KERRVILLE – Almost 100 people from across Texas attended the inaugural Bennett Trust Land Stewardship conference hosted by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service recently in Kerrville.
The conference was funded by the Ruth and Eskel Bennett Endowment, said Dr. Larry Redmon, co-chair and the first Bennett Trust AgriLife Extension specialist. Redmon said the Bennett’s loved the Edwards Plateau and were concerned about a legacy of good land stewardship.
The response was so positive, Redmon said, the second Bennett Trust Land Stewardship conference has already been planned. It will be held once again at the Inn of the Hills Resort and Conference Center in Kerrville on April 22-24, 2015. Registration will be open in June.
“Our programs are designed to help landowners in the region hold on to and take care of their own legacy land holdings,” he said. “We were very pleased by the turnout for our first event, and everyone was very complimentary regarding our speakers, topics and day-long tours.”
The keynote speaker was Wyman Meinzer, the official state photographer of Texas. Meinzer’s photographs set to music “was quite an inspirational presentation and was enjoyed by everyone,” said Dr. Rick Machen, co-chair and AgriLife Extension livestock specialist at Uvalde.
Dr. Roel Lopez, director of Texas A&M’s Institute for Renewable Natural Resources and the Texas Water Resources Institute, presented information on the changes taking place in Texas and specifically in the Edwards Plateau.
Lopez indicated substantial population growth in Texas over the next several years would increase land fragmentation and wildlife habitat loss. Additionally, there was a good discussion regarding the increased need for quantity and quality of water for the growing population, much of which comes out of the Edwards Plateau.
Following the morning’s general session and lunch, attendees were invited to attend two of three different breakout workshops.
“Conference attendees could choose between workshops detailing invader management, land restoration or estate planning,” Redmon said.
The second day was spent on one of three tours. Individuals either visited the historic Hillingdon Ranch north of Comfort; took the wildlife tour with discussions about whitetail deer, turkey, quail, exotics and feral hog management; or the agritourism tour with stops at a local high tunnel peach orchard, wild seed farm and Becker Winery.
“All the tours had an opportunity to visit with land and business owners about the various enterprises represented,” Machen said.
The final day dealt with fire. Redmon introduced the morning’s program as the good, the bad, and the ugly of fire, which started with a description of the devastation of the Bastrop County fire of 2011, a look at the Texas A&M Forest Service Firewise program designed to help landowners protect their dwellings from potential wildfire, and finally a look at how to use prescribed fire in managing the landscape.
“Prescribed fire reduces the level of volatile fuel loads, thus reducing the potential for catastrophic wildfire, while at the same time enhancing habitat for wildlife and livestock,” Redmon said.