The season has changed and the heralds of winter are upon us. Each morning armed with a steaming cup of coffee, I have tried to take a few reflective moments to stand outside and breathe in deeply the crisp chill of winter. At the office I have enjoyed watching as an overwintering Hermit Thrush forages among the trees outside my window. Last week, through an open window, I noted the pleasant bugling calls of a flock of Sandhill Cranes passing high above the HCC office. When the seasons turn, I am reminded of the importance of the conservation community’s collective work. Each bit, whether land preservation, habitat management, or good policy, fits together like pieces of a complex puzzle to progressively bring a picture into focus. The picture is a representation of the value and importance which society places upon land, water, and wildlife.
The Hill Country has a strong conservation culture and recognizes that the effects of conservation are cumulative; each new effort builds upon the efforts that have preceded it. This cumulative effect emphasizes the importance of understanding the relationships between conservation challenges, land use, and natural resource availability. Many organizations are currently guided by strategic conservation plans (SCP). The SCP is a tool which details objectives within a regional context and identifies geographic sites of high conservation value. The SCP will guide organizational decision making and resource use. Perhaps more importantly though, the SCP can assist resource managers in identifying and facilitating important collaborative partnerships between private landowners, public agencies, and non-governmental organizations.
It isn’t difficult to understand the importance of regional planning and partnerships. Whether the goal is improved water quality, increasing quail numbers, or protecting valuable habitats; the influence of good stewardship increases almost proportionally by the degree of connectivity between conserved lands. In the Hill Country, this emphasizes the role of private landowners in consideration of their stewardship. It raises two important questions each landowner should ask themselves: first, what is my property’s role and value in the context of the regional landscape (ecosystems and cultural heritage) and, second, how do I reconcile my planned uses and goals for the property with my contribution to the integrity of the region’s ecology and natural heritage. Landscapes benefit from resource managers and land stewards who consider the connectivity of land in space. Joint management of neighboring properties will improve the likelihood that conservation goals are met and ecological systems remain vigorous.
So, why then would the changing season cause me to ponder collaborative conservation efforts? What about the connectivity of land in time? I can visualize connectivity in time when I see a Hermit Thrush scratching around a woodland floor or observe a flock of Sandhill Cranes flying overhead. These overwintering species have come to Texas from breeding grounds to the north; in some cases as far as the Arctic Circle. The long-term vitality of these species depends, in part, on the collective conservation actions of partners throughout their seasonal ranges. I consider how strategic conservation efforts will continue to meet our responsibility in preserving the connectivity of land in space and time.
The partnerships may be understated but the connection is real.