Preserving the Natural Beauty of East Fort Worth Prairie: A Look at the Native Prairies Association of Texas
The Fort Worth Report, a renowned news outlet, has unveiled a series of articles lauding the commendable efforts of individuals and institutions in Tarrant County, Texas, towards establishing a more sustainable community.
The fourth installment of the 2023 Earth Month series celebrates the Native Prairies Association of Texas for their unwavering commitment towards preserving the precious east Fort Worth prairie. The organization unites volunteers, conservation experts, and community members for enlightening field trips, prairie tours, and informative events about native prairies in North Texas, according to Dallas Metro News.
On April 16, the Fort Worth chapter of the Association held an impressive stroll through the Tandy Hills and Broadcast Hill areas to showcase their conservation efforts, which were close to home. Led by the Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area, the group highlighted the stunning beauty and importance of the natural area, which is home to almost 2,000 diverse species of plant life. Michelle Villafranca, parks operations and natural resource planner for the city of Fort Worth, is impassioned by the decline of native prairies in North Texas, and she shares that the chapter was founded almost ten years ago after the Native Prairies Association of Texas hosted its 2014 conference in Fort Worth, which inspired locals to establish their own organization.
Villafranca notes that as developers convert 2,800 acres of prairie into new subdivisions and businesses annually, it is crucial that individuals appreciate the diverse ecology of native prairies to understand the importance of protecting them. Tallgrass prairie, which is home to hundreds of plant species, birds, pollinators, and burrowing animals, is the most endangered ecosystem in North America, as reported by the Native Prairies Association of Texas. Villafranca acknowledges that North Texas does not boast the mountains, ocean, or giant redwoods of other renowned US national parks, but she strongly advocates that understanding the diverse ecology of native prairies is crucial to preserving them.
Nevertheless, conservation efforts are often thwarted by a range of obstacles, including land costs, aging landowners, and the use of rural land for solar installations. Villafranca notes that developers in North Fort Worth are demanding more than $200,000 per acre, which is impeding the acquisition of additional properties by land trusts and governments. The Native Prairies Association of Texas has implemented resources to manage the properties they own and work with landowners who want conservation easements on their land. These easements permanently ban land from being sold for housing or commercial development and designate the business that can be conducted on the property.
According to Jo Ann Collins, the chapter’s outreach and communications co-chair, the Fort Worth chapter of the Association has gone “gangbusters” in recent years, with the addition of a fundraising director and North Texas outreach and stewardship director. Despite the obstacles to preserving open spaces, the Association has organized events and fundraisers that have attracted people across business, ranching, and other sectors. Collins emphasizes the need to cohesively integrate prairie and development without prioritizing commercial interests.
The Association’s laudable efforts have inspired locals, including Rayy Ball, who traveled two hours from Temple with their partner to visit Tandy Hills. Ball stresses the significance of groups such as the Fort Worth chapter in discovering new natural areas and identifying native plants. Villafranca shares Ball’s sentiments, emphasizing the need for individuals to engage with nature and experience North Texas prairies firsthand. The Association has created a calendar of events open to the public, including tours of the LBJ National Grasslands in Wise County and Chalk Mountain Ranch in Somervell County, as a step towards engaging the next generation towards conservation.
Haley Samsel, the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report, notes the importance of preserving natural areas despite the obstacles, and the need for communities to make sustainability a priority.
The preservation of natural spaces is a crucial step towards creating a more sustainable future for communities in Tarrant County as they recognize the efforts of the Native Prairies Association of Texas and encourage citizens to engage with nature.
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