Playas Spotlighted at Texan by Nature Conservation Wrangler Summit
Pictured (left to right): Jeff Raasch, TPWD; Mike Carter, PLJV; Mrs. Laura Bush; Bob Locke, Ducks Unlimited; and Don Kahl, TPWD.
In October, the Texas Playa Conservation Initiative was one of six conservation projects featured at the first annual Conservation Wrangler Summit and Celebration hosted by Texan by Nature, an organization founded by Former First Lady Mrs. Laura Bush to unite business and conservation leaders who believe the state’s prosperity is dependent on the conservation of its natural resources. The Summit brought together over 200 Texas leaders to discuss and explore the beneficial connection between conservation and business.
“The Texan by Nature Conservation Wrangler program highlights the very best Texan-led conservation demonstrating tangible returns for people, prosperity, and natural resources. The partnership between Texan by Nature and each project, over the course of 12-18 months, including the Summit, allows us to showcase those efforts to businesses across the state looking for opportunities to increase their involvement in conservation efforts,” said Jenny Burden, Program Manager with Texan by Nature, “These projects, including the Texas Playa Conservation Initiative, inspire energy and create focus among stakeholders on key issues, such as water, and the Conservation Wrangler program helps to increase the reach and impact of the project.”
The Summit began with Mrs. Laura Bush and Carter Smith, Executive Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), discussing current efforts of Texas leaders to positively impact people, prosperity, and natural resources. During one of the breakout sessions, Don Kahl, the TPWD wildlife biologist who is managing playa restoration efforts in the Texas Panhandle, talked about how playas play a critical role in providing clean water for the region and the need to restore this natural resource so playas can continue to recharge the Ogallala Aquifer and provide important wildlife habitat. The event culminated in a gourmet meal and celebration of the 2018 Texan by Nature Conservation Wrangler projects, including Texas Playa Conservation Initiative.
“The Summit was a great event,” remarked PLJV Coordinator Mike Carter. “As we were getting ready to take a picture with Mrs. Laura Bush, she relayed how her mother used to take the kids bird watching on a playa near Midland. It made my day to hear that connection.”
To date, the partnership has completed 13 projects, restoring 489 playa acres, with a 19-acre project scheduled to begin soon. There are also five pending projects that will lead to an additional 175 acres restored in the new year.
“Our involvement in the Texan by Nature Conservation Wrangler program is proving quite valuable,” noted Don Kahl, TPWD Region 1 Migratory Game Bird Specialist, who is managing landowner outreach and playa restoration efforts. “We’re on the cusp of building some great new partnerships, and we’re getting the word out about the importance of playa conservation to new, exciting audiences. As our partnership with Texan by Nature continues to grow, the strength and scope of our message will also continue to grow and benefit the people and wildlife of the Texas High Plains.”