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Texas hill country ranch restoration

Posted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 5:17 pm
by Rand
Selah History: In the Beginning

In 1969 J. David Bamberger sought to buy the worst piece of ranchland he could find in the Hill Country with the specific intention of restoring it back to functional health. For nearly 50 years the 5,500 acre ranch has become one of the largest habitat restoration projects in the state, winning numerous awards (Soil and Water Conservation Service, Texas Forest Service, National Arbor Day Foundation, the Nature Conservancy of Texas, Texas Wildlife Association, Leopold Conservation Award, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Lone Star Land Steward, National Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award, to name a few).
With the removal of many of the Ashe juniper and the replanting of native grasses, long absent springs are now constantly flowing. The major spring produces an average of 3 gallons per minute (4,320 gallons/day) and furnishes all the water used by the ranch and the center, three households as well as for agricultural use. Overflow from this spring along with other smaller springs and seeps produce the headwaters of Miller Creek which flows into the Pedernales River, which then flows into the Colorado River, the surface supply for the City of Austin 60 miles away.

Re: Texas hill country ranch restoration

Posted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 5:35 pm
by Larry Tucei
Randy- Wow it shows what proper management can do. The before and after photos are amazing! Larry

Re: Texas hill country ranch restoration

Posted: Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:52 pm
by Rand
Found details of how Ashe Juniper dries out the land on their site:
Ashe juniper’s main impact on water is its interception of rainfall. Quoting studies conducted at the Sonora Research Station decades ago, scientists found that due to the scale-like leaf structure of a juniper, a stand of juniper is capable of intercepting up to 36% of a one-inch rainfall. Go outside after a rainstorm and shake a branch of a cedar tree, and you’ll see validation of that statistic. Typically, our rainstorms are short (less than ½ inch) and fast, so all that water captured in the canopy of needles will evaporate – it’s lost to us. Of the next 43% of that one inch-rainfall, that same study found that it was captured in the organic matter on the forest floor. Depending on the slope of the land, that organic layer of decaying needles, sticks, stems, etc. can be up to 10 inches thick. What happens to a kitchen sponge if you soak it with water and then set it outside on a hot summer day? It dries out pretty quickly because of all the air pockets in the sponge. What happens to that 43% of our rainfall when it gets caught in that thick layer can act the same way – it will evaporate. So what does that leave us with our one inch rainfall? About 21%, the study says, reaches the soil layer. Now consider the wide network of tree roots just beneath the top soil, waiting for that moisture. Rain has to reach the soil first before it ever has the chance of recharging our aquifer systems deep below. The Bamberger Ranch Preserve is blessed with a hydrologic system that is relatively shallow and close to the soil’s surface, we maintain that when the land was primarily covered with a cedar forest, virtually zero rain made it into our aquifers. That would explain why when Mr. Bamberger purchased a 3,000-acre cedar forest in 1969, there were no visible springs and only dry, eroded creek beds.

What happens when that same hill top is converted to predominantly a grassland? Almost exactly the opposite of a cedar forest. Approximately 80% of a one-inch rain event reaches the soil with about 20% evaporating from the surface of the grass plants.
https://e3262decce8c207215af-a0f5327c1e ... 978761.pdf

I guess trees aren't always good.

Re: Texas hill country ranch restoration

Posted: Sun Jan 21, 2018 2:06 pm
by Joe
I didn't see any explanation of what degraded the land- I presume it was over grazing. So, cedar is native to the area but remains limited as long as the land is not over grazed?

Re: Texas hill country ranch restoration

Posted: Sun Jan 21, 2018 3:32 pm
by Rand
One of the videos on the video page mentioned that the land was overgrazed. I'm assuming the cedar was unpalatable to the grazers and gradually took over. Since the land is naturally savanna, I'm guessing there was some fire before settlement as well, but I found no mention of it on the web site.