Vermont to New York to Michigan, and now Texas, I have sought out experiences in the wilderness to soothe and inspire me. The open lands and wild spaces of Texas have certainly provided me with inspiration and relaxation. Working at TLC is the least I can do to return that favor. Leigh: It is my hope that I can bring the knowledge from my education and experiences to my work with the Texas Land Conservancy. See “New Staff,” continued on page 3

New TLC outreach coordinator, Callie Thompson, and her much-loved chihuahua, Bodhi, at the stunning Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah during a recent road trip. Photo by Eli Robinson.


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Wayfinding at Eagle Rock Ranch The Texas Land Conservancy (formerly Natural Area Preservation Association) is an accredited non-profit land trust with a mission to conserve natural areas in Texas and to protect the physical and ecological integrity of their wildlife habitat, native plant communities, and scenic landscapes for the benefit of present and future generations. We strive: To reduce the negative effects of land fragmentation and poorly planned development by protecting critical lands through ownership or permanent conservation easements. To maintain a substantial and diverse inventory of protected lands that reflect the biological diversity and significance of Texas’ natural heritage. To responsibly steward our conservation easements and land holdings through monitoring, land management, and enforcement of restrictions. To restore and enhance native habitats. To collaborate with other organizations and individuals as appropriate to conserve and protect additional areas not protected by TLC.

by Leigh Stuemke or the second year in a row, TLC had the privilege of partnering with an educational youth summer camp. One of our generous landowners, Johanna Smith, again welcomed students from the Austin Nature and Science Center (ANSC) to Eagle Rock Ranch for an afternoon exploring her beautiful conservation property. While the ANSC campers often get to visit public parks, it is a treat for them to be able to tramp around a unique private ranch. This year, the “Wayfinding” camp visited Eagle Rock in order to test skills they had been learning all week about how to navigate through the Texas outdoors. Armed only with map and compass, the young explorers struck out across the vast golden prairie of Eagle Rock Ranch with only a destination marked on their maps. The challenge was to use the skills they had learned about using a map and compass to make their way from the prairie to a picnic spot. With

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lunch as their ultimate reward, we navigated our way through prairie and forest, discovering many treasures along the way. We found and discussed bones from a deer, turkey feathers, lizards, curious plants and an old teepee made out of cedar limbs. Finally, after a few wrong turns, everyone found our destination, a picnic spot by Cypress Creek! Over lunch, ranch manager Pokey Rehmet, talked with the campers about Eagle Rock’s history and features. TLC is excited to be able to expose kids to outdoor experiences that are different than visiting a park. While there are many public lands available to visitors in the Hill Country, we are committed to showing students and other visitors what they might be able to do with land they own someday. We thank our landowners who have worked hard to create green places in Texas and who then welcome visitors onto their land. Many thanks, Johanna! For information about ANSC camps, visit http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/ansc/camp.htm.

To educate the public about Texas’ natural areas and provide opportunities for the public to enjoy TLC’s protected properties. board of directors P. Michael Jung, President, Dallas Earl Matthew, President-Elect, Rockport Janell Morgan, Treasurer, Dallas Travis Phillips, Secretary, Austin Mickey Burleson, Temple Eugenia Fritz, Dallas Russ Jewert, Terrell Adam Jochelson, Dallas Eileen McKee, Dallas Anne Norvell, Dallas Robert O’Kennon, Fort Worth Sharon Reed, Richardson Anne Rowe, Dallas Pat Spillman, Jr., Houston staff Mark Steinbach, Executive Director Daniel Dietz, Stewardship Director Leigh Stuemke, Stewardship Director Kate Vickery, Development & Communications Dir. Callie Thompson, Outreach Coordinator contact Texas Land Conservancy P.O. Box 162481 Austin, TX 78716 512.301.6363 (p) 512.301.6364 (f) info@texaslandconservancy.org www.texaslandconservancy.org This newsletter is produced quarterly and distributed to members and donors at the $30 level or higher. Comments, questions, and concerns may be sent to Kate Vickery via kate@texaslandconservancy.org.

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Campers from the Austin Nature and Science Center, put their map-reading skills to to the test during a field trip at Eagle Rock Ranch in early August. Photo by Callie Thompson.


