This year TLC celebrates 35 years of land conservation in Texas. This organization has seen a lot during that time: the change in our name from the Natural Area Preservation Association (NAPA), the transition from an all-volunteer staff to five fulltime professionals, and the assembly of more than 120 unique pieces of land that are protected forever. I want to take a moment to not only reflect on what an exceptional journey it has been for TLC but also share with you the incredible people that have made TLC what it is today.
It all started in 1982 when a group of Texans concerned with protecting the best of Texas’ natural landscapes gathered to create what would become Texas Land Conservancy. Led by Ned Fritz, these dedicated volunteers were truly heroes in the budding field of conservation—people with the foresight to know that the resources we have been given won’t be here forever and who took action to protect these special places.
Ned may have been one of TLC’s first conservation heroes, but he has left behind a strong community of passionate people that are committed to not only protecting the land in Texas, but the wildlife, water, plants, and people that depend on it.
For instance, our past president Michael Jung joined the Board in 2000, has used his legal expertise to defend TLC land from condemnation, and donated countless hours in pro bono time over the years. Janell Morgan, board member since 1984, served as our financial watch dog, the treasurer, and now assistant treasurer over her 30 year tenure. Dr. Earl Mathew, board member since 1987, worked to secure our 465-acre Ivy Payne Wildlife Preserve in East Texas and has since guided countless volunteer efforts there.
Over the years many Texas landowners have made a commitment to conserve their land. Like Joyce Lucas’s heritage ranch on the Llano River, Jesse Wood’s family farm in the rolling plains with a restored prairie dog town, or the legacy gift of the Banita Creek Preserve in Nacogdoches that Charlotte Montgomery left in a bequest.
Some of the great friends I’ve made through TLC, like Randy and Beth Lisbona, who not only support us with personal donations, but they also donate their time volunteering at Oak Cliff Nature Preserve in Dallas. Or Jerry Morrisey who since becoming a member has attended, AND even led, a number of hikes on our protected properties, putting his experience as a Texas Master Naturalist and member of the Native Plant Society of Texas to good use.
And these are only a few of the many conservation heroes I get to work with every day. There are too many to list here, but they all share one vision, to protect these special places in Texas. I cannot tell you how honored I am to be a part of such an amazing and inspiring community of people.
Together we have protected over 92,000 acres of Texas, which includes forests that provide clean air and store carbon, rivers and lakes that we rely on for fresh water, and working lands that preserve our agricultural heritage. As a community supported organization, this work would not be possible without the generous and steadfast conservation heroes across the state.
This brings me to how you can help us celebrate 35 years of conservation in Texas—we want to continue to highlight all of the conservation heroes across the state by sharing YOUR stories about the people who have dedicated their time and passion to nature. You can send this as a letter, a story, a paragraph, a picture, or a video!
As the stories start coming in, we will be posting them on our website and social media accounts so everyone can see all of the amazing people that are dedicated to keeping Texas beautiful.
Here is what you can do: Send your conservation hero story to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “My Conservation Hero”. Please include pictures if you can, as we would love to put a face to a name. If you’re feeling even more inspired, feel free to give a gift in honor or in memory of your conservation hero.
Let’s spend the rest of 2017 recognizing and celebrating our conservation heroes and help inspire a new generation of stewards that can join this dedicated community.