There’s an old saying that volunteers are unpaid not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless. This past summer, Nature Conservancy volunteers proved their worth—and mettle—all across Texas.
Down on the coastal plains in July, a group from the Mid-Coast Master Naturalists—eco-minded volunteers from seven counties along the Texas coast—gave a helping hand to more than 140 captive-bred endangered Attwater’s prairie chickens. The group generously donated their time and talents on a ranch in Goliad County building acclimation pens, in which the captive-raised birds are slowly eased into new lives in the wild.
While hammers were swinging along the Texas coast, students from St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin were learning the conservation ropes the old-fashioned way: by living and working on the remote Davis Mountains Preserve in West Texas. Led by biology teacher Johnny Wilson, who has been bringing students from Austin to the Davis Mountains for a decade, the group helped Conservancy staff clear brush to restore Ponderosa pine and build trails with hand tools. They also learned essential outdoor skills like orienteering and telemetry training and assisted graduate students from Sul Ross State University in biology and wildlife studies.
In August, the Conservancy’s Independence Creek Preserve hosted some new faces—fifty cadets from the Texas ChalleNGe Academy in nearby Sheffield. The group, at-risk teens who opted in to the Academy in order to get their lives on track, spent time building campsites, clearing trails, grubbing Johnson grass, and harvesting native grass seed. After their long day, the cadets enjoyed the beauty of the preserve with a little fishing and swimming in the cool, spring-fed waters of Independence Creek. The day was a success for both nature and the teens, and the Conservancy hopes to continue the program on a quarterly basis.