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with stories like this, and though they may have been tinged with folklore, they made me deeply protective of the remaining wild spaces in Florida. Leigh: Since moving back to Texas from the Midwest eight years ago with my husband, we have

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lived in four of the state’s 10 recognized ecoregions: Blackland Prairie, Cross Timbers and Prairies, Pineywoods, and the Edwards Plateau. I enjoy living in new locations, not so much because of the tremendous effort it takes to move, but more for the opportunities it creates for exploring new natural communities. I have a particular fondness for the cypress/ tupelo swamps of east Texas (left), which is where I completed my research on Rafinesque’s big-eared bats (below) and southeastern myotis bats through the graduate program at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU).

Leigh Stuemke in one of her favorite Texas places, a tupelo/cypress swamp in Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Kristina Hammond. “New Staff” from page 1 Together with the members of TLC, I will work to help protect the lands of our great state so that the words of one of my favorite songs,“Paradise Lost,” (see inset, right) won’t always ring true. What landscapes inspire you? Callie: As a sixth-generation Floridian, I was taught to always protect the land. Florida developed too rapidly, transforming from a rural state to a tourist hub upon the advent of air conditioning and the development of Disney World in the 1950’s. In the 1920’s, in Tarpon Springs, my grandmother used to commute to school by rowboat down a river fed by a crystal-clear artesian spring. That spring, Spring Bayou, is now murky and dark. When my great-grandmother was a child she had to corral all the other children together on their walk through the Big Scrub to their one-room schoolhouse. If she didn’t, a lone child could be picked off by one of the Florida panthers lurking in the low branches of the live oaks overhead. The total state population of Florida Panthers is now only 80. I was raised

Rafinesque’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii), a threatened species found in the east Texas pineywoods. Photo by Leigh Stuemke.

When we were young, we used to walk out in those fields/ and run forever in the backyard woods./Now the old trails disappear in neighborhoods/with streets named after what’s gone for good.” Paradise Lost by Storyhill

Where did you love to play as a kid? Leigh: Although I was born a Texan, my family and I moved to Wisconsin early in my childhood. My appreciation for our natural world is rooted in the north woods where the words raspberries, black bears, porcupines, chippies (chipmunks), birch, and pine are symbols of cherished carefree days. I have wonderful memories of exploring the great outdoors as a child. One of the memories I hold most dear is from summers spent on my grandparents’ forested property in northern Wisconsin. While visiting, I would explore the nearby woods and collect leaves that I would later tape in a notebook. In the evenings, my grandmother and I would identify the leaves together. I know that my grandmother helped to foster my love of nature, and shape me into the biologist I am today. See “New Staff,” continued on page 4

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“New Staff,” from page 3 Callie: On the other side of the country from Leigh, I grew up playing outside in the ten acres of swamp, pine scrub and live oak hammock around my parents’ handbuilt home in rural North Florida. Deer, owls, snakes, alligators, whippoorwills and armadillo were constant presences in my childhood. When Florida got too humid and hot to play outside, my parents would take my sister and I on hiking trips in North Carolina each summer. We spent time eating wild strawberries off of mountaintops, swimming in waterfalls and reading books by candlelight in the cabin without electricity where we always stayed. Summers at that cabin, “Anna’s Cabin,” as we called it as children, formed me into a person who values the peacefulness that being in the wilderness can create.

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converted to a residential development and now experiences annual flooding due to rapid expansion and poor planning. Sadly, this bit of my childhood paradise has been lost forever and I’m sure many of you have experienced the same. Callie: Texas is blessed with abundant undeveloped properties but also home to a rapidly growing population. The way we collectively handle the increased need for space will define Texas for generations to come. I’m glad to be part of Texas Land Conservancy’s important work protecting the beautiful landscapes of this state and ensuring people will be able to experience wild lands in the coming decades. I want every child to be able to spend time on the land the way I did. Texas

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Land Conservancy can make that possible; I’m grateful to be able to help. How can folks contact you? Leigh: I look forward to meeting members and would like to invite you to get in touch with me, especially if you have questions about east Texas or bats! If you would like to contact me, send me an e-mail to leigh@texaslandconservancy.org. Callie: I’ll echo Leigh in saying that I welcome all communication and look forward to getting to know the members of TLC. The more I know about TLC, the more I will be able to share the message of this important work with all who will listen. You can e-mail me at callie@texaslandconservancy.org.

