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Grassland on Display

By Dee Ann Littlefield, NRCS Public Affairs Specialist

The tall grass prairies of north central Texas were the perfect setting to host the fourth biennial America’s Grassland Conference recently held in Fort Worth, Texas. The participants kicked off the three day event with four tours offered on area ranches.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff helped set up the tours and participated on the tour of the Taggart Ranch in Grandview and the Smith Ranch in Rio Vista. Range Management Specialist Matt Machacek and Soil Scientist John Sackett gave presentations and led soil health discussions at different points on the tour. Tour discussions revolved around grassland restoration, native prairie ecosystems, grazing management, prescribed burning, wildlife habitat, and soil health.

“The NRCS staff participation and leadership on the tour was so valuable and appreciated by all tour participants,” said tour host Dan Caudle, Botanical Research Institute of Texas. Caudle is a former NRCS grazing lands specialist.

The event brought together nearly 250 researchers, natural resource professionals, farmers and ranchers, policy experts, and conservationists to discuss relevant issues related to the conservation of North America’s grasslands. Evening sessions included trips to the Botanical Research Institute of Texas and the Fort Worth Nature Center.

National Wildlife Federation President and CEO Collin O’Mara gave a keynote speech to attendees about how important American’s grasslands are for providing habitat and ensuring sustainability for all types of wildlife, including endangered species.

NRCS Texas Water Quality Specialist Kyle Wright lead a breakout session with a presentation on “NRCS Area-wide Planning Opportunities to Maintain and Enhance America’s Grassland Ecosystems.”  NRCS Texas’ Brandon Carr, manager of the Knox City Plant Materials Center, presented his poster titled, “Grazing Management and Winter Stockpiling of Warm Season Grasses in the Southern Plains.”

The conference featured rancher’s panels and plenary talks, and choices from over 75 breakout sessions during the two days. Keynote speakers included Robert Potts, CEO of the Dixon Water Foundation; Steven Apfelbaum, ecologist with Applied Ecological Services, Inc.; Tyler Lark, researcher at the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment; Jerry Doan, operator of the Black Leg Ranch in Sterling, North Dakota; and Deborah Clark, operator of the Birdwell Clark ranch with her husband, Emry Birdwell, outside of Henrietta, Texas

The conference was co-hosted by the National Wildlife Federation, Coastal Prairie Partnership, Native Prairies Association of Texas, and Texas A&M University.

Grassland on Display, Dee Ann Littlefield, USDA-NRCS Public Affairs Specialist (2018, February)