When it comes to land stewardship, plants are a critically important but often overlooked part of the equation. They can be difficult to identify—much less manage—and they don’t often elicit the same level of enthusiasm as charismatic wildlife species. Nevertheless, any experienced land steward will tell you that wildlife management is habitat management, and it begins and ends with plants.
Dr. Megan Clayton, Associate Professor and Extension Range Specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and one of NRI’s partners in support of RREA, is seeking to address the widespread lack of plant knowledge with a new program that puts the spotlight on Texas vegetation. Dubbed “Plant Party,” this series of virtual events offers participants helpful tips for identifying key species, management guidance, and ecological principles to provide context for the presence and purpose of these plants on the landscape.
As Dr. Clayton explains, the program is not only an educational opportunity, but also a collaborative one: “Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is excited to partner with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to offer fun plant trainings for our employees, volunteers, landowners, and the public to celebrate the fascinating native plant diversity we have in our state and to discuss ways we can be better stewards of our resources.”
The two previous Parties, held in December of 2020 and February of 2021, focused on brush and the vegetative ecology of Texas, respectively. Experts covered a range of notable topics, including how brush sprouts (and why that makes some species problematic for land managers), the use of herbicides, the role of plants as indicator species in the environment, and how to convert introduced grasses back to native ones. (Virtual) attendees at those events totaled over 600 for the “live” performance, with more tuning in later to recordings made available online. While the turnout is impressive in and of itself, participants also provided comments which leave no doubt as to the program’s impact:
“The presenters are so knowledgeable and have had hands-on experience to share.”
“The mini-presentations were targeted and straight to the point. Moderators were excellent!”
“As a new agency employee, I’m so grateful for these training events because I’m learning so much from the speakers that I wouldn’t get in my office.”
“These events are so fun – please keep them coming!”
Heeding that last request and building on prior success, Dr. Clayton and her agency partners have a 3rd Plant Party scheduled for June 23, from 10-11:30 AM CST. The theme this time will be invasive species—an enormous challenge for any land steward, but one that can be managed with the right knowledge. Land managers aren’t the only ones invited, of course; the program is for anyone with an interest in Texas plants or the diverse wildlife they support.
Attendance to the online event is FREE, and while recordings will be available after the fact as with the previous Plant Parties, a live viewing will offer opportunities to ask questions of experts in real-time. Registration is now open at this link.