Texas is blessed with abundant undeveloped properties but also home to a rapidly growing population. The way we collectively handle the increased need for space will define Texas for generations to come. Why does land conservation matter? Leigh: As a biologist, urban sprawl has seemingly always been one of my concerns. The first example of urban sprawl that I vividly remember occurred while I was still a child living in southern Wisconsin with my family. Across the street from our home, a prairie sloped down into a riparian zone along the Rock River. Many turtles, snakes, and frogs made their way to my house via small muddy pockets! Today, however, the area has been

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New outreach coorindator, Callie Thompson, hikes in Arches National Park. Photo by Eli Robinson.


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Hey, L by Callie Thompson & Kate Vickery

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ot to be flippant, but hopefully by now you’ve noticed that Texas is drier than normal this summer. In one of the worst droughts in Texas history, we’re breaking records for number of days over 100 degrees, while the farming/ranching industry faces an estimated $5.2 billion in agricultural losses. The impact of the drought is being felt state-wide, and our intrepid stewardship directors, Leigh and Daniel, are seeing its effects up close as they visit conservation properties all around the state. In early August a group of summer campers from the Austin Nature and Science Center came out to Eagle Rock Ranch, a TLC conservation property in Wimberley. During the field trip, we took this photo (right, above) of bald cypress along the edge of the almost dry creek. The water line on the cypress was an elegant, albeit distressing, reminder of the drought. Bald cypress trees typically grow along perennial creeks and rivers in the central part of Texas and are also found in east Texas wetlands. When bald cypress dry out it is called “browning out” as these trees are likely doing. When a bald cypress browns out, its dead leaves persist on the tree for a long period rather than falling off. Dr. David Stahle, at the University of Arkansas, is currently using Montezuma cypress trees, a cousin to the bald cypress found in Texas, to study droughts that occurred before recorded history. He and his team have created a 1,238-year-long record of rainfall in Mexico based on the rings of 30 ancient cypress trees. Eagle Rock Ranch is certainly

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k at That!

not the only preserve suffering from the ravages of drought. Daniel’s recent visit to the Sandyland Ranches (Blanco County) showed an astonishing lack of water, leading to the death of live oaks, and even ashe juniper

(Texas cedar), both of which are typically extremely drought resistant due to deep rooting. As you can see in this photo (below), even the prickly pear cactus in the foreground looks parched and yellow.

In south Texas, the impact of the drought is equally severe as here in the hill country. At the Double W Ranch (photo next page, above) in Live Oak County, deep reservoirs are the only thing See “Drought,” page 6

Eagle Rock Ranch, Hays County

Sandyland Ranch, Blanco County

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Upcoming Events October 13-16 What: Native Plant Society of Texas Fall Symposium Where: Houston, TX Details: npsot.org October 13-16 What: National Land Conservation Conference Where: Milwaukee, WI Details: landtrustalliance.org

Double W Ranch, Live Oak County

October 22 What: Volunteer Day Where: Oak Cliff Nature Preserve, Dallas County When: 9:00 to noon Details: texaslandconservancy.org October 29 What: Toasting Texas Lands: Hill Country Where: Cypress Mills Ranch, Blanco County When: Evening, TBD Details: Watch for an invitation in the mail!

Nunley-West Double Eagle Ranch, Maverick County “Drought,” continued from page 5 keeping wildlife hydrated, while the natural ponds in at NunleyWest Double Eagle (above, lower) Ranch in Maverick County are nearly completely dry. Salt cedar surrounding the ponds exacerbate the drought effects; this invasive species is exceptionally drought tolerant because of deep roots that allow it to suck water out of a wide surrounding area. These images are an astonishing reminder of what we face in this state when rainfall neglects us for as long as it has in 2011. Population growth puts additional pressure on scarce water resources

