The growth we have seen over the past few years in Grayson County has resulted in a rapid loss of open spaces and habitat for wildlife. Grayson County, furthermore, is expected to see unprecedented growth between 2015 and 2035, with the highest growth areas along the U.S. Highway 75 corridor, which includes Howe, Van Alstyne, and Sherman. At an Austin College symposium in April, the Herald Democrat reported that Sherman City Manager Robby Hefton and Denison City Manager Jud Rex spoke about how this anticipated rapid growth will impact our area during a “critical time where leaders are tasked with shaping the world for generations to come;” moreover, the choices made today will have a lasting effect on our future.
According to The National Wildlife Federation, habitat loss is the primary threat to the survival of wildlife in the United States. The earth’s ecosystems have been dramatically changed by the destruction, fragmentation, or degradation of habitat by agriculture, oil and gas exploration, commercial development or water diversion. As a result, our ecosystems may no longer be able to provide the food, water, cover, and places to raise young that wildlife need to survive.
Wildlife plays a very integral role in maintaining the fragile balance that ensures the wellness of the earth. Each species functions with a specific role—predator, prey, decomposer, preserver. Mother Nature requires that different species stay connected by means of a complex system known as food webs. Therefore, the extinction or death of one particular species might influence one or more seemingly unconnected species further down the line.
In 2020, the Bluestem Chapter of Texas Master Naturalist will present a series of five lectures entitled the Landowner Education Program. Because the accelerating growth in Grayson County has resulted in rapid loss of open space and habitat for wildlife, we are inviting landowners who are interested in ways of preserving open space to attend. The series will bring together several agencies that offer tax exemptions and funding and technical expertise for preserving open space and wildlife habitat—all in one space. The programs are free and open to the public.
On February 14, 2020, we begin our lectures with Wildlife Exemptions. Michael Elliott, a Registered Property Appraiser from Grayson Central Appraisal District, will present a program on how to negotiate and maintain a wildlife exemption for your property. On March 13, 2020, Texas Parks and Wildlife representative, Ragan White, will address options for funding available for landowners who want to do conservation projects. The Natural Resources Conservation Service will follow with a presentation on funding for farm and land restoration projects. Our third lecture will be held on May 15, 2020, on Conservation Easements. Ellen Gass of Texas Land Conservancy will conduct a program on the tax and conservation benefits of obtaining a conservation easement. On July 17, 2020, Marshall Tolleson, Grayson County Agricultural/Natural Resources Agent, will discuss the ecology of the Grayson County area. This talk will be followed by a presentation by Bluestem Chapter members on strategies for habitat improvement.
The culmination of the Landowner Education Program will be a walking tour of the Austin College Sneed Prairie Restoration Project. According to their web site, the restoration project uses three different combinations of prescribed fire, grazing and mowing in a formal experimental design across the fields of a former farm. Both the management and monitoring methods are designed to be usable by interested landowners. The tour will be led by Dr. Peter Schulze, Professor of Biology and Environmental Science and Director of Center for Environmental Studies at Austin College. The date for this event has not been determined and will be announced at a later date.
All lectures are free and open to the public. Due to the current need for social distancing, the May 15 program will be held online. The time for all lectures is from 9 – 11:30 a.m. Reservations are required as there is limited room. Please register for each separate lecture at https://tinyurl.com/landownerconservation. After you register for the May 15 program, you will receive an e-mail confirmation and a link w/instructions for accessing the online meeting room. For more information send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Grayson County Agrilife Extension Service
• Texoma Council of Governments
• Texas Land Conservancy