BRI Expands Stewardship Services for West Texas Landowners
B orderlands Research Institute (BRI) is expanding services to help West Texas landowners manage and monitor their properties. Thanks to support from the Respect Big Bend Coalition, BRI hired veteran West Texas conservation biologist and former Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Regional Director Billy Tarrant in 2019 to lead the new Stewardship Services program. Along with landowner engagement activities connected to the Respect Big Bend effort, Tarrant is also working on expanding the landowner services provided by BRI.
“With more than 95% of land in Texas privately owned, we know that partnering with and supporting landowners is the key to successful conservation efforts in West Texas,” said Dr. Louis Harveson, who is the Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., BRI Endowed Director and professor of Wildlife Management at Sul Ross State University . “Providing landowners with the tools they need is an important part of our mission to c onserve the natural resources of the Chihuahuan Desert Borderlands through research, education, and outreach.”

Stewardship Services include initial ranch consults by BRI staff and students to identify ranch priorities and help landowners connect with the expert resources available to them through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, TPWD, and area land trusts, just to name a few. In addition, a variety of other services are available, including mapping services, habitat assessments, water enhancements, fence modifications, wildlife and camera surveys, wildlife management plans, and species identification and inventories. In addition, BRI provides numerous outreach opportunities for landowners, from workshops and seminars to conferences.

For more information contact us at or 432-837-8225.
Big Bend Seminar Series on Energy Development
T he Stewardship Services program is leading the outreach efforts of the Respect Big Bend Coalition with a number of upcoming seminars, four of which are confirmed for early 2020 and other seminars being planned for the fall. Respect Big Bend is a collaboration between local landowners, community residents and leadership, scientists, industry, researchers, and conservationists formed to address energy development's impact in the Big Bend region of far West Texas.
The seminar series is designed to engage a broad constituency of Big Bend community members to better inform them on recent energy projections, potential impacts on communities and conservation values, and to develop creative strategies to conserve the unique resources and communities of the region. The seminar series is sponsored in part by Respect Big Bend Coalition, The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, Permian Basin Area Foundation, Still Water Foundation, The Meadows Foundation, and the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University.
Mark your calendars for the following dates. No registration is needed.
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Topic: Is Energy Development Coming to the Big Bend? Understanding the Latest Energy Projections and a Novel Approach to Reducing the Impacts of Energy Sprawl
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
Topic: Potential Community Impacts from Energy Development: What to Expect and How to Prepare
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Topic: Development by Design: Where Energy and Conservation Meet
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
Topic: The Case for the Trans-Pecos: Texas’ Last Frontier
Dr. Michael Young and Marilu Hastings, pictured below, will be the first speakers in the Seminar Series on Energy Development. Join us at the Espino Conference Center in Alpine on January 15, 2020, from 6:30-7:30 PM to hear their projections for energy development in the Big Bend and how we can reduce the impacts of energy sprawl.
Dr. Michael Young, Associate Director of Environmental Research, Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas
Marilu Hastings, Vice President of Sustainability Programs, Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation
Saving Working Lands Workshop Preps West Texas Landowners for Energy Development
O n Nov. 14 at Sul Ross State University-Alpine, the Texas Agricultural Land Trust and the Borderlands Research Institute hosted a landowner workshop to address issues related to burgeoning energy development in West Texas.

Titled Saving Working Lands: Preparing Landowners for Energy Development , more than 140 people attended to learn about what landowners can do when loss and fragmentation of private lands are at stake due to mineral rights, eminent domain, estate taxes, and shifting family roles and demographics.

Blair Fitzsimons, CEO of Texas Agricultural Land Trust, addressed the audience, which largely consisted of landowners but also included petroleum geologists, real estate agents, and financial advisors. “It’s really important” she said, “that we communicate to urban audiences that privately owned lands are the connective tissue that support our cities, that support our national and state parks and that create our quality of life that we know as Texans… Landowners play a key role that needs to be recognized by the rest of the state.” 

Project Spotlight: Bighorn Sheep
D esert bighorn sheep once occurred throughout the Trans-Pecos region of Texas, and were distributed throughout 16 mountain ranges with an estimated population of 1,000–1,500 individuals during the 1800s. However, by the 1930s the population was estimated at approximately 300 individuals and their distribution had diminished to only four mountain ranges (Baylor, Beach, Carrizo, and Sierra Diablo Mountains). By the 1960s, it is believed that desert bighorn sheep had been extirpated from Texas.

To initiate restoration efforts, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) began desert bighorn sheep translocations by bringing individuals from other states and Mexico during the 1960s. While translocations have been used in the past for restoration efforts, they inversely have the potential to fail due to capture myopathy, disease, post-release predation, and dispersal. Despite the challenges, continuous efforts have been made to improve translocation success.

As part of translocation management strategies, desert bighorn sheep may be released by means of two different methods: 1) hard-release (i.e., translocated animals released immediately onto landscape) or 2) soft-release (i.e., released into an enclosure for an acclimation period before being released onto the landscape). Soft-release is usually preferred because it is thought to maintain site fidelity and aid in post-release survival, although it has been documented that some species have in fact shown a decrease in survival post-release.

For many years BRI has partnered with TPWD to study translocated desert bighorn sheep populations throughout the Trans-Pecos. With this project we are starting to look into the differences among resident, hard-, and soft-released populations, following translocation.

Student Spotlight: Taylor Daily
Taylor, age 12, cleaning a fish with his dad. Taylor says his dad was a big inspiration in choosing a career that allows him to be outdoors.
Taylor, now a graduate research assistant studying bighorn sheep with the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University.
A father’s love can set the course of a young man’s life. That is certainly the case for BRI graduate student Taylor Daily. Growing up in Lubbock, his father spent countless hours taking him on outdoor adventures, from fishing and hunting to hiking and looking for arrowheads. His father’s interest in all manner of wildlife sparked Taylor’s interest at a very young age.
“I remember one time driving down a road and my dad spotted a snake,” recalled Taylor. “He stopped the truck and we got out to get a closer look. It turned out to be a western diamondback rattlesnake. He pinned it down with a stick, so he could show me its unique rattle and diamondback pattern. I remember thinking that my dad was the coolest because he wasn’t afraid of it, but instead showed respect for it and wanted to teach me about it.”
When it was time for Taylor to go to college, he attended a junior college, and took courses that would have led him on a path to be a physical therapist. He quickly realized that career track just wasn’t for him.
“I knew a job that had me inside all the time would not be a good choice. I started investigating careers that had to do with animals and being outdoors,” he said. “I knew I didn’t want to be a zookeeper, so when I found out about what wildlife biologists did, I knew that was it.”
Fun Fact: Desert Bighorn Sheep, a Conservation Success Story
D esert bighorn sheep are one of the biggest conservation success stories for big game in Texas. After being extirpated from the state in the 1960s, they are now found on more than 10 mountain ranges throughout the state thanks to restoration efforts by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and other partnering agencies.
Five bighorn rams are spotted post-release at Black Gap Wildlife Management Area in West Texas.
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Borderlands Research Institute | 432.837.8225 | bri@sulross.edu
P.O. Box C-21, SRSU, Alpine, Texas 79832