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Partnerships Mothering Nature Land and water conservation depends on private landowners. BY RUSSELL ROE J. David Bamberger and other Texas landowners have worked with TPWD to restore their land. PHOTO BY CHASE A. FOUNTAIN/TPWD HEN IT WAS TIME TO NAME THE WINNER OF THE 2009 Lone Star Land Steward Award, the choice seemed like a natural. J. David Bamberger, who owns a 5,500-acre Blanco County ranch, served on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department com- mittee that created the awards program and has spread the message of land stewardship for decades. It was his turn to be honored with the top prize. The awards ceremony was packed with those he had inspired to care for soil and trees, grass and water, flowers and wildlife. Bamberger talked about how he took an overgrazed ranch and turned it into a place where springs flowed and native grasses returned. They had all heard the story before, but the message was no less powerful. It’s a message the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department spreads through pro- grams like the Lone Star Land Steward Awards, which have recognized private landowners for excellence in habitat management and wildlife conservation since 1995. TPWD is partners with the Sand County Foundation, an international non- profit organization devoted to private land conservation, in issuing the Leopold Conservation Award (the top land steward prize) along with several eco-region awards each year. With 95 percent of Texas land in private hands, TPWD counts on private landowners to share its mission in conserving land and water. The future health of our lands and the wild things and wild places they sustain depends on the efforts of these Texas families. W 16 * J U LY 2 0 1 3 “In a state primarily held by private landowners, if we’re going to make good conservation impacts, the only opportunity to really do that on any scale is with the landowners,” says Arlene Kalmbach, coordinator of TPWD’s Landowner Incentive Program. “We’re doing projects that restore native prairie. We’re doing proj- ects that plant longleaf pine. We’re doing projects that protect riparian [streamside] areas and springs.” Through the land steward awards, the Landowner Incentive Program and habitat management programs, TPWD has worked with landowners from the mountains of West Texas to the pineywoods of East Texas, from the plains of the Panhandle to the rangeland of South Texas, effectively enlisting those landowners as conser- vation partners around the state. In many cases, land steward winners had been working with TPWD biolo- gists for years to get guidance on how best to manage their lands. As of February 2013, TPWD biolo- gists were assisting more than 8,000 landowners in implementing wildlife management plans on more than 29 million acres. TPWD also depends on groups such as the Texas Wildlife Association, the Nature Conservancy, the Environ- mental Defense Fund, the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and universities to accomplish its conser- vation objectives. Building on the success of its landowner assistance programs, TPWD has been initiating watershed- scale conservation projects to pro- tect Texas waterways, and those projects require the help of organiza-