Tuesday, June 10, 2008

2008 Lone Star Land Steward Award

The Bamberger Ranch Preserve was given the 2008 Lone Star Land Steward Award for the Edwards Plateau region.

The gentlemen on the left is TPWD Commissioner John Parker from Lufkin, Texas.
Front row from left is Willow Grote, Grey Grote, Scott Grote, and Justin Duke.
Middle row from left is J. David, Margaret, Leroy Petri, Colleen Gardner, Amanda Fulton, Carter Smith, Executive Director of TPWD, and David Langford, Board Member of the Leopold Foundation.
In the back towering over us all is Steven Fulton.

Each year The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) gives an award to a chosen landowner(s) in each ecological region that have demonstrated good stewardship of their property. Some of the specific qualities they look for is overall health of their land, good water resource management, and wildlife conservation.

On May 21 at The Austin Airport South Hotel in Austin a ballroom full of people - TPWD staff, landowners, their family, staff, and close friends, gathered for a wonderful dinner followed by an Awards Ceremony. Ten Ecological Regions are recognized, plus awards go to a Wildlife Management Association, a Corporate/Public entity, a Special Recognition Award for Conservation Development and finally the Leopold Conservation Award for Statewide Land Steward goes to a former regional winner.

As each award was announced a video was shown in which we could see the beauty of the property and conversations with the owners and operators described ongoing projects and dreams, including efforts to constantly improve their land.

Many of the winners had worked for years, some for generations, to achieve their present land health and abundance of native plants and wildlife.

The story of J David and Selah is 4 decades in the making. His interest in principles of land restoration and conservation of water, goes back to hearing of Louis Bromfield and reading his books about returning a damaged piece of land to health in David's native state of Ohio. J. David had several small ranches near San Antonio that he restored with his own labor with the help of his 2 sons. When his business life produced enough money to buy a big piece of land, he decided that he would find one that needed restoration. When he found the land we now call Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve, it was cedar choked and there was little water. Removing cedar and planting grass brought numerous springs back to life. It was in the early years at Selah that J. David found a young man, Leroy Petri, who had grown up near this ranch, that was a genius at bulldozing, road-building, tank-building, and other fine arts of Hill Country land management. He has worked here on special projects for 38 years now. With the work done here, wildlife had habitats and water, and diversity of native plants and animals increased. J. David's passion for planting trees has given us a wonderful selection of native trees, including a forest of big tooth maples that knock us out with their fabulous colors each fall.

J David, always a people person, wanted to share the ranch in meaningful ways. Friends came out for tours, asked questions, and soon he built a building called the Center so guests could stay at the ranch, hold conferences, or just enjoy 55oo acres of beautiful Hill Country. When I met J. David in 1994, the ranch was already beautiful, Madrone Lake had been built and the emphasis was changing from restoring damaged land, to maintaining it, and using it in educational ways. I had been working at the Austin Nature Center, and Travis County Parks as an "informal science educator", which means that we didn't teach in a formal classroom, but used the natural world as our classroom. I've been involved in the evolving educational programs here for all ages, the Stewardship series of workshops , which offer landowners an "out on the land" chance to learn about stewardship, water development and conservation, grasses, trees and shrubs, and wildlife management. Ten years ago we started thinking about conserving the ranch for future generations, and we formed a foundation, and added "preserve" to our name. Now the Board of Directors, our wonderful staff and large corps of volunteers will carry our dream into the future. We feel like we are some of the most blessed people in the world.

The Lone Star Land Steward awards dinner was a wonderful event. Members of our ranch staff attended with their families. We also had some members of our Board of Directors, and key volunteers. J. David as the founder, and the two of us as owners and operators were being honored.

Winners get to display the sign above on their gate indicating that the ranch is a Lone Star Land Steward winner.

Gray Grote has lived at Selah since he was a baby. He goes to Johnson City Elementary School, knows a lot about Texas wildlife, likes to ride horses, and loves baseball.

Willow Grote has lived at Selah since she was born, goes to Johnson City Elementary School, enjoys horseback riding, dancing, and arts and crafts.

J. David with three important women at Selah. Colleen Gardner is our Executive Director. Ann Cook (in front) is a valuable volunteer educator, and a member of the Board of Directors. Lois Sturm is J. David's assistant and helps him in the office and around the ranch.

J. David and I stand next to Beth Eisen and J. David's son David K. Bamberger, who is on our Board of Directors.

We are honored to receive this Land Steward regional award and we are delighted to share the honor with our wonderful staff, without whom we couldn't function. We are also honored to host adults here for workshops, tours, and field days, and the thousands of school children who come here to learn about nature, conservation, and Texas native wildlife and plants. We hope that we can meet all the readers of this blog some day, and if you are too far away, we hope you enjoy the glimpse of the beautiful Texas Hill Country, and the nature that surrounds us.

For more information about the ranch, staff, facilities, workshops, programs, news and research, be sure to check our website.

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