Lone Star Land Steward Ecoregion Award Winners Announced

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AUSTIN – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is proud to reveal the 2022 Lone Star Land Steward Ecoregion Award winners. This year’s 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 will take place this year at 6 p.m. May 25. More information about the banquet, 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.

Lone Star Land Steward Awards recognize private landowners in Texas for their exemplary contributions to land, water and wildlife stewardship. With 95 percent 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:

Blackland Prairie — Ebel Grasslands Ranch (Hopkins County)

Karl and Kelli Ebel

The Ebel Grassland Ranch restoration project began in 2003 with an initial purchase of 645 acres. The family added 360 acres in 2012. The Ebels’ total acreage had been farmed and grazed for years, starting in about 1834. The family worked closely with TPWD biologists to discover that at least 780 acres of the property was original remnant tallgrass, Silveus’ dropseed prairie, one of the rarest endemic native plant communities in Texas. Through land management practices focused on returning the land to the native prairie ecosystem, the family has been able to increase native flora and fauna, improve soil health and wildlife diversity on the property while running a full-time livestock operation.

Cross Timbers – Wagley Ranch (Palo Pinto County)

Jay and Sue Wagley

The Wagley family have a long history in Palo Pinto County, and they manage their ranch from a long-term perspective with a specific focus on maintaining and improving their native grasses and pollinating plants. When making a decision on the ranch, they ask the question, “Will this benefit the ranch in future generations?” The Wagleys base every decision on achieving balance between livestock grazing and wildlife habitat management. The Wagley’s take great pride in their Black Angus herd and the fact that the entire family is involved in the ranch’s operation. They also take great pride in the diversity of terrain, habitat and wildlife which hosts the northernmost breeding area for the Golden Cheeked Warbler. Their long-term approach to managing the land ensures that the unique wildlife species that inhabit the property have a home for years to come.

Gulf Coast Prairies – Grahmann Family Ranches (Victoria, Goliad Counties)

Johnny and Susan Grahmann

Grahmann Family Ranches (Flycatcher Cattle) is a small cattle and wildlife operation that raises commercial and registered Brangus cattle across four properties.  The Grahmann family’s overall goal is to be the best possible stewards of the land, wildlife and livestock on their relatively small pieces of Texas. Habitat management and restoration for both wildlife and cattle are the family’s highest priority, utilizing management efforts such as browse stem counts, wildlife population management, prairie and riparian restoration. When not working diligently on its own property, the Grahmann family is always open to lending a helping hand to their neighbors or other private landowners, sharing farm equipment or advice, which in many cases is reciprocated by these same landowners. Additionally, each hunting season, the family makes it a point to introduce aspiring hunters and conservationists to the outdoors, most of whom are youth or minority audiences.

High Plains – Grotegut Farm and Ranch (Deaf Smith County)

Chris, Chris Sr., Josef, Gertrud and Judith Grotegut

Dr. Chris Grotegut, a local veterinarian, farmer and stockman, operates according to his philosophy of “living within water means” – that is, sustainable and responsible irrigation, livestock grazing and pasture management practices. Recognizing the unique challenges facing land producers in the southern High Plains, namely wind erosion, severe drought events, and a rapidly depleting aquifer, the Grotegut Farm and Ranch is a model of sustainable land producing practices that utilizes native grasses to replenish the rangeland and playas on their property

Edwards Plateau – Wuest Ranch (Comal, Bexar Counties)

Wuest Family

The Wuest Family has utilized a combination of tools on the Wuest Ranch for many years, including rotational cattle grazing, brush management and reseeding with native range plants. Through extensive efforts put in place by the family, native grasses and forbs flourish on the property, livestock productivity has increased, the family has seen an increase in quality white-tailed deer, small mammals, and reptiles, and have greatly improved the property’s soil and water quality.  In addition, hundreds of thousands of Texas citizens get to enjoy the limestone geology of their property and learn about Texas history, geology and beautiful open spaces when they visit.  A large portion of the property has been under a conservation easement since 2005 meaning it will remain undeveloped in perpetuity in one of Texas most rapidly urbanizing areas.

Rolling Plains – Indian Springs Cattle Company (Moore County)

Mitchell Family

Prior to the Mitchell family purchasing this property in the Canadian River Breaks, it had been heavily overgrazed. Since developing a detailed grazing plan, the native plant diversity has responded exponentially to the family’s care and stewardship. Over the course of six years, the dominance in grass types on the ranch have transitioned to high quality bluestem and vine mesquite among others indicative of healthy short and mixed grass prairie. In addition, the property’s cattle carrying capacity has far exceeded its previous condition while providing plenty of habitat meeting the cover, food, water, and space needed for grassland birds, small mammals, reptiles, predators and quality big game species. The ranch often lends itself to cooperative research, demonstration, and educational programs that promote good wildlife and habitat management practices for private landowners who own and manage land in the area. Their management benefits all of those who use Lake Meredith just downstream.

Trans Pecos – Quail Ranch, LLC (Upton County)

ConocoPhillips

In a 16-inch rainfall zone it can be hard to reclaim heavily impacted land, but that’s just what is occurring at the Quail Ranch. Being part of the prolific Permian Basin, reclamation of retired oilfield facilities and reseeding rights of way with native seed from local sources is a primary focus for activities at Quail Ranch. This aggregate of Upton County properties which make up the Quail Ranch, includes the ranch famous Texas western author Elmer Kelton was raised, were historically used for agricultural production. Today, the land use emphasis has since shifted to wildlife management after a century of decreasing grass and increasing creosote bush and mesquite. The property includes two large, restored playa lakes and formerly brush encroached grasslands that have been treated effectively and now serve as vital habitat for pronghorn, burrowing owls and black-tailed prairie dogs.  Windmills have been converted to solar, and guzzlers installed to ensure that, over 95% of the ranch will fall within one mile of a water source. In an area providing massive amounts of energy for the public, Quail Ranch, has greatly improved the habitat for the wildlife species that call this part of Texas home.

Underwriters for the 2022 Lone Star Land Stewards Awards include presenting underwriter, Toyota; Gold level underwriters Mr. and Mrs. Edwin L. Cox, Jr, Dallas Safari Club, Jimmie Ruth and Dick Evans, Partners for Fish & Wildlife – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, H.E. Butt Foundation, Shield Ranch; Silver level underwriters ConocoPhillips, Eric Walsh – Compass Ranch & Land Real Estate, King Land & Water, Lower Colorado River Authority, The Rosewood Corporation, Trinity River Authority of Texas, Wexford Ranches, Matt and Peggy Winkler; Bronze level underwriters 4K Land and Cattle Co., Alum Creek Wildlife Management Association, Birdwell & Clark Ranch, The Bamberger Foundation, The Brown Ranch, Danny and Shirley Butler, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Capital Farm Credit, Colorado River Land Trust, Conservation Equity Partners LLC, Glen and Heidi Couchman, David S. Crow, Dorothy Drummer & Associates, Dunn O’Connor Land & Cattle Co. LLC, East Foundation, Harkins Ranch, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Kelsey, Oncor Electric Delivery, Republic Ranches LLC, Mr. Nelson J. Roach, San Antonio River Authority, Simms Creek Wildlife Association, Simon and Louise Henderson Foundation, Spicewood Ranch/Christopher Harte and Will Harte, Sycamore Canyon Ranch, Three Mile Creek Ranch, T.L.L. Temple Foundation, Ellen C. Temple, Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas A&M Natural Resource Institute, Texas Agricultural Land Trust, Texas State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Land Trust Council, Texas Tech University Center at Junction Llano River Field Station, Texas Wildlife Association, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Mr. and Mrs. Warren and Dori Blesh, Wildlife Consultants, LLC, David Yeates, Mr. J. David Bamberger; Mr. James K. Brite, Jr. (J.A. Brite Ranch), Mr. and Mrs. Rod Hench (Wild Wings Ranch), Mr. and Mrs. Roy Leslie (Leslie Ranch), Mr. and Mrs. Tom Vandivier (Llano Springs Ranch, Ltd.), and Mr. Kelly Walker (Walker 7 Oaks Ranch).

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