Congratulations to the Graduates!

by Sue Ann Kendall, chapter secretary

May 28 was a fun day for the El Camino Real chapter! We welcomed the new graduates from our ten-week training class that went on all spring. There was a LOT of hard work involved by the organizers, the support team from our chapter, the presenters at the classes, and of course, the students. We had a wonderful evening at Julio’s Restaurant in Rockdale to celebrate and have some fun.

group photo
Our new members and the team who supported them on their journey.

First, I want to share the thanks that all us members extend to Kathy Lester, who organized the class, planned field trips, arranged for speakers, got shirts for the new members, and so much more. What would we do without her perseverance and hard work?

Kathy did such a great job! Here she’s getting ready to thank Don.

We also want to thank Don Travis, who came to all the meetings to provide media support. That is not an easy task, but he handled all the challenges with aplomb. He deserves so much credit for adding to the success of the class.

Well deserved, Don! Chapter President Carolyn Henderson agrees.

Another volunteer we want to thank is Lisa Milewski, who helped the students track their hours so they’d get credit where credit was due. What a happy accomplishment it is that all the students made it through the entire course!

So happy for Lisa’s help

The party part of the event was a welcome relief after so many years of not being able to just hang out with each other and become better acquainted. Many thanks to Liz Lewis, Pamela Neeley, and Catherine Johnson for their hard work planning it. Everyone at my table remarked about how nice it was to learn more about each other (when we weren’t laughing and laughing at the great stories some of the long-time residents told us newer folks.

But the best part was seeing the smiles on the faces of the new Master Naturalists as they got their certificates. Each of them made new friends and learned a lot, as Linda Burgess pointed out. I agree with her that it’s a great way to meet folks in the community, since it worked out that way for me, too!

I enjoyed meeting spouses and children of our members, as well. I’d heard so much about Michelle Lopez’s husband that I felt like he was already an old friend. And it’s so cool that one of our members, Victoria Everitt, is related to another member by marriage.

Two of the students also achieved their initial certification as well. Gene and Cindy Rek did so much work at the wildscape getting ready for that video filming that they got in all their volunteer hours!

One student was unable to make the party, but he’ll get his certificate soon. We are so proud of all our new members. I can’t wait to see their contributions and blog posts in the future!

Native Rangeland and Cattle Grazing are Compatible

by Carolyn Henderson

New trainees for the El Camino Real chapter Texas Master Naturalist learned about extensive programs being implemented by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with area ranchers to restore grazed land to its native state while still grazing cattle on it. A project in a neighboring county is being implemented by Tim Siegmund, the Private Lands Program Leader for TPWD-WL Division, with Jay Whiteside, TPWD Technical Guidance biologist District 5. They are several years into the 7-year plan, and the results are very positive in proving that native growth on rangeland and grazing cattle on it can be compatible and profitable. Below is a synopsis by Siegmund about the project. 

The use of fire to concentrate cattle grazing has led to a recovery of the areas being rested from burning within the pastures.  The cattle preferentially graze the freshly burned areas, and lightly or don’t graze at all the areas burned in previous years.  This allows the plants to recover, make seed, and persist over the long term in a constant burn, graze, rest cycle.  This can lead to better carbon and nitrogen cycling as a result of thatch incorporation into the soil and concentration of animal waste, increased water infiltration as healthy roots grow and rot in place creating pathways for water infiltration, and increased plant and animal diversity as there are a host of niches being created by short and tall vegetation as well as annual, biennial, and perennial plant species.  Patch burn grazing can be a great tool to promote livestock production, plant diversity, and wildlife diversity. —- Tim Siegmund

Photo 1 shows the short, grazed grass and the diverse wildflower community not being grazed by the cattle, average grass height was less than 2 inches.

Photo 2 is a picture of a yard stick showing the amount of ground cover now blanketing the ground after 2 full years post burn.

Photo 3 is a picture with Siegmund and assistants in it conducting the vegetation sampling monitoring the changes over time.

Photo 4 shows the year of burn and the annual plant community dominated area as the fire and subsequent regrowth of grass has concentrated the cattle in this area.

Photo 5 is a picture of Jay Whiteside and an intern showing what 2 years of rest looks like by burning other portions of the pasture to focus grazing pressure elsewhere. In 2019, grass height is approximately 20 inches.

By the way, a recording of this session can be found on our website.