Lone Star Land Steward Ecoregion Award Winners, Virtual Banquet Date Announced

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AUSTIN – Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is proud to reveal the 2021 Lone Star Land Steward Ecoregion Award winners. This year’s group of award winners represent a variety of conservation goals and accomplishments, all of which display excellence in natural resource management and stewardship.

The annual banquet that celebrates Lone Star Land Steward Award winners was unable to be held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. TPWD is excited to announce that this year’s awards banquet, which will celebrate 25 years of private lands stewardship, will move forward virtually on May 27 at 6 p.m. Anyone is able to join the live-streamed event. More information on how to tune in, as well as a video playlist highlighting previous year’s winners, can be found on the Lone Star Land Steward page of the TPWD website.

“This style of event will of course have a different feel than what we have all become accustomed to over the last 25 years but we are excited about the opportunity to get these inspirational land stewardship and ranching heritage stories in front of more people than we ever have before,” said Justin Dreibelbis, director of TPWD’s Private Lands and Public Hunting program.

The Lone Star Land Steward Awards recognizes private landowners in Texas for their exemplary contributions to land, water, and wildlife stewardship. With 95% of the land in Texas under private ownership, the conservation and stewardship efforts of private landowners are of vital importance to all Texans.

Following is a list of this year’s ecological region award recipients, and a summary of their stewardship achievements:

Coastal Prairies – Dunn O’Connor River Ranch (Goliad County)

Morgan O’Connor, Kelly Schaar, Bridey Greeson

The Dunn O’Connor River Ranch in Goliad County is a property that has been in the family since 1836. Currently, the ranch is owned by 3 sisters, Morgan O’Connor, Kelly Schaar and Bridey Greeson. The family implements a thoughtful approach to cattle production and actively manages their land to improve wildlife habitat. In 2007, the ranch worked closely with state and federal partners to serve as a release site for the highly endangered Attwatter’s Prairie Chicken on the intact, remnant coastal prairie.  The property continues to serve as an important site for research and recovery efforts.

Edwards Plateau – 7 Oaks Ranch (Crockett, Val Verde Counties)

Kelly W. Walker Family (Wayne, Philip and Caton)

The 7 Oaks Ranch was originally founded in 1934 and has been operated by the Walker Family for three generations. Since 2005, the ranch has been jointly managed by ranch owner Kelly W. Walker, Sr. and his three sons Wayne, Philip & Caton. In March 2020, the three sons took on the leading role in managing the ranch following the passing of their father.

The brothers have forged creative partnerships with organizations and volunteers to help them manage their property for a variety of Texas wildlife.  They actively implement prescribed fire, brush management, and community outreach, to carry on their father’s legacy of land stewardship and educate others on land management practices.

Post Oak Savannah – Shady W Ranch (Brazos County)

Parten Wakefield

Shady W Ranch in Brazos County exemplifies the patience and persistence that stewardship requires. While Wakefield has experienced successes and setbacks in his restoration efforts through the years, he continues to work at doing what’s right for their land. Shady W Ranch is very active in the local community, particularly through programs like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, allowing NRCS, Agrilife Extension, and TPWD staff access as a demonstration site for grassland restoration, has an active outreach component that focuses on hunter and angler recruitment and takes part in multiple grassland restoration projects through prescribed burning, TPWD’s Pastures for Upland Birds Program and United State Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Partners Programs.

Rolling Plains – Chimney Creek Ranch (Shackelford County)

Ted Paup and Hank Paup

Chimney Creek Ranch in Shackelford County is a historic ranching operation that has been in the same family since the 1920s. The ranch, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, puts income from hunting and livestock sales back into ranch improvements, focusing on conserving quality Rolling Plains habitat. The ranch’s owners work to restore, protect and share the historic and cultural resources of the property and area with the public. Chimney Creek Ranch has worked to rebuild Smith’s Station on the Butterfield Trail and Bud Matthews Switch, a Texas Central Railroad shipping point. Artifacts found on the property are used for education and outreach with the local community. The ranch’s owners have also created Endowed Scholarships at Texas A&M University and Tarleton State University in Wildlife Science and Horticulture.

Trans-Pecos – Moore Ranch (Jeff Davis County)

Katherine Jane Moore Crittendon and Lynn H. Crittendon

The Moore Ranch in Jeff Davis County was settled by the Moore family in 1888. Jane Moore Crittendon, and her husband, Lynn Crittendon, continue to actively manage the property that once belonged to her parents and grandparents. Both in their 90s, Jane and Lynn have lived on and made a living on their land for over 60 years. Their family ranching heritage is a way of life. Jane and Lynn focus their efforts on reducing erosion, improving water distribution, and managing brush to benefit both wildlife and cattle. When asked what Jane was most proud of after all the year’s spent managing the ranch, she answered, “Survival”.

Wildlife Co-op – Brushy Creek Co-op (Anderson County) 

The Brushy Creek Co-op in Anderson County consists of over 10,000 acres that provide habitat for Eastern wild turkey and further their restoration in East Texas. The Co-op Chairman, Gary Costlow, owns property within the Co-op which has been in his family since 1859. Gary unites the cooperating landowners and organizes their efforts for brush control, native grassland restoration, forestry logging and thinning operations, food plot establishment, and prescribed burning.  These efforts have created ideal habitat for Eastern wild turkey reproduction. This collection of well managed properties acts as a model TPWD research and restoration site for East Texas.

Underwriters for the 2021 Lone Star Land Stewards Awards include presenting underwriter, Toyota, gold level underwriters, Shield Ranch, Jimmie Ruth and Dick Evans, Partners for Fish & Wildlife – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, silver level underwriters, Morgan O’Connor, Trinity River Authority, Winkler Ranch, bronze level underwriters, Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Wildlife Association, 4K Ranch & Farm Operations, Warren and Dori Blesh, Brown Ranch, Birdwell & Clark Ranch, Capital Farm Credit, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Glen & Heidi Couchman, C.T. Head Ranch, Dorothy Drummer, East Foundation, King Land and Water, Milton Greeson, Lower Colorado River Authority, Oncor Electric, Republic Ranches, Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute, Texas Agriculture Land Trust, Texas Farm Bureau, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, trade and other underwriters, Land.com Network & LAND Magazines, Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, B & B Ranch, Mr. and Mrs. Hernandez and Tom Vandivier.

Learn more the Lone Star Land Stewards program and private lands stewardship on the TPWD Private Lands and Habitat Program website.