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throughout the southwest, but especially in Texas, one of the top-five fastest growing states in the country. It is well documented that improving land management, controlling grazing, clearing invasive species, and preventing land fragmentation are proven methods of improving water quality and quantity. Sometimes, however, despite the best efforts of landowners, mother nature gets the best of us and there’s little more we can do than to dance a few rain dances. While researchers are now predicting that the environmental and economic effects of this

drought will be felt long after the rain begins to fall again, it is important to keep in mind that land and the natural communities that live on the land are incredibly resilient. Until the rain starts falling again, however, please be mindful of your water consumption, regardless of where you live in Texas. Maybe you don’t need to wash your car or maybe it’s time to think about landscaping with succulents, cacti, and other native plants that require almost no water. However you choose to do your part, remember that water is the one resource that connects us all, regardless of where we live.

Fall, tbd What: Volunteer Day Where: Banita Creek Preserve, Nacogdoches When: TBD To receive information about this workday: Contact Daniel at 512.301.6363 or daniel@ texaslandconservancy.org Do you know an organization or group that might be interested in a presentation by TLC staff about land conservation in Texas? Our staff welcomes opportunities to network with and educate our community. Please contact Callie at 512.301.6363 or callie@ texaslandconservancy.org to discuss possibilities.


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Stewardship Briefs By: Daniel Dietz

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t was another dry, hot summer day when Leigh and I walked the final few hundred feet to the entrance of an east Texas preserve. It was not a property that I knew very well and I was looking forward to exploring its water oak – dwarf palmetto woodland and learning more about the place. The front gate provided us the first sign that something was amiss. Someone had taken off its hinges and thrown it to the side. So, when we found the first tree stand a few hundred feet later, it was no surprise. TLC is not opposed to hunting, and we believe that it can be quite beneficial. There are few other options for the removal of invasive feral hogs, or keeping deer populations in check now that their natural predators are extirpated from the landscape. Still, we need to know who is on the property and be able to set parameters upon what they can and cannot do. Like many landowners, we have no use for poachers. Poaching is defined as illegally accessing a landowner’s property for the purpose of hunting or removing game without the landowner’s permission. Preventing poaching can be difficult, but if one can catch the perpetrators, they can be subject to stiff fines, or even jail time. Prevention involves increasing your presence on the land and notifying the local game

warden if you have a problem. Making sure the property is fenced and is posted is key. TLC has begun putting boundary signs every few hundred feet so that our properties are more clearly identified. We also paint trees and fence posts with purple paint, which is recognized in the Texas Penal Code as having same weight as actually posting the land with signs. As an absentee landowner, these measures will not stop those with criminal intent, but we hope that by showing that we visit the property and care for it, people will hesitate to poach. When poaching becomes a problem for us, we contact the local game warden, and ask them to increase patrols in the area or see if they have other advice. There are only 532 game wardens to cover the entire state of Texas, though, and they cannot be everywhere at once. Most convictions are made with the help of the public. If you suspect poaching is occurring or witness suspicious activity, you should contact your local game warden or call

Operation Game Thief at 1-800-792-4263. While law enforcement has become more high tech over the years, and wardens have been able to use DNA analysis to convict poachers, there is still nothing as effective as a photo. Luckily there are a number of affordable game cameras that can assist you in keeping an eye on your land. Try to place them where trespassers would drive onto the property, and make sure they are aligned so they can catch the license plate. On this day in the field, Leigh and I removed two tree stands. One was wooden and dismembered in the field and the other was metal and taken back to the office. This is the third one we have taken in the past year. We will be making another visit to this preserve once deer season is in full swing, and perhaps we will add to our collection.

Daniel and Leigh recently disassembled two poaching stands from one of TLC’s nature preserves. While TLC is not against hunting - it is important for many kinds of responsible land management - illegal poaching is dangerous for the land and landowners.

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R NONPROFIT ORG US POSTAGE PAID AUSTIN, TX PERMIT NO. 258

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What have these kids seen that the adults have not?

Send your best caption for this picture to callie@texaslandconservancy.org.

8  fall 2010 

Texas Land Conservancy Newsletter, Fall 2011  

In this issue: Severe drought and its effects on Texas lands, how can two new staff expand our conservation work? And, school groups experie...

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