July 2019

I recently wrote an article about using nature to reduce flood risk, and it was in the Houston Chronicle on Sunday. If you didn't get a chance to read it, click here or see below.

Thanks for all you do to help us protect the prairie.

Mary Anne Piacentini
President and Chief Executive Officer
Let’s utilize nature to reduce the flood risk
By Mary Anne Piacentini

Preventing development on open land is among the most cost-effective ways to prevent flooding.
Having lived through devastating floods over the last four years, Houstonians have rallied to rebuild and recover. That includes looking for new ways to reduce flood risk.

One of the most promising involves using nature to fight flooding. Those measures include creating more parks and open spaces; making ample room for water in our bayous; conserving natural areas; restoring grasslands and forests; and smaller-scale projects such as permeable parking lots, green roofs and new lawn grasses with longer, water-absorbing roots.

No, nature-based solutions alone will not eliminate flooding. But combined with more traditional engineering projects — levees, constructed detention ponds and drainage-improvement structures — they can do a great deal to manage and diffuse the effects of flooding while also providing major side benefits: scenic and recreational amenities, improved water quality, boosts to tourism and locally grown food from community farms.

Not to mention that nature-based solutions also are highly cost-efficient, often several times more so than traditional flood-control public works. A National Wildlife Federation study indicated that every $1 spent in preventive measures saves $4 in disaster recovery costs. The study also noted that protecting open space and existing natural habitats are among the most cost-effective ways to reduce risks to communities.

Recently, the Galveston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented an update on its Buffalo Bayou and Tributaries Resiliency Study. Study documents noted the Corps’ willingness to consider nature-based solutions, but the detailed proposals didn’t appear to include nature-based solutions at all. Though some measures didn’t include structures, those mostly involved public education, signage or buyouts.

This is not enough.

The Corps should pursue nature-based solutions aggressively and creatively, not as window dressing, but as part of a balanced strategy that will give us more impact, and lasting environmental benefits, for our flood-control dollars.

It’s not as though the Corps has never worked with nature. In 1968, when Boston experienced a devastating storm, the Corps realized that wetlands, crucial in absorbing rainwaters upstream, were threatened by rapid development and proceeded to preserve 8,500 acres of wetlands in the middle and upper reaches of the Charles River. The cost proved to be one-tenth the estimated cost of the initially proposed dams and levees. And the wetland storage area, once preserved, did not require significant operational and maintenance costs.

That approach could work for Houston, too. The Corps’ resiliency study included all the land that drains into Cypress Creek, Addicks, Barker and Buffalo Bayou. Though these watersheds are becoming increasingly urbanized, there is still time to protect key natural areas — to keep the lands as wide-open spaces that soak up floodwater.

Undeveloped land along waterways — in our floodways and flood plains — should be protected today, before homes or businesses are built on them. Such land would provide wildlife habitat; improve water quality by filtering pollutants; collect, store and slowly release floodwaters; and facilitate groundwater recharge.
Conservation and parks organizations, including the Katy Prairie Conservancy, have identified these and other ways to use the region’s natural assets to reduce the risk of flooding — and state lawmakers have listened. Just this year, natural infrastructure was designated as an eligible project type within the new Texas Flood Infrastructure Resiliency Fund, signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Now it’s up to us to seize this opportunity.

Piacentini is president and CEO of the Katy Prairie Conservancy.
Check This Out!
Thanks Bass Pro Shops!
Representatives from the Katy Prairie Conservancy and Bass Pro Shops gathered together June 20 to celebrate a new partnership to restore and enhance the Katy Prairie Conservancy’s protected lands.

This contribution from Bass Pro Shops is made possible by the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Fund, which is making grants for conservation projects, scouting efforts, and other initiatives focused on preserving the outdoors, and getting more people out there to enjoy it. When customers make a purchase, they are invited to "Round up for Conservation." These monies fuel the Outdoor Fund.

KPC is excited to get additional restoration projects underway on the Katy Prairie thanks to this generous gift!
Volunteer Spotlight - Meet Jim
Many of you already know Jim Kennedy, but if you don't, we'd like to share with you a few things about this outstanding KPC volunteer!

Background: Retired City of Houston Police Officer; Texas Master Naturalist

What attracted you to becoming a KPC volunteer? I was getting bored with retirement and becoming a couch potato. I'd watched 14 years of Grey's Anatomy!

How long have you been volunteering with KPC? 3 years, about 8 hours a week, on most Tuesdays and Fridays

What do you do as a KPC volunteer?
I work out at the Indiangrass Preserve. Whatever they need me to do really - mowing, burning, planting.

What's your favorite thing about the Katy prairie? The wind and the birds. Especially in the fall when the ducks and the geese come in - I like to watch and listen to them.

What do you think is the best way for others to help preserve the prairie?
Just volunteer. Come out and do something - it's all got to be done.
Jim is pictured with his favorite basketflower (which he planted himself and carefully mows around), prepping for Putting Down Roots, and clearing brush. He has also helped KPC with tabling at educational events like Family Day at the Houston Botanic Gardens.

We're lucky to have such a helpful and hardworking volunteer at KPC - a heartfelt thank you for all you do for our prairies, Jim !
North American Prairie Conference: Healthy Prairies, Healthy Watersheds
There was a fantastic turnout at the 2019 North American Prairie Conference - with nearly 300 people in attendance. Our KPC booth was ready for them!

This was only the second time since 1968 that the conference has been held in Texas. We are so fortunate that our remaining coastal prairies and wetlands could be featured for visiting prairie professionals and prairie enthusiasts.

There was also a huge effort to make this conference low waste - check out the reusable cup (orange) and utensil kit (green) that was given to all attendees!
New Bird Presentation Available!
Did you know that while we’re sweltering in the heat of July on the prairie, some migrating birds are already flying south for the winter? How do they know it’s time to go? 

If you’re curious, now’s a great time to stay indoors and sample “Katy Prairie Birds in their Season”, KPC’s newest slide presentation. Long-time volunteer and board member Iris Poteet takes this show on the road, rolling out the credits to a bevy of birders and photographers whose work made this presentation possible. 

To inquire about a showing for your group or organization, please contact us at info@katyprairie.org .
Loggerhead Shrike, Lanius ludovicianus
Photo courtesy of Greg Lavaty
July Challenge - Plastic Free KPC
We are excited to participate in Plastic Free July. We're bringing our reusable water bottles and lunch tiffins to the prairie - learn more about #plasticfreejuly and challenge yourself to reduce plastic usage this month (and all months!).

For more info on Plastic Free July, click here .
Upcoming Events On the Prairie
July Volunteer Opportunities

You can make a difference! First time volunteers, fill out a volunteer application here . We are working on a variety of different volunteer projects at Indiangrass Preserve and Shrike Prairie throughout the year. Join us during any of the times below.

Indiangrass Preserve
Tuesdays: 9 am - 3 pm
Fridays: 9 am - 1 pm
Saturdays: 9 am - 1 pm
Planning on visiting us or volunteering? Don't forget to fill up and drink from your reusable water bottles - it's HOT on the prairie in the summer.
Seed Collecting Opportunities
Interested in learning more about seed collecting? Join us out on the prairie!

If you would like to be added to the seed collecting email list, please contact lshen@katyprairie.org .

Seed collecting at Indiangrass Preserve:

Friday, July 12
9 am - noon

Seed collecting at Deer Park Prairie:

Wednesday, July 10
9:00 am - noon
Ann Hamilton Trail Walking Tour
Saturday, July 27th
10 - 11 am

All ages are welcome at the Indiangrass Preserve for a free walking tour on the Ann Hamilton Trail. Come learn about the history and value of the coastal prairie and KPC's role in preserving these vanishing lands.

Please bring water and meet the tour guide at the Field Office.   

Click  here  for directions.
KPC at Memorial Park Conservancy Greenhouse

KPC will be taking a break for the summer from the native plants work it has been doing with volunteers at The Memorial Park Conservancy Greenhouse.

In the meantime, KPC's Native Seed Nursery at the Indiangrass Preserve in Waller is open and ready for volunteers.

All are welcome, no experience necessary!
Join us on Tuesday mornings at 9 am.
9 Natives Showcase Garden
Look how much we've grown! The 9 Natives Showcase Garden at the Houston Museum of Natural Science is taking shape. If you haven't had a chance to visit the garden behind the Cockrell Butterfly Center, we invite you to stop by this summer and take a look. If you snap any pictures, please send them our way and share with us how it's growing.
Treat Yourself!
There are still a few spots available for the unique experiences below. Email Ali Dodson at adodson@katyprairie.org to purchase a spot.

Please click on the experiences to enlarge and learn more!
2 spots left!
4 spots left!
4 spots left!
Get Your Conservation Plates
Show your support for the outdoors every time you hit the road — with a  Texas conservation license plate . These plates fund a variety of projects that range from greening Texas State Parks to purchasing equipment to fight wildfires.

Get your Preserve the Katy Prairie T-shirt!
T-shirts still available here ! $15 each while supplies last.

PS. They're SUPER soft
Katy Prairie Conservancy | katyprairie.org  | 713-523-6135 | info@katyprairie.org