When Robert McCurdy helped the Conservancy expand Independence Creek Preserve in 2001 and became a lifetime lessee on the property, he might not have known exactly what he was getting himself into. A lifelong outdoorsman, McCurdy likely eyed the clear, spring-fed creek with the savvy eyes of a man who spent years as a fishing guide in Port Aransas and owned Austin Angler, the first fly-fishing shop in Texas.
Whatever illusions he might have had about quiet mornings wading the pools and riffles of Independence Creek with a fly rod are long gone now. He’s still up early and may even put the waders on, but these days he’s equipped instead with the tools of on-the-ground conservation: an axe, a shovel, or perhaps just a sturdy pair of work gloves.
Independence Creek Preserve bears the stamp of a man dedicated to conservation and passionate about doing things himself. Whether it’s a late-night deer count, reseeding native prairie grasses or dragging felled trees into the lakes to add nutrients, McCurdy is always game to roll up his sleeves and work alongside Conservancy staff.
McCurdy has seen much of the world but finds an unparalleled beauty in the Pecos River wildlife corridor. He recognizes that Caroline Springs — which pumps a steady 4,000 gallons a minute into the creek and eventually the Pecos River — is a treasure and intends to do whatever he can to protect it.
When beavers re-established along the creek following a 2004 flood, McCurdy watched with curiosity. When they dammed a small section of the creek, inspiration struck. Now, he’s working to create two small wetlands on the preserve that he hopes will attract migratory waterfowl. This year that work yielded nearly eight acres of wetlands, although he’s finding that sometimes the effort itself needs to be its own reward. He’ll often return from sojourns away from the preserve to discover that a previously marshy area is now inexplicably bone dry.
For McCurdy, a conservationist, wildlife enthusiast and true Texas gentleman, that’s the nature of stewardship and part of the slow process of habitat restoration. He’ll put the waders back on and try again in another lowland area. After all, there’s always time to fish tomorrow.