by Anita Hoskins, Audubon Texas Senior Coordinator, Private Lands
Few professions out there have “To-Do” lists as long as those of farmers and ranchers. The work often seems endless, and the Audubon Conservation Ranching team (ACR) is steadfast in supporting their daily conservation actions. This work is often as varied as the farmers and ranchers that steward Texas lands. Many days I find myself wrapped up in technical assistance using what I know – and a lot of what I don’t – know to guide ranchers towards their goals.
Lately, I’ve seen an increase in prairie restoration on old farm fields. Few things make an ecologist’s heart happier than native prairie restoration! From jumpstarting soil health activities to planning seed mixes, it’s always a fulfilling time — especially when we can navigate cost-share programs together to lessen the financial burden of their good deeds. Beyond technical assistance, we are busy drafting habitat management plans to meet the need of landowners and birds; or networking locally to identify potential new ACR landowners. Sharing the ACR concept with new audiences is one of my favorite parts of my work.
Recently, I was able to include a birding/nature walk at “Kids on the Land”, a week-long educational event for local grade-schoolers, getting them out of the classroom and out on the ranch. The student’s curiosity for birds blossomed learning about habitat and experiencing ecology and conservation. And they really enjoyed some of our ACR ranchers who volunteered for the day. Whether it’s birds, mammals, reptiles, or plants, students could see prairie ecosystems tying us all together.
Despite the variety of work, I can be sure of one thing: on the ranch there is something new to learn every day. I’m excited how many ranchers are dedicated to improving their sustainability and bird friendliness, and becoming ACR partners. Evey day on the ranch is a nod to the future.