Coastal Prairie Partnership

Prairie Week

2nd Annual State of the Prairie Conference Restore. Protect. Educate.
November 4-5, 2010 | Houston Zoo & Field Trips

Prairie Heritage Day family-friendly Event
November 6, 2010 | Brazos Bend State Park

Generously sponsored by

Picture a place where prairies are valued
Dear Conference Attendee, The coastal prairies of Texas and Louisiana serve as strongholds for increasingly rare wildlife, keep floodwaters at bay, connect us to our rich history, feed us, provide landowners with economic opportunities, and present untapped promise for the future. Yet they are in dire need of protection, restoration, and awareness. Will we learn to value them in time? This is why the Coastal Prairie Partnership and its partners have organized a conference that will illustrate the experience, knowledge, and passion of some of our nationʼs most talented and engaging prairie restorationists and conservationists. This conference will have something for everyone interested in prairies. If you are a private landowner, come and hear from others like you who have restored their lands or discover the value of conservation easements. If you are an educator, learn to engage your students with prairie lessons or even build a schoolyard prairie. If you are grassland greenhorn or an old hand at restoration, join a field trip to see prairie remnants and restoration projects in progress. Then bring your family and friends to Prairie Heritage Day at Brazos Bend State Park on the Saturday following the conference. It is often said that we only protect the things that we love and that we only love the things we value. It is time to value our prairies. If youʼd like to learn more about the beauty, economic potential, and recreation opportunities of prairies please join us for an exciting week. Sincerely,

Jaime González Coastal Prairie Partnership |

Day 1 - Houston Zoo - Brown Education Center
November 4, 2010 from 9:00 AM - 3:30 PM Cost | $50 General Admission or $20 Student
Registration fee includes lunch and light breakfast
The first day of the State of the Prairie Conference will be held at the Brown Education Center at the Houston Zoo. Presentations will focus on prairie restoration, protection, and education (see information below). Click here to register for the conference now. Thursday November 4 EARLY SESSIONS ALL EARLY SESSIONS IN BROWN EDUCATION CENTER AUDITORIUM

8:15 AM - 9:00 AM 9:00 AM - 9:15 AM

Registration | Light Breakfast Available Opening Remarks Matt Wagner - Program Director, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Rick Barongi - Director, Houston Zoo State of the Prairie Keynote Address Jason Singhurst - Phytogeographer, Wildlife Diversity Program, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Board Member, Native Prairies Association of Texas Prairie Restoration: Where to From Here? Daryl Smith, Ph.D - Director, Tallgrass Prairie Center and Professor of Biology, University of Northern Iowa Prairie Restoration Dos and Donʼts: A Tale of Two Prairies Randy Arndt - Grand River Grasslands Site Manager, Nature Conservancy of Missouri Question and Answer Session Awards Ceremony Prairie Builder and Texas and Louisiana Volunteer of the Year Awards LUNCH Prairie Restoration: Where You Begin Determines Final Outcomes Fred Smeins, PhD - Professor of Ecology, Texas A&M University

9:15 AM - 10:00 AM

10:00 AM - 10:45 AM 10:45 AM - 11:30 AM 11:30 AM - 11:45 AM 11:45 AM - 12:00 PM

12:00 PM - 12:45 PM 12:45 PM - 1:15 PM

Thursday November 4 BROWN AUDITORIUM



1:15 PM - 2:00 PM

Approaches for Restoring Native Plant and Wildlife Species and Communities on Agricultural Lands in Central Texas. Bill Eichenhorst, DVM Private Landowner Restoration of Gulf coastal plain tall grass prairie at Sheldon Lake State Park Andy Sipocz Natural Resource Coordinator Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. A Model to Restore Native Grassland for Quail Jim Willis Private Landowner Wildlife Habitat Federation

Conservation Easements for Texas Landowners Pat Merkord President Elect Native Prairie Association of Texas Conservation Easements: Private Land Preservation Mike Lange Wildlife Biologist US Fish & Wildlife Service Coastal Prairie Equipment Co-op Meeting Moderated discussion

Selling the Prairie: Interpreting Prairies to Students and the General Public Jaime Gonzalez Community Education Manager Katy Prairie Conservancy Establishing and Maintaining a Schoolyard Prairie Diana Foss Urban Biologist Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. The Houston Zoo and The Nature Conservancy Prairie Partnership: Igniting a Passion for Learning and Conservation Victoria Sokol Education Programs Manager Houston Zoo

2:00 PM - 2:45 PM

2:45 PM - 3:30 PM

Register for the State of the Prairie Conference
Conference registration (for November 4th and 5th) is available through an online portal managed by Texas A&M University. This is a safe and secure way to reserve your spot for the conference. If you have any questions regarding conference registration please contact Jaime González at or at 281.660.6683. Click here to register to proceed to the conference registration webpage or visit and use the keyword prairie.

