San Antonio Rodeo Seminar Recap

Our director, Dr. Roel Lopez, recently had the pleasure of speaking at the Wildlife and Natural Resources Seminar at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. This series of seminars is hosted by the Rodeo’s Wildlife & Natural Resources Committee in partnership with the East Foundation. The topic of the latest seminar was Conservation? Yes, please! It primarily focused on exploring the challenges Texans face conserving our natural heritage and how to engage with potential solutions to these issues.

Dr. Lopez began by giving us a historical perspective on how landscapes used to look here in Texas and how they have rapidly changed over the last few decades. These changes have been driven by increases in demand for land and the expanding population of Texans. Both trends continue to fuel increased land fragmentation and strain our natural resources. But with these challenges,  opportunities are created for landowners to conserve their working lands and provide the essential ecosystem services we all depend on. For those interested, all the information Dr. Lopez provided in his presentation can be found on our Texas Land Trends Data Explorer.

Next in the lineup was Justin Dreibelbis, CEO of the Texas Wildlife Association, who spoke on the challenges faced when future generations are not connected to the land and how private landowners can be proactive in reversing this trend. The first step is to look inside your fence line and ensure you are properly managing your property towards sound stewardship goals. There can be a lot of technical knowledge and guidance needed to achieve this, but fear not, there are plenty of natural resource professionals available to help you out. The second step is to look outside your fence line and become active in a conservation-oriented organization, such as TWA, Ducks Unlimited, etc. The key to success in tackling these challenges is surrounding yourself with like-mined land stewards and caring for the land for future generations.

The last speaker was Dr. Jason Sawyer, Chief Science Officer of the East Foundation, who spoke about the current efforts to save ocelots in Texas and how they can serve as a potential model of endangered species management on private lands. Jason gave a brief overview of the Endangered Species Act and the main worries for landowners if a listed species is found on their property (critical habitat designation and take prohibitions). He spoke about how to create opportunities and incentives for landowners in Texas to help conserve and protect these species on their property. The East Foundation, NRI and a group of partners are implementing a project called Recovering Texas Ocelots to explore different options to help save this species. These include translocation of ocelots to the East Foundation’s San Antonio Viejo Ranch and developing a Safe Harbor Agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to encourage other landowners to participate in these conservation efforts.

The San Antonio Rodeo’s Wildlife & Natural Resources Committee has an upcoming seminar scheduled for Friday, February 24th, that will focus on managing lands in south Texas. Be sure to register and grab your spot soon!

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