SER Conference: “Ecological Restoration in the Southwest”

The Texas Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration and the Southwest Chapter (NM, AZ, Sonoran and Mojave Deserts, and Colorado Plateau) will be having their joint conference (“Ecological Restoration in the Southwest”) this year in Alpine, Texas on the campus of Sul Ross State University.

Alpine, TX is the third highest town (4,500′) in the Trans-Pecos region of the Chihuahuan Desert in Far West Texas.  Situated in a semi-desert basin at the southern reaches of the Davis Mountains, Alpine is flanked southerly by the Del Norte Mountains, to the east by the rugged Glass Mountains, and to the west by the rough and rocky Paisano Pass and the landmark Twin Peaks Mountains.  The summers are moderately warm with cool nights, thanks to a monsoonal precipitation pattern and high desert altitude.  Sul Ross State University is the premier four year school in the Big Bend region, offering bachelors and graduate degrees.  It is the birthplace of collegiate rodeo, and famous bull rider Tuff Hedeman attended school at Sul Ross.

The conference will begin on Friday, October 17th and end on Sunday, October 19th (more details and registration here).  Various field trips are planned for Friday, with talks on desert grassland restoration in Creosotebush scrublands, riparian restoration along the Rio Grande River, Pronghorn Antelope restoration updates on the famous Marfa Grasslands and Marathon Basin, as well as a talk and tour of West Texas Native Plant Materials Initiative, a part of Texas Native Seeds (TNS).  TNS is a partnership led by the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute working on developing certified ecotypic native seed sources, and advancing restoration research and implementation.  Other activities for Saturday and Sunday, such as poster sessions, speaker sessions, an awards presentation, and chapter lunch are planned.  Please click the first link in this paragraph to find out more information.

Hope to see you there!

Alpine, TX and Sul Ross State University.

Finding the Bright Side

One of the nicer pleasures of working in the ecological restoration field is finding an old guard, a steady king, a still native grassland making its last stand against the onslaught of myopic human ignorance, climate change, and the invading noxious weeds that create novel ecosystems. Continue reading

The Gifts of the Natives

In the semi-arid and arid high and low-desert climate of Far West Texas, springtime and its associated wildflowers seems to tease its way along at the speed of germination.  But, like in any deserts, showy spring forb bouquets can sometimes appear almost overnight in concert with precipitation, surprising many who think of the Texas wildflower show as only a Hill Country thing.  There’s more to showy forbs in Texas than Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush. Continue reading

The Real West Texas

This isn’t Lubbock or the Panhandle Plains, nor the monotonous oil-spewing region of Midland-Odessa.

This is the land that time and an ever-changing climate built in dramatic and violent fashion, and in much of this vast space, time also forgot in the same manner.  Those forces formed the region known as the Trans-Pecos, the only area in the Lone Star State that contains true mountains.  These are high-desert mountains, “sky islands” in the Basin and Range Province, and as such, are as much a part of the West as any other mountain range.  In the high elevations of the Chisos, Davis, and Guadalupe ranges, montane forests of yellow and white pine, Douglas-fir, oak, and aspen abound – relicts that survived when the fringe effects of the last ice age departed some 10,000 years ago. Continue reading

Thoughts on a cold day

It is a chilly, late fall day here in North Texas as a cold air mass from the Rocky Mountains continues its collision with warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico.  Various forms of wintry precipitation are expected over the next 24 hours, with colder than average temperatures lasting through Thanksgiving.  In short, my kind of weather. Continue reading

Why prairies matter and lawns don’t

Prairies – those critically endangered and complex ecosystems understood by few and misunderstood and destroyed by millions of people.

Lawns – those myopically obsessive (and evil) urban, suburban, and increasingly rural monoculture eyesores that displace native ecosystems at a rate between 5,000 and 385,000 acres per day* in favor of sterile, chemically-filled, artificial environments bloated with a tremendous European influence that provide no benefits over the long term; no food, no clean water, no wildlife habitat, and no foundation for preserving our once rich natural heritage.  And there’s the unbearable ubiquitousness of mowing associated with such a useless cultural practice, which creates a ridiculous amount of noise pollution, air and water pollution, and a bustling busyness that destroys many peaceful Saturday mornings.  The American lawn is the epitome of unsustainability. Continue reading

The need for new wildland fire shelters

Bill Gabbert, at Wildfire Today, wrote a post about fire shelters titled, “Hope for a better shelter”.

A company called SunSeeker Enterprises, is currently in the early stages of designing a new wildland fire shelter with much better protection than current shelters can offer.  Until then, hear and see what the company in the video below has to say about their innovations and future fire shelter.  SunSeeker Enterprises is also seeking donations to help with their development efforts, starting at $25.  Their donation page can be found in the link above. Continue reading

Lone Star Land Steward Awards

The Thomsen Nature Preserve, located in southeastern Montague County, TX was awarded Texas Parks and Wildlife’s 2013 Lone Star Land Steward Award for its Cross Timbers and Prairies Ecoregion category earlier this year. Continue reading