Saving Working Lands Workshop Scheduled for Nov. 14 at Sul Ross State University in Alpine
W est Texas landowners are invited to attend a free landowner workshop co-hosted by Texas Agricultural Land Trust (TALT) and Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) on Nov. 14 at the Espino Conference Center at Sul Ross State University. The workshop title is Saving Working Lands: Preparing Landowners for Energy Development.

The workshop is part of the outreach efforts of the Respect Big Bend Coalition. 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 greater Big Bend region of far West Texas.

The workshop keynote address will be delivered by West Texas landowner Bobby McKnight, who is President of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. Other notable speakers and topics include:

  • Dr. James Cathey (Texas A&M)—Land Trends in the Trans-Pecos
  • Jon Paul Pierre (UT Austin)—Projected Landscape Impacts from Energy Development Scenarios in the Trans-Pecos
  • Joseph Fitzsimons (Attorney)—Mitigating the Impacts of Energy Development on Ranching and Wildlife Lands
  • Jeff White (University Lands)—Lessons Learned from Energy Development
  • James Oliver (TALT)—The Conservation Easement: A Voluntary Tool
REGISTER by Nov. 8 to secure a lunch order.
Borderlands Research Institute and Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute Partner to Study Land Trends
S ince the Spanish and Mexican Land Grants of the 1700s and 1800s, Texas Borderland counties have seen changes in population densities and rural and urban land use patterns. A new report assesses these shifts and identifies regions where rapid changes have occurred and where similar changes can be expected in the future.

Published by Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute in collaboration with Borderlands Research Institute, the report can be found at and at .
NFWF Awards Second Grant to BRI for Grasslands Restoration Work
T he National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has awarded a second six-figure grant to the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) for a grassland enhancement project in Marfa and Marathon. The funds will be matched dollar for dollar by private sources including funds from landowners and dollars raised by BRI, doubling the impact of the grant. The recently approved $244,695 grant was preceded by a $250,000 grant that was awarded in 2018.

This year’s project will include brush management activities in the Marfa and Marathon grasslands of West Texas to improve grassland health and provide habitat for pronghorn and migratory grassland birds. Brush management will be conducted on 5,000 acres of brush-invaded grassland. Once the affected areas are treated, BRI researchers will monitor response to treatments and develop region-specific science-driven management recommendations.

“BRI is honored to be selected as a year two grant recipient of the NFWF Pecos Watershed Conservation Initiative,” said Dr. Louis Harveson, who is the Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., BRI Endowed Director and professor of Wildlife Management at Sul Ross State University. “Our work to restore grasslands in the Marfa Plateau and Marathon Basin is critical for improving habitats for pronghorn, wintering grassland birds, and other grassland obligates. We are grateful that NFWF and their industry partners have made a significant commitment to the conservation of the borderlands region.”

T hanks to a bill passed by the Texas Legislature, Texans now have a chance to make their voices heard about funding for state and local parks and historic sites.

On November 5, 2019, Texans will head to the polls for a Constitutional Amendment Election. Proposition 5 or “Prop. 5” is one of 10 measures on the ballot. Prop. 5 will dedicate revenue from the Sporting Goods Sales Tax, so those dollars can only be used by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Historical Commission (THC) on public parks and historic sites. Some of these dollars will also be used for local park grants through TPWD’s local park grant program.

If passed, Prop. 5 will not require any new taxes or fees, but will provide millions of dollars for park funding each year.

State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and State Rep. John Cyrier championed the bill to put the measure before voters because they want to ensure that our parks and historical sites have consistent, reliable funding for generations to come. The bill passed with near unanimous support, and more than 75 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of hunters, anglers, land owners, conservationists, business leaders and outdoor enthusiasts are supporting it.

On November 5, Texans will have the opportunity to vote on Proposition 5 to protect Texas' natural areas, water quality and history.

Baird’s and Grasshopper Sparrows
in the Marfa Grasslands
A Baird's sparrow perches atop a mesquite in the Marfa Grasslands of West Texas. Baird's sparrows spend their winters here in the Chihuahuan Desert and are one of the grassland-obligate species whose populations are in steep decline.
T he grassland ecosystem is one of the most threatened ecosystems globally, with only 20% of its historical range left in the world. Because of this, grassland birds have lost approximately 70-80% of their total population since 1966. As key indicators of grassland health and integrity, these birds are ecologically significant and merit further study.

With partners from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, and the Dixon Water Foundation, BRI has been studying two grassland-obligate bird species, Baird’s sparrow and grasshopper sparrow, to better understand their ecological requirements during the winter.

Student Spotlight:
Fabiola (Fabby) Baeza-Tarin
B orderlands Research Institute (BRI) graduate student Fabby Baeza-Tarin has always been attracted to wildlife. When she was younger, you might say it was a fatal attraction.
“When I was little my brother and I would make sling shots and kill just about everything we saw,” she says ruefully. “Birds, snakes, you name it. We killed a skunk once, but not before it sprayed us both. My mom made us stay outside except to sleep for several days.”
Fabby was raised on a ranch. Growing up, she helped her dad and brother with ranch chores, from taking care of horses and corrals to working cattle.
“That’s where I learned to love the outdoors and wildlife,” she said. “That exposure to wildlife would eventually lead to my interest in studying wildlife, and I have learned why those things I did as a child were not right. Now I feel like I am making up for those childish pranks when I didn’t know any better.”
In high school, Fabby learned that she could actually pursue wildlife as a career and began looking into college options. She chose BRI at Sul Ross State University because it was close to home. She earned her undergraduate degree in 2016 and is now finishing up her Master’s thesis project, which is focused on overwinter habitat use of the Baird’s and grasshopper sparrows in the Marfa Grasslands. She’s planning on taking a few years to pursue employment in a wildlife career before returning to school to complete her PhD.
“One of the things that has really motivated me is the number of accomplished women scientists at the Borderlands Research Institute,” she said. “I never thought a woman could have a career in this field until I came to Alpine. I saw women professors, and female students studying wildlife biology and ranch management and I was like, ‘Wow, I can do this.’”
Fun Fact: What Makes a Grassland?
The grasslands of the Chihuahuan Desert are desert grasslands, a unique and highly diverse habitat.
G rasslands go by many names: prairies (Midwestern U.S.), pampas (South America), steppes (Central Eurasia), and savannas (Africa). While they vary in species composition, grass height, and root depth, grasslands generally have two things in common: grass is the dominant vegetation, and they are “found where there is not enough regular rainfall to support the growth of a forest, but not so little that a desert forms.” 1

However, some grasslands defy this logic. What about the grasslands of West Texas and Northern Mexico, for example, which are within the Chihuahuan Desert? These are desert grasslands . Here we find a patchy system of grasses alongside succulents and small shrubs, a highly diverse and often underappreciated habitat type. Dr. Louis Harveson writes more about this in Texas Wildlife magazine, in The Case for Desert Grasslands .

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Borderlands Research Institute | 432.837.8225 | bri@sulross.edu
P.O. Box C-21, SRSU, Alpine, Texas 79832