It's been said that the stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas, but as it turns out, those heavenly bodies might have some healthy competition from a leading team of conservationists. The recent efforts of one group in particular are a bright spot right here on the ground, and that work illuminates everyone who comes into contact with it—metaphorically, at least.
Since June, when Dr Pepper Snapple Group (NYSE: DPS) announced its continued dedication to helping The Nature Conservancy nonprofit protect a collection of crucial Texas watersheds, impressive strides have been made in putting those funds to work. One success story currently in progress: saving the Clymer Meadow Preserve, one of the last remaining native prairies in Texas, which contains one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America.
With the support of DPSG's three-year, $1 million commitment to support an array of preserved lands across Texas, The Nature Conservancy is able to focus its efforts on conserving and restoring the prairie grasses that, among other things, protect the Trinity River watershed and play a key role in flood control. The Clymer meadow's rarity makes it a sought-after spot for researchers to conduct scientific investigations and for schools to use as a teaching site.
Go with the flow
"Conserving land is an important water protection strategy, and that's especially true in Texas," says Charlotte Reemts, a research ecologist with The Nature Conservancy whose work focuses on Texas. "Watersheds with native vegetation and intact natural systems like forests, woodlands, and prairies all help protect water quality and quantity in our rivers, streams, and aquifers. Such natural systems help water to sink into the soil; this water recharges groundwater and is slowly released into creeks and rivers, reducing the risk of flooding."
What's more, Clymer Meadow Preserve measurably purifies the water flowing into the Dallas/Fort Worth area—as long as its vegetation is left intact. "Natural systems can also filter contaminants out of water before [they reach] rivers and streams," Reemts says of the Trinity River, whose watershed the preserve protects and first serves North Texas before ultimately flowing downstream to benefit the Houston area’s water supply.
Laura Huffman, Texas state director for The Nature Conservancy points out the urgency of preserving the state’s watershed resources. "Less than one percent of our native prairies in Texas remain today. With Texas' population expected to double in size within the next few decades, this is a critical time to ensure we safeguard what little remains,” she said.
Timing is everything
Since time is of the essence, Dr Pepper Snapple Group's renewal of its $1 million commitment came at a critical juncture. Since the partnership began, The Nature Conservancy has been able to reclaim 1,500 acres of coastal and blackland prairies, harvest more than 1,000 pounds of rare native seeds to restore habitat on the five preserves supported by the partnership, conserve water, and improve water quality in each of the affected watersheds across the five preserves supported by the three-year promise.
Of the Clymer preserve in particular, Reemts explains, "We're currently quantifying how much the native prairie is contributing to water infiltration and storage so that we can understand how to restore degraded sites and improve the watershed even more. We're also actively restoring degraded prairie by mechanically clearing invasive brush and implementing prescribed fire to improve its value for watershed health and wildlife habitat. This work would not have been possible without the generous support from Dr Pepper Snapple Group."
Curious to learn more about The Nature Conservancy and the work it's doing in Texas? Catch up on all the latest news about its efforts to protect the Lone Star State's land and water.