Photo Credits
Carolyn Fannon - green treefrog on coneflower, prairie sunrise, cowboy in prairie, cow in prairie | Greg Lavaty - dickcissel, northern pintail Houston Arboretum & Nature Center - children in meadow.

Day 2 - Field Trips
November 5, 2010 from 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM Cost | $25 per field trip
Field Trip Option 1: Sheldon Lake State Park & Environmental Center & Armand Bayou Nature Center
Description: Sheldon Lake State Park is a landscape in transition. Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD) is busy transforming former agricultural fields into a native coastal prairie / freshwater wetlands complex. Tour participants will learn how TPWD has used historical photographs, precise geological exploration and excavation, seeding, and volunteers to restore this area. The second leg of this field trip will take participants to Armand Bayou Nature Center (ABNC) in Pasadena. ABNC is a private nonprofit leader in prairie conservation, using a well-regarded regime of prescribed fire, mowing, and transplantation to manage and restore prairie remnants at the nature center. Participants will be treated to a presentation by ABNC’s Stewardship Manager Mark Kramer before touring the grounds. Limit: 40 participants Food & Drinks: Participants will be provided a free boxed lunch and refreshments. Meeting Place: Participants should meet at the Sheldon Lake State Park & Environmental Center at 9:00 AM Transportation: Personal transportation required, carpooling highly encouraged. Field Trip Organizer: Dick Benoit - Texas Master Naturalist, Galveston Bay Chapter -

Field Trip Option 2: Attwater's Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge & private land holdings
Description: Field trip participants will tour three restoration areas west of Houston. The trip will begin with an informative tour of the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken National Preserve. This tour will focus on the wildlife management and restoration methods (including the use of fire and grazing) used on the preserve. The second leg of the field trip will explore the Willis Ranch. The ranch is being restored and connected with other private land holdings to create an extensive wildlife corridor particularly valuable to upland species like bobwhite quail. The trip will finish with a tour of Gamagrass Meadow near Bellville, a large-scale bottomland and farmland restoration effort aimed at improving wildlife habitat and producing commercially available gamagrass seed. Limit: 25 participants Food & Drinks: Participants should bring a brown-bag lunch. Tour organizers to provide water and other refreshments. Meeting Place: Participants should meet at the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge at 9:00 AM Transportation: Personal transportation required, carpooling highly encouraged. Field Trip Organizer: Dr. Fred Smeins - Professor of Ecology, Texas A&M University -

Register for the State of the Prairie Conference
Conference registration (for November 4th and 5th) is available through an online portal managed by Texas A&M University. This is a safe and secure way to reserve your spot for the conference. If you have any questions regarding conference registration please contact Jaime Gonzalez at or at 281.660.6683. Click here to register to proceed to the conference registration webpage.

Biography: Randy Arndt was born and raised in Ohio. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources and Master’s degree in Wildlife Management from The Ohio State University. Mr. Arndt worked for 29 years with the Missouri Department of Conservation as a Land Management Biologist and has more than 20 years experience restoring Missouri’s prairies. After his retirement from MDC in 2007 he went to work for The Nature Conservancy in Missouri as the Grand River Grassland Site Manager and now owns and operates Missouri Native Seeds, LLC, wholesale producers of Missouri native grass and forb seed. Presentation: Prairie Restoration Dos and Don’ts: A Tale of Two Prairies. More presentation details coming soon.

Biography: Dr. Bill Eichenhorst was born in Washington County, Texas. Early on, Bill developed a love and interest in animals and the out-of-doors. He eventually received his DVM from Texas A&M and established a veterinary clinic in Brenham, Texas. Over time he became involved with various natural resource and environmental groups that assist in the conservation of our natural heritage. An example is his donation of time and expertise is work with the Buckskin Brigade program, an educational program sponsored by the Texas Wildlife Association where he contributes much time and effort to educating youth about natural resources, wildlife, hunting and related topics. In recent years Dr. Eichenhorst has devoted considerable effort to restoring native plants and wildlife species back to areas where they have historically been lost or greatly altered. Through his practical experience of establishing native plants in many different venues, he has acquired valuable knowledge about the procedures necessary for native prairie restoration, which had gained him widespread recognition as a leader in this effort. Presentation: Approaches for Restoring Native Plant and Wildlife Species and Communities on Agricultural Lands in Central Texas More presentation details coming soon.

Biography: Diana Foss, Urban Wildlife Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, has 18 years experience creating habitats on school grounds.  She co-authored "Creating a School Habitat in Texas", a step-by-step manual, with Ron Jones, of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Foss grew up in the Houston area and is familiar with the native plants and wildlife of the area, although she continues to learn new species each day. Foss earned a Bachelor's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University, College Station.     Presentation: Establishing and Maintaining a Schoolyard Prairie Imagine exploring a prairie on your own school grounds - observing the amazing variety of butterflies, other insects, and birds that call prairies home.  With some careful thought and strategic planning, you can grow flowers and grasses to mimic a native prairie. Imagine all the science, math, and history your students will learn, just from a daily visit to the outdoor prairie classroom!  We'll cover habitat placement, the basic steps to start a prairie, plant species to choose, where to find plant material, and student involvement in the prairie planting.  We'll also discuss methods for longterm success, including removal of unwanted vegetation, seasonal maintenance, and creating a prairie parent/student team.

JAIME GONZALEZ Biography: Jaime González earned a BS in Biology and a MEd in Curriculum & Instruction - Science Education from the University of Houston. He currently serves as the Community Education Manager for the Katy Prairie Conservancy where he is responsible for developing and implementing public education and outreach activities, coordinating volunteers, and establishing partnerships with other organizations and agencies. In addition, Mr. Gonzalez continues to serve as an Instructor in the University of Houston's College of Education and as President of the newly formed Coastal Prairie Partnership. Presentation: Selling the Prairie: Interpreting Prairies to Students and the General Public The prairie can spur rich story-telling and educational experiences. Yet, teaching about the coastal prairie has been hampered by a lack of materials, curricula, appreciation, and experience. The good news is that new techniques and resources are being developed that will allow even novice prairie enthusiasts to teach about prairies.This session will introduce both formal and informal educators to interpreting prairies for the general public and school children and will give an overview of both current and developing resources available to teachers. MIKE LANGE Biography: Michael Lange is a Wildlife Biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Texas Mid-Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex. His major interest and responsibility is the coordination of land conservation efforts in the Columbia Bottomlands and associated prairies and coastal wetlands. Presentation: Conservation Easements - Private Land Preservation More presentation details coming soon. PAT MERKORD Biography: Pat Merkord is President Elect of Native Prairies Association of Texas, a state wide land trust whose goals are to preserve and restore native prairies and to educate people about their beauty and importance. She has been on the NPAT board of directors since 2005 and has been involved in the acquisition of conservation easements and in restoration projects. Pat has received training in developing and holding conservation easements from the national Land Trust Alliance. Pat holds a Masters Degree in Biology from Texas State University. In 2004 she formed Bluestem Environmental Consultants. She is involved in wildlife management planning, water quality issues, pond management, prairie restoration, native prairie remnant surveys, educational workshops on wildlife and restoration, plant and animal surveys of all kinds and urban wildlife park planning. Before her career as a biology consultant, Pat taught high school AP biology & chemistry Presentation: Conservation Easements for Texas Landowners This workshop explains what a conservation easement is, when a conservation easement might be used, and typical conditions of conservation easements. Landowner rights and land trust obligations are covered. The workshop will also include a description of land trusts, examples of conservation easements, and samples of easement documents. Questions and common concerns of land owners will be addressed.

ANDY SIPOCZ Biography: Andy was born in Tacoma, Washington and raised throughout the U.S. He earned a Bachelors of Forestry with an emphasis in wildlife management from Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN in 1985 and a Masters of Science in Wildlife Ecology from Texas A&M in 1993. He has worked for Texas Parks and Wildlife for 20 years previously as a habitat assessment biologist and since 2005 as a regional natural resource coordinator for State Parks in southeast Texas. Work with the Department included all types of coastal plain and near shore environments in order to provide habitat restoration plans, predict the impacts of proposed development projects, advise scientific study groups and conduct research on wetland functions. Currently Mr. Sipocz develops and implements habitat management and restoration plans for southeast Texas State Parks including the management and restoration of several prairies. Presentation: Restoration of Gulf coastal plain tall grass prairie at Sheldon Lake State Park. Approximately 200 acres of agricultural fields that had been farmed for over 50 years are being restored to tall grass prairie and emergent marsh at Sheldon Lake State Park in NE Houston. Historic aerial photography and soil investigations guided earth moving activities for the restoration of ponded wetlands and mima mounds in what had been fields leveled for rice agriculture. The prairie was established directly with combine harvested seed from local remnants. This was greatly supplemented with hand planted sprigs. The wetlands were largely hand planted with locally collected transplants and materials propagated in on-site nursery ponds. Similar agricultural fields occur throughout most of the 7 million Texas Coastal Plain, but knowledge of surface geology, soil characteristics and how native plants respond to these parameters is essential for successful prairie restoration projects. JASON SINGHURST Biography: Jason Singhurst received a BS and MS in Agricultural Science from Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas. He has conducted field research on vegetation ecology of the West Gulf Coastal Plain for the past 14 years. His expertise includes natural areas inventory, plant community ecology, and plant taxonomy. He has served as a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department botanist/ecologist in Texas for the past 13 years. He has extensive field knowledge with rare plant species in eastern and central Texas, authoring or co-authoring over 40 scientific publications and in 2007 co-authored a book on Rare Plants of Texas. He has described two plant species new to science that are endemic (restricted) to Texas. Mr. Singhurst has in-depth experience with vegetation mapping, descriptive vegetation classification, and natural resource surveys on public and private lands. Jason has a strong interest in prairies and prairie fens (prairie wetlands) and he has conducted many botanical surveys of these floristically rich plant communities in Texas, Oklahoma, and southeastern Kansas where he was raised and spends as much time with his family as he can. He has concentrated the past few years on rare and endemic plant surveys of coastal prairies, including defining a few undescribed prairie swale plant communities in the Coastal Bend region of Texas. Presentation: State of the Prairie 2010 Keynote Address Jason Singhurst will give conference attendees an up-to-date snapshot of the condition, distribution, challenges, and restoration work being done on the coastal prairies of Texas and Louisiana.

FRED SMEINS, PhD Biography: Dr. Fred Smeins is Professor of Rangeland Ecology in the Ecosystem Science and Management Department, Texas A&M University. His teaching and research activities focus on understanding the structure, composition, and dynamics of rangeland ecosystems (grasslands, shrublands, wetlands) as influenced by climate, soil, fire and herbivory. Studies are conducted on ecological succession/retrogression, diversity patterns, plant/ animal interactions, competition, woody/herbaceous interactions, and ecological restoration. In addition to research conducted on many North American rangelands, studies have been conducted in Kenya, Somalia, Morocco, and Venezuela. Presentation: Prairie Restoration: Where You Begin Determines Final Outcomes Success of prairie restoration is dependent on many factors, not the least of which are the current conditions and site history of the area to be restored. Questions to address these factors are many. Is the soil/sod native (never cultivated-relatively uncommon)? Is the plant community on that soil composed of mostly native prairie species (very rare)? Is that sod invaded by exotic forage species (e.g. Bahiagrass) or native or exotic woody species (e.g. mesquite, Chinese tallow). Is the area on formerly cultivated soil (non-native sod)? Were crops (cotton, corn, rice, etc.) or introduce forages grown on the site and for how long? Based on these and other questions the next most important question is what are the objectives/and expectations of the restoration? Is it to restore a diverse, pristine, pre-European prairie (problematic), improve wildlife habitat, maximize wildflower displays, livestock production, soil and water conservation or combinations these. With these issues evaluated, a plan can be developed to initiate the restoration realizing that you are embarking on what may be a long-term, often frustrating, and potentially costly mission. If your mission is successful, it will require continued management to maintain it in the condition that you prefer. Remember that science and luck are highly interactive in the restoration arena. To increase your success it would be very useful if you have the ability to control the timing and amount of precipitation - good luck. DARYL SMITH, PhD Biography: Daryl Smith is a one of the foremost prairie experts in the United States. He is Director of the Tallgrass Prairie Center and is a Professor of Biology at Northern Iowa University. Dr. Smith has received many awards for his outstanding efforts including the Distinguished Service Award from the Iowa Academy of Science and the Conservation Education Award from the Iowa Wildlife Federation. He is a native of southeast Iowa and has been teaching science for more than 40 years - 38 years at Northern Iowa University. Dr. Smith was also a driving force behind the critically acclaimed documentary film America’s Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie. Presentation: Prairie Restoration: Where To From Here? An immense landscape of grass, wind, and sky once occupied mid-continent North America. This distinctive landscape dominated the horizon from the forest margins of Indiana and Wisconsin to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and from the Gulf of Mexico to the boreal forest of central Canada. The more moist eastern zone of the grassland was dominated by taller grasses such as big bluestem, Indian grass, and prairie cordgrass. Tallgrass prairie is currently the most decimated ecosystem in continental North America. Since Euro-American settlement, virtually the entire prairie has been affected or converted by human activities. Much of the landscape has lost the capability for expeditious water adsorption and infiltration, soil formation, grassland animal habitats, diverse collections of interacting organisms, changing panoramas of floral displays, and indigenous cultural heritages.

Though we cannot recreate the original prairie, tallgrass prairie restoration offers an opportunity to actively assist in the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. There are many challenges associated with the goal of restoring this historic ecosystem. However, in my opinion the ecological, economic, educational and cultural rewards are well worth the effort. VICTORIA SOKOL Biography: Victoria Sokol is the Education Programs Manager at the Houston Zoo. She has a BS in Zoology and a MEd in Curriculum and Instruction, both from Texas A&M University. Victoria has been a presenter at regional informal education conferences. She is an active member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the North American Association for Environmental Education, and the National Association for Interpretation. Presentation: The Houston Zoo and The Nature Conservancy Prairie Partnership: Igniting a Passion for Learning and Conservation Through a unique partnership between the Houston Zoo and The Nature Conservancy, students grades K-12 spend a day in the prairie completing authentic field research activities using hands-on techniques and tools in an effort to learn more about the native species in the Houston-Galveston area and to explore prairie and coastal ecology.  A historical overview of the partnership's history will be provided along with a demonstration of some of the tools and techniques employed by students in the field at Texas City Prairie Preserve. JIM WILLIS Biography: Jim Wills has thirty-five years of agricultural industry experience including serving as Rice analyst/East European specialist at USDA, Foreign Service Officer at 3 American Embassies, Co-owning of 2 farm equipment dealerships and serving as President of International Programs, US Rice Producers Association. Today Jim is focused on prairie restoration and serves as President of Wildlife Habitat Federation and Co-owner of the WW Ranch. He earned a BS in Agriculture-Business from Louisiana Tech University and a MS in Agricultural Economics from Mississippi State University. Jim has won numerous awards for his prairie conservation work including the 2009 TWAF Quail Habitat Restoration Quail Conservation Award for Wildlife Habitat Federation (WHF), 2008 Lone Star Steward Award for WHF, and 2005 Lone Star Steward Award for WW Ranch Presentation: A Model to Restore Native Grassland for Quail The Wildlife Habitat Federation’s (WHF) current wildlife conservation project (a 7-mile wildlife corridor in the Gulf Coast Prairies Ecological Region of Texas) is being used as a template for restoring quail and other wildlife species. The Northern Bobwhite Quail is the poster child for this project since it is highly prized across Texas and it serves as a great indicator for measuring the impact of on-the-ground habitat restoration practices and the overall health of the land. More than 90 percent of the land in Texas is privately owned; therefore, a large-scale application of appropriate and proven conservation practices by private landowners or producers is the only solution to sustaining quail and other wildlife species are in constant decline. Landowners are more willing to incorporate necessary practices if they can be shown that another landowner has prevailed in restoring native habitat, and is gaining a positive response for the targeted wildlife species and such efforts actually complement their livestock operations. Leading by example and testimony is the best approach to galvanize support.

The Wildlife Habitat Federation model employs various native grass restoration techniques, both standard practices and more novel approaches, to determine which best fit the specific natural constraints of weather, soils and other variables of this area. WHF and its collaborators have developed a website and a native grass restoration guide on where landowners can obtain information on technical and financial assistance. Specialized equipment is also being provided.

Restore. Protect. Educate.

Activities include: ★ ★ ★ ★

Nov 6, 2010 | 10 AM - 4 PM Brazos Bend State Park
Thundering to a state park near you!
Prairie Heritage Day is a fun and educational event for the whole family! Live wildlife Guided prairie adventures Presentations and demonstrations Exhibits

Heritage Day

Where | Brazos Bend State Park 21901 FM 762 Needville, TX 77461 More Information | Visit or contact David Heinicke at 979.553.5101.

Free with park admission!
Participating Institutions
Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge Brazos Bend State Park Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer Organization Chick-Fil-A Coastal Prairie Partnership Ducks Unlimited Environmental Institute of Houston Fort Bend Beekeepers Association Fort Bend County Environmental Health Dept. Houston Advanced Research Center Houston Audubon Society Houston Chronicle Houston Zoo Katy Prairie Conservancy Lone Star Wildlife Rescue Native Plant Society of Texas Native Prairies Association of Texas Sugar Land Parks & Recreation Dept.

Texas A&M - Texas Agrilife Extension Texas Master Naturalist - Coastal Prairie Chapter Texas Master