Western River Project Director
Working the soil is in Rebecca Flack's blood. She grew up in the fertile fields of Northern Illinois, the progeny of seven generations of farmers on both sides of the family. Now, as Western Rivers Project director for The Nature Conservancy of Texas, Rebecca gets to combine her two greatest passions: agriculture and natural resources.
“My family has always been very conservation-minded in their farming practices, so that’s what led me into my career path,” she says. “I wanted to combine agriculture with the conservation element and love for the outdoors.”
She began with a bachelor’s degree in natural resources and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do with that degree until I stumbled upon a job announcement for a seasonal position with The Nature Conservancy at a preserve near my home,” she said. “I thought, ‘I can volunteer if nothing else.’”
Instead, she was hired on the spot—largely, she believes, because of her farming background. From there, she worked seasonal jobs with the Conservancy at preserves in South Dakota and Florida before pursuing her master of science degree at Texas A&M in rangeland ecology and management.
As she was preparing for graduation, she read about the Western Rivers Project director opening. “I thought, ‘It sounds like it was written for me,’” she says. Conservancy staff must have agreed. She was hired in 2007 and has been helping Central Texas landowners learn about conservation easements and other stewardship issues ever since.
“When I started it was a new position, and it took a little while to gain trust in the community,” she recalls. “They were wary of environmentalists and conservation easements and some didn’t understand exactly what we were trying to do. By building relationships with landowners in the area, people are starting to recognize that we are here to help and we’ve been able to form some great partnerships.”
Flack began by starting up the field office in Uvalde, but after a couple of years moved up to Bandera to get closer to the Conservancy’s Love Creek Preserve and re-establish a presence in the Bandera Canyonlands Conservation Area near Medina. Her territory covers the watersheds of the Frio, Nueces and Sabinal Rivers, and more recently, the Medina River.
Besides working with ranchers to establish conservation easements, she connects them with other agencies and individuals to help them accomplish their conservation goals, whether they be developing wildlife management or general conservation plans or helping to organize prescribed burns.
She’s looking forward to connecting with more landowners, working together to form a bulwark against the greatest threats to the region: habitat fragmentation, development and depletion of the aquifer.
“We’re working on preventing ranches from being broken up and subdivided, and promoting water conservation and land-use practices that enhance water quality and quantity,” she said, “and we’re working with local groups to keep rivers flowing and groundwater available for everyone in the future.”
Western River Project Director