Historic Family Ranch Providing Benefits in the Trinity River Basin
story by Randy Henry
For three generations the Reed Family Ranch has been tucked away in the Post Oak Savannah and Blackland Prairie region of the Trinity River Basin on 1,780 acres in Navarro County, Texas. The ranch features wetlands, hills, wildlife habitat, and majestic landscapes.
Largely a cow/calf operation since the 1940s, current ranch owners Jim Reed and his wife, Judy, wanted to expand the ranch’s income potential while having a land management plan in place that could enhance the wildlife habitat and hunting possibilities, while keeping the cow/calf operation thriving for the next generation.
Jim started planning for a combination of wildlife habitat and grazing management for income on the ranch, and he chose the holistic resource management approach to make it successful. In the late ‘90s, he started working with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to address his conservation goals. The NRCS was able to make recommendations including grazing grasses that would fit the soil types on his ranch.
“The most difficult part of having a successful cow/calf operation was finding people with good cowboy skills and the willingness to operate an effective grazing system,” Jim said. “The establishment of native grasses made this much more productive from both a grazing and wildlife standpoint.”
He added that the new grasses will create conditions for a worthwhile water filtration system for generations to come, and a more productive cow/calf operation as well.
“The planting of native alamo switchgrass and eastern gamagrass was good for the landscape and environment, as well as excellent for wildlife on the ranch,” said Jim. “Those grass species made excellent beddings for increased fawn protection and survival, but also was great for moisture retention and the prevention of erosion.”
Jim started seeing the value in establishing partnerships with state and federal agencies that could help bring his land management focus to reality, and stay within his holistic resource management approach.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) helped the Reeds establish a long-term plan to enhance the wetlands on the ranch and other natural habitat areas for various hunting seasons. The wildlife included white-tailed deer, turkey, feral hogs, ducks, and other waterfowl to increase the income potential from weekend hunters and hunting club members.
“The plan will maintain and improve developed habitat for waterfowl, fur-bearers, along with wetland flora and fauna, while establishing native grasses and hardwood trees to be managed for feeding, roosting, and nesting purposes,” Jim said.
In 2001, the Reed Family Ranch was presented with the regional Lone Star Stewardship Award by TPWD and set in motion the real-time land management goals Jim had desired to accomplish on the ranch. While working with TPWD to accomplish these goals, he needed help with the wetland restoration process and looked to the NRCS and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) for technical and financial assistance.
“While researching the NRCS goals for wetlands, I found that WRP and the holistic goals of the ranch were consistent with one another,” said Jim. “WRP and NRCS have been very helpful in fleshing out my understanding of all the advantages of a wetlands preserve on the ranch.”
In a WRP agreement, which is a warranty easement deed held by the United States in perpetuity, between USDA-NRCS and the Reeds signed in 2011, there were 1,168 acres set aside that would benefit wetlands preservation, wildlife and riparian habitat, and create a sustainable outdoor landscape for wildlife, humans, and the environment. NRCS started working closely with the Reeds providing the technical and financial assistance needed to have the construction of wetlands restored and increase environmental benefits.
In Navarro County, NRCS Natural Resources Manager Kristy Oates noted WRP and the Reed Family Ranch are a perfect fit for a wetlands program, so in June 2011 a detailed engineering and conservation plan was written by NRCS for 76 acres encompassing four constructed restoration sites with swales, kidney ponds, and conical ponds on the ranch.
“WRP easements are extremely important to the wetland wildlife habitat for migratory birds, wetland dependent wildlife, and protecting and improving the water quality within the Trinity River Basin,” Oates said. “The newly constructed swales and ponds on the Reed Ranch are unique habitats supporting both wildlife and aquatic ecosystems, and focus on their restoration needs with a wetland environment helping the resource concerns on the land.”
At present, the wetlands project on the Reed Ranch has both open water and seasonal pools to attract waterfowl and many types of wildlife, including turkeys, white-tailed deer, and other migratory birds.
“The 2012 construction of 76 swales, conical and kidney ponds are in line with the ranch’s holistic goals for the management of water runoff, early plant succession, and holding soil moisture for more complete growth of natural landscapes,” Jim said.
Jim addressed the partnership that has developed between the Reed Family Ranch and NRCS, and the technical guidance NRCS provided during the wetlands project.
“It’s an excellent partnership while allowing for exciting land stewardship and sustainability, and we look forward to working with all the NRCS personnel in the future,” he said.
This photo shows a completed Wetlands Reserve Program area on the 1,780-acre Reed Family Ranch located in Navarro County, Texas. Photo Credit: Reed Family Ranch
Standing in front of the bulldozer with a GPS for precision depth control of a constructed swale in the background are Jim Reed (right), owner of the Reed Family Ranch in Navarro County, and Justin Latham (left), construction foreman at L-3 Construction in Gatesville. Photo Credit: USDA-NRCS
This young buck is just one example of the abundant wildlife seen on the Reed Family Ranch, which includes white-tailed deer, turkey, feral hogs, ducks, and other waterfowl. Photo Credit: Reed Family Ranch
Jim Reed and his wife, Judy, are shown enjoying a hike on the Reed Family Ranch. Photo Credit: Reed Family Ranch