The committee has been meeting for a few weeks, and I’d been trying to come (but it’s hard to get time off during work hours!). This week I was able to attend their meeting and see what they’ve been up to. I met with John Pruett from the trail association, along with Linda Jo Conn, Joyce Conner, Catherine Johnson, and Ann Collins.
Wow, so much work has been done! Our Master Naturalist group has spent years gathering data on plants found on the El Camino Real route, and they’ve now got it all gathered up, so we can include it in a brochure people can refer to when they are exploring the marked trail areas throughout Milam County.
In addition, Mike Conner has created a map for us to use in the brochure that will help people find their way from Apache Pass to Sugarloaf Mountain, where the trail passed through Milam County.
I am assigned to make the actual brochure. I’ve collected photos of the plants the committee wants to show information about, the introduction they’ve written, and the cover photo of Linda Jo Conn. We’ll see what I come up with.
The committee would be happy to have other members of the El Camino Real Master Naturalists join them as they get ready for our role in the conference. You get volunteer hours for it!
I just finished a book I really loved, and I think my fellow Master Naturalists will, too. The author talks about us in the book, even! Here’s what I wrote in my other blog about it, with a little more in it for our audience:
I think I just spotted Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution, by Menno Schilthuizen in the new nature books section on Amazon. I loved the cover and was really intrigued by the subject matter: how life evolves in the world’s urban enclaves.
Schilthuizen, a naturalist in the Netherlands and author of many articles in popular science publications, writes really clearly without “dumbing down” the science behind what he talks about. I think his reminder that evolution is not just something that goes on in the forests, oceans, and hidden jungles; it’s going on right under our noses.
Our August Chapter Meeting speaker was our old friend, Tim Siegmund, from Texas Parks and Wildlife. He spoke on “Prairies, Woodlands, Wildlife, and Managing for Diversity.” He had many wonderful photos that showed how careful management of land can result in habitat for a wide variety of life.
First, he told us what shaped the land before we Europeans showed up and turned our post oak savanna into more of a thicket. For the most part it was maintained by the large grazers (bison, mammoths, prairie dogs, and such) and fires. Some of the fires were natural, but many were also set by Native Americans for many reasons, plus natural ones. Drought also affects the trees, especially wetland species.
In all, the land was lightly used, since the heavy grazers migrated, creating a variety of settings for different birds, insects, and plants depending on how recently they’d been through an area.
He then explained how settlers intensified the use of land. An important factor was that they built fences, so grazing became year round and focused. The cattle/sheep, goats and friends would repeatedly graze the same area, giving no time for deep-rooted perennial grasses to recover. Soon enough, plants like cedars, huisache, and mesquite would fill in the grasslands.