Water from Stone
The story of the Bamberger Ranch Preserve.
By E. Dan Klepper
“People think I’m kinda crazy,” businessman, land-owner and conservationist David Bamberger says in this biographical account of his efforts to restore over 5,000 acres of Blanco County to ecological balance, “but I believe I’m related to these leaves here on the trees and these grasses and these bees and insects. The relationship can’t be explained yet; maybe it will never be totally explained. It’s mysterious. But if you destroy a species, you destroy part of us.”
Bamberger’s metaphysical arc between humans and nature may always remain a mystery, but his methods for bringing a natural landscape back from the dead are very real and profoundly down-to-earth. Author Jeffrey Greene tells the provocative account in Water from Stone — The Story of Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve (Texas A&M Press), detailing Bamberger’s inspirations, aspirations and restoration methodology in one of the Texas Hill Country’s greatest conservation success stories.
The debate among biologists, environmentalists, farmers and ranchers regarding healthy land management practices has continued for over half a century. But in Water from Stone, simple statistics, blended into an interesting read about Bamberger’s self-made success, make the best argument for conservation strategies.
Bamberger purchased what was considered “‘the sorriest piece of land in Blanco County’ because it was essentially wall-to-wall Ashe juniper,” Greene writes. “It had no lakes, ponds, or running creeks. David contends that it supported only 48 species of birds; that one cow required 41 acres; and disgruntled hunters who bought $3,000 leases were dressing deer at 55 pounds, the weight of some medium-sized dogs.”
But Bamberger, his sons and his ranch hands slowly cleared the juniper, terraced the landscape and reseeded the countryside with native grasses. The land responded with the return of springs and seeps, followed by year-round creek flows.
“I try to convince people that sensible land stewardship is not just good for Mother Nature and the quality of life we all have here, but it is also good economics,” Bamberger tells the author. “We now have 200 mother cows. We can run an animal unit to 18 acres. We have, at last bird count, 183 species. Last year, we earned $43,000 in hunting leases. Last weekend, we had turkey hunters who paid $5,000. You know how many they shot? Five. You could go to the supermarket and buy 500 of them for that kind of money.”
Now that’s a story with a happy ending for everyone.