Staff Report

West Texas landowners are invited to attend a free landowner workshop co-hosted by Texas Agricultural Land Trust (TALT) and Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) on Nov. 14 at the Espino Conference Center at Sul Ross State University. The workshop title is Saving Working Lands: Preparing Landowners for Energy Development.

“The Texas Agricultural Land Trust is proud to be part of this effort to put tools and resources in the hands of landowners,” said TALT Chief Executive Officer Blair Fitzsimons. “As ranchers ourselves, we know how valuable good information from trusted sources can be.”

The workshop is part of the outreach efforts of the Respect Big Bend Coalition. Respect Big Bend is a collaboration between local landowners, community residents and leadership, scientists, industry, researchers, and conservationists formed to address energy development’s impact in the greater Big Bend region of far West Texas.

The workshop keynote address will be delivered by West Texas landowner Bobby McKnight, who is President of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. Other notable speakers and topics include:

  • Dr. James Cathey (Texas A&M)- Land Trends in the Trans-Pecos
  • Jon Paul Pierre (UT Austin)- Projected Energy Development in the Trans-Pecos
  • Joseph Fitzsimons (Attorney)- Mitigating the Impacts of Energy Development on Ranching and Wildlife Lands
  • Jeff White (University Lands)- Lessons Learned from Energy Development
  • James Oliver (TALT)- The Conservation Easement: A Voluntary Tool

“Our goal is to better prepare for what’s on the horizon,” said Dr. Louis Harveson, who is the Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., BRI Endowed Director and professor of Wildlife Management at Sul Ross State University. “Landowners may not know where to turn and who to seek counsel from in the face of increasing development pressure. Our goal with this workshop is to help educate landowners about current energy projections in the region, and help them better negotiate leases with industry partners that retain the conservation values of land owners and the community.”

The Big Bend region of Texas is experiencing unprecedented pressures on its natural resources. Population growth, habitat fragmentation, and invasive species coupled with frequent droughts make conservation and management of the natural resources especially challenging. Most recently the region has been discovered as prime real estate for energy development. Bordering one of the most productive energy arenas in the world, (the Permian Basin), the geographic footprint of the energy sector has slowly worked its way into the area. Energy plays and associated infrastructure like Delaware Basin, Alpine High, and the Trans-Pecos Pipeline are recent activities in the region that have brought conflict and may impact the ecological integrity of Big Bend.

“The Saving Working Lands workshop is our first tangible effort to provide resources to area landowners to assist them with energy development opportunities on their properties,” said Billy Tarrant, BRI’s Associate Director for Stewardship Services who also serves as Regional Coordinator for the Respect Big Bend Coalition. “By engaging them in this process, we will be able to provide the support they need to help them benefit from economic opportunities that may arise while maintaining the character and heritage of Big Bend area working lands.”

Along with BRI and TALT, other sponsors of the workshop include Capital Farm Credit, Dixon Water Foundation, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Grazing Land Coalition, Texas Wildlife Association, and the Respect Big Bend Coalition. Register for the workshop HERE.

The Respect Big Bend Coalition was launched by the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, and is sponsored in part by the Permian Basin Area Foundation and the Still Water Foundation. The

Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation is a Texas foundation that seeks innovative, sustainable solutions for human and environmental problems. The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation works as an engine of change in Texas, supporting high-impact projects at the nexus of environmental protection, social equity and economic vibrancy. Find out more about the project at RespectBigBend.org.