“Healthy watersheds through good land management, that’s what we work on,” says Robert Potts, President and CEO of the Dixon Water Foundation. “Managing the land is the critical component in making sure we have enough water and the kind of water we want going forward.”
Their success in meeting their goals is the reason the Foundation was awarded the Texas Leopold Conservation Award in 2017. This 6:29 video celebrating the award takes us on a tour of some of the ranches to see what’s happening on the ground and to learn more about the practices that work for them.
Whether it’s on the Mimms ranch in the dry climate of the Chihuahuan desert in south Texas, or on the tallgrass prairies of north Texas where the Foundation brought plowed fields back to native grasslands, grazing is the Foundation’s only tool.
“You’ve got to have disturbance in order to continue a grassland,” says Potts. “What nature provided as one of those major disturbances is grazing.” He describes how the cattle stomp on the ground, and if there’s bare ground, they might break the crust so the seeds can get it. They fertilize it with their manure, and then they move on to a new area so the grass they’ve just grazed can recover.
Clint Josey, who deeded his ranch to the Dixon Water Foundation in 2005 says that this kind of planned grazing is what made his own ranch a success. “I wasn’t doing too good and then I heard about holistic management. It really works,” Josey says. “We did bring back the tallgrass prairie. It also makes it more profitable to ranch with more grass. So we were very happy with our planned grazing.”
Potts agrees with Josey’s point about profit. “This doesn’t work if it doesn’t show a profit.” And the Foundation shares it’s successes with others so they can incorporate it into their land management as they see fit.
As Steve Nelle, Natural Resource Specialist for Texas Parks and Wildlife puts it, “This is the kind of management we would like to see duplicated and replicated across Texas in a way that’s appropriate for each region. They’re doing things that anyone can do, even with limited resources.”
Clint Josey may say it best: “We only survive by what we can grow, so we need to get it right. We need better grasslands. That’s a better way to feed ourselves. The planned grazing does work. It’s probably the most important thing I’ve ever done.”