Friday, January 29, 2010

Bamberger Story on NPR - Update

Colleen Gardner, Executive Director of the Bamberger Ranch Preserve, provides this update on the NPR story:

I have just heard from Wade Goodman that it will be a 5½ minute piece that will air on All Things Considered, some day NEXT WEEK. (Not today.) As soon as it airs we will also be able to post a link on our website. Have a good weekend, all!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bamberger Story on NPR, Probably this Friday

Colleen [Gardner, Executive Director] has heard this morning (Thursday, 1/28) from Wade Goodwyn, National Public Radio's Dallas correspondent, concerning the airing of his 7 minute piece about the Ranch. "Maybe tomorrow," Wade said.

The story will be on either "Morning Edition" which is from 5 a.m. - 9 a.m. or "All Things Considered" which is from 4 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. (These are all local times for Austin's NPR affiliate.) We're not sure which program it will be on or when specifically it will air.

Tell your friends and other Selah friends to listen. We all want to hear it live! We will have a link to the story on our website after the story airs so you'll be able to hear it again.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Victims of Drought

Looking back to my blog of August 2, 2009 about the drought, I reported that Robert Edmonson, our Texas Forest Service representative here in Johnson City, estimated that we had lost 1,000 Spanish Oaks due to the drought. ~ Our range conditions have made an amazing comeback because of good rains that began in October and continue to date ~ but not to be overly optimistic, the drought is NOT over. We are a long way from replenishing our “perched” or “local” aquifer that supplies us of all our drinking water here on the ranch . . . Now back to the losses of Spanish Oaks (also called Texas Oak and Red Oak). We have had time to look closer and were shocked and saddened to discover our losses of this species are closer to 2,000!

I suspected that this beautiful tree was dying when I took this picture in October, however I was advised to wait until next spring to be sure. As a general rule when the leaves lose their color early and do not fall off the branch, the tree is dead. Photograph taken by J. David.

This is the same tree 4 months later. A close look shows the canopy somewhat smaller than the first photo. Photograph taken by J. David.

You’re looking at a section of the trunk on the same tree. No need to wait until Spring. This tree is dead . . . You’re looking at a tree disease called Hypoxylon ~ I’m told it strikes Post, Blackjack and some Live Oaks as well. I didn’t notice it back in October because it was between the bark and the trunk. Now the bark has fallen and you can see the canker fungus which when scraped, even lightly, blows off into the air. I’m told Hypoxylon is an extremely weak pathogen, a Saprophyte fungus that eats dead wood . . . Now here’s the confusing part – it’s most likely the prolonged drought and the 60 days of heat over 100 degrees that killed these 2,000 ± trees. They were extremely stressed and that’s when the Hypoxylon spores move in. The Spanish Oak – Oh, and for the record the scientific name for Spanish Oak is Texas Red Oak, Quercus buckleyi. Photograph taken by J.David.

There are so many, many good causes that need financial help. Add to these the natural disasters like the Haitian earthquake and closer to home the very needy or homeless. However, preserving the earth itself is important too. So, if you would like to help us with a donation, we are a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation and gifts are deductible to the extent of the law. You can send your contributions to: Bamberger Ranch Preserve, 2341 Blue Ridge Drive, Johnson City, TX 78636.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2009 In Review

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve always, at this time of year, reflected on the past and made plans for the future. Reflecting on 2009 brought sadness and tears over the loss of my soul mate Margaret. What would life be like without her? One begins to feel sorry for themselves – a rather selfish emotion. I’ve lived my life as an optimist, have a reputation as an enthusiast, but when this loss came to me I found it overwhelming, that was in 2009, now it’s the past. I’m better now and looking forward to great things in the future.

Photograph taken by J. David.

Photograph taken by J. David.

Photograph taken by J. David.

The stone was dug from the earth here on the ranch. All of the construction was done by the staff . . . Recently wild pigs have plowed the entire area around the memorial, but stopped at the green grass around the memorial. Could the pigs have been stopped by someone upstairs or shooed away by Margaret from below?

It was family and friends and the wonderful staff here at Selah that brought me back to leading the rich full life that friends and a place such as Selah provides.

Left to right: Colleen Gardner, Poncho, Justin Duke, Steven Fulton, Scott Grote, J. David, Lois Sturm, Cory. Photograph taken by Amanda Fulton.

Left to right: Cory, Lois Sturm, J. David, Scott Grote, Steven Fulton, Justin Duke, Poncho, Colleen Gardner. Photograph taken by Amanda Fulton.

Photograph taken by J. David.

One of our volunteers suggested we build this entrance and exit stone. Leroy Petri used some of his big equipment to bring and place the stone. Engraving was paid for by contributions from our volunteer Board of Directors.

The biggest concern we faced in 2009 was the worsening drought. The drought actually began in 2007, but the cumulative effects as well as the extreme heat delivered us a near fatal blow. Our stock tanks dried up, creeks stopped running and our springs quit producing or fell below one gallon per minute, most certainly not enough to sustain five families and hundreds of guests. What little water remained in Madrone Lake made swimming there impossible. Without fresh water coming in, the water temperature rises, oxygen levels drop, fish die and bacteria can grow . . . What was so good to witness however was how the summer kids adapted to this change. They made other discoveries of insects, snakes, fossils, birds and night animals . . .

Campers in the Amphitheater. Photograph taken by Dixie Gadna.

Some may not agree, but I believe this drought is worse than the drought of the 1950’s. It has been particularly hard on the Spanish Oaks. We have lost over one thousand! Even though we have received some good rains in October and November this drought is not over. The aquifers are still low and small stock water tanks in the many pastures are only half full.

Madrone Lake in August. One of many dead fish.
Photograph taken by J. David.

The same scene photographed in December.
Photograph taken by J. David.

Madrone Lake has a very large watershed and it is also fed by many seeps and springs which once again are producing. It is one of four major “lakes” that are full.

We have named this the “Submarine Tank” because of the unique “plumbing” that Leroy had installed to allow water to flow downstream, yet maintains a constant level. Thousands of yards of silt were removed. I guess you could say this was a “benefit” of the drought. Photograph taken by J. David.

The Submarine Tank also enjoys a very large watershed, perhaps a thousand acres. The silt removal, the first since construction in the late 70’s has increased the holding capacity by thirty percent. Photograph taken by J. David.

Historically, this tank has been kept full by the overflow pipe from the spring, but the lack of rain and failure of the spring left it empty. Photograph taken by J. David.

This is the same tank as above and has a rather small watershed. This picture was taken in December. You can see what runoff it caught and note that the pipe from the spring is still not delivering any water. Failure to get more rain, this little bit of water will not take care of livestock nor wildlife past July. Photograph taken by J. David.

This picture was taken in August at the height of the drought. You might think that these small tanks wouldn’t be of much value. In many cases where a contractor just pushed out the pond space without knowing the soil types, it would be a waste of time and money. However, Leroy has found clay. Clay is impermeable - the best natural material for a pond or lake. Photograph taken by J. David.

Picture taken in December. Clay so impermeable that this small little pond never went completely dry. It’s the clay! Look closely at the edges of the water. Notice the color of the material. Photograph taken by J. David.

Although there was basically no watershed for this small pond, Leroy created his own by building this 150 foot ditch to bring runoff from afar to the clay pit. Photograph taken by J. David

Before I move on to all the good things that happened in 2009, I want to add two more things that befell me personally ~ First, the IRS came calling. They were auditing my 2007 tax return. Their investigation led to a look at the Bamberger Ranch Preserve. After many visits to the ranch by four different auditors and hours of work with our accountant in San Antonio, they decided not only were we doing good work, but also that I had overpaid and would get a $1,600.00 refund! All this after eleven weeks of their time and ours. Lois Sturm, my trusted helper, said this was Obama’s stimulus plan for the IRS!

It was only days after the IRS finished that I broke out with a severe case of shingles. The most painful experience of my life. They lasted ten weeks and I still have three places along my spine that “tingle” but do not have lesions. Please, Oh Please, if you had chicken pox as a young person go to your doctor and request a shot to prevent shingles! This is a virus that stays in your body. There is no cure.

Now let’s return to the good stuff from 2009:

WOW!! We are about to rapture! We are most likely the only nature preserve in the United States to have an observatory. Given to us in 2009 by Kerby and Judy Confer, long time friends, who have supported our education programs in the past. This is one powerful telescope that has a computer program which directs its lens to whatever planet, star, or constellation you wish to see. Our volunteers from the Austin Astronomy Club are just as excited as us or even more so. This is particularly important in bringing a heightened interest in the sky to our visiting school groups. Photograph taken by J. David.

Leopold Conservation Award – 2009 Award Winner. The Ranch Family accepting the award are in the first row: Willow Grote and Grey Grote; second row – Steven Fulton, Colleen Gardner, Scott Gardner, Amanda Fulton; third row – Justin Duke, J. David, Stephanie Duke, Lois Sturm, Leroy Petri, Scott Grote and Melissa Grote. Photograph taken by Chase Fountain.

The following is excerpted from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Lone Star Land Steward Awards Program “2009 Leopold Conservation Award” brochure:

“In his influential book, A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage. The development of a land ethic was, he wrote, “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.” A land ethic is alive and well today in the thousands of American farmers ranchers, and foresters who do well by their land and do well for their land.

Sand County Foundation (SCF) and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are proud to present the Leopold Conservation Award to a Texas landowner who exemplifies the spirit of this emerging land ethic. This annual award is presented as part of Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Lone Star Land Steward Award Program and includes a check for $10,000.

Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Lone Star Land Steward Awards program recognizes and honors private landowners for their accomplishments in habitat management and wildlife conservation. The program is designed to educate landowners and the public and to encourage participation in habitat conservation.”

Mr. Bamberger and his friend Cory.
Photograph taken by Chase Fountain.

Once again, the following is excerpted from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Lone Star Land Steward Awards Program “2009 Leopold Conservation Award” brochure:

“Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve

J. David Bamberger’s Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve stands as a motivating symbol of the power of private landowner conservation. Much like Aldo Leopold, who purchased spent Wisconsin land in 1935 and worked to restore it, Mr. Bamberger’s 5,500 acre ranch near Austin was in poor condition when he purchased it in 1969. The ranch was overrun with Ashe juniper, which allowed for virtually no water infiltration and a lack of healthy grassland. Soil erosion was prevalent and wildlife species were sparse.

Mr. Bamberger’s transformation of the ranch is truly a story of “water from stone.” The Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve is one of the largest scale habitat restoration projects in Texas. Early restoration efforts included removal of the Ashe juniper, returning the ranch to grassland. This allowed numerous natural springs to return, furnishing all of the water for the ranch. All homes and buildings on the ranch were built at lower elevations, allowing all of the water supply to be gravity-fed. Overflow from the springs forms the headwaters of Miller Creek, which flows into the Colorado River via the Pedernales.

Under Mr. Bamberger’s land management practices, the ranch has experienced a remarkable increase in vegetation and wildlife, including the endangered Golden-cheeked warbler and Black-capped vireo. The African Scimitar Horned Oryx is on the ranch as part of a cooperative effort between Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve and the American Zoological and Aquarium Association. The program breeds the Oryx and provides them free of charge to Senegal and Gambia, their native countries.

The ranch also utilizes an innovative approach to pest management. The Chiroptorium, a manmade bat cave that houses approximately 200,000 bats, minimizes the need for pesticide and provides shelter for bats, which are losing habitat in central Texas due to urban development.

Mr. Bamberger’s conservation philosophy extends to beyond the ranch’s boundaries. His ranch is home to numerous research projects, and Mr. Bamberger engages in what he calls “People Ranching,” hosting 4,000 guests annually for private tours, school field trips, bird counts, hikes, and camps. These efforts were expanded by his late wife, Margaret, who had a strong belief in the importance of outdoor education. Mr. and Mrs. Bamberger have worked with several community service organizations through the years, advocating the importance of private land stewardship.”

A Plan For The Future – Maximizing the Use of Rainfall on the Bamberger Ranch Preserve

Realizing that scientists were predicting that drought conditions could possibly be with us for a very long time, we put together our own “think tank” of things we could possibly do to help us survive. Water being the major problem of an expanding population most all of our actions are intended to insure, augment, or conserve water. Most all of the following can be useful or initiated on any rural land:

  • Construct 28 miles of stone berms on downhill sides of the plateaus

  • Construct 12 miles of recharge water pans on our plateaus

  • Build 1,000 mini dams in every runoff area

  • Add concrete cisterns to achieve 50,000 gallon of storage

  • Rainwater collection on existing buildings

  • Selective tree removal on the watersheds of our springs

  • Devise a system to transfer water across the divide from west to east

  • Build solar toilets (They do not use water)

  • Reduce cattle herd

  • Water delivery for wildlife

  • Rainwater only at cattle pens

  • Inspect and repair current spring boxes

  • Explore all canyons for potential seeps to develop

  • Engineer Madrone Lake for potential potable water supply

  • Monitor water production weekly on all cased springs

  • Construct French drains

  • Prescribed burns

  • Add earthen and concrete dams

  • Divert runoff to existing ponds and sinkholes

  • Convert to low flush toilets, low water washing machines and low water shower heads

  • Check old inoperative water wells for potential use

  • Build more recharge ponds

  • Closely monitor native grasslands

  • Riparian improvements

  • Add overflow pipes on all cisterns to pipe overflow water to tanks and ponds

The most creative idea was the 28 miles of these berms which will take us 5 years to construct. It’s all hand work. Thousands of stones were picked up to form these berms. There are six berms on the downhill slopes that slow down runoff and intercept soil. Photograph taken by J. David.

The water pans all work. This water took 48 hours to percolate into the limestone. There was no runoff. Photograph taken by Justin Duke.

One hundred twenty feet below the hilltop water pans and stone berms, you can witness the result. Crystal clear and clean water forms this pool for wildlife and livestock. Photograph taken by J. David.

I’m looking forward to the next decade as an opportunity to demonstrate to more and more people the values to society that good land management delivers.

Over the past 40 years we have worked tirelessly to restore this 5500 acres. We did all the work ourselves. Everyone who has worked here participated. We built barns, fences, roads and pipelines by ourselves. We did contract to have three new homes built as well as our education building and considerable remodeling. These improvements and the value of the land today are believed to have a market value of 25 million dollars. . . .Selah will be here forever, not only to educate the young people about the natural world but to serve as a model for other landowners and to give Mother Nature room to breathe. We have given Selah to future generations. It needs and deserves your support. Please check all of 2009 blogs as well as the website to see and learn more about what we’re doing. Won’t you help us with your tax deductible contribution? We are a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation. You can send your contributions to: Bamberger Ranch Preserve, 2341 Blue Ridge Drive, Johnson City, TX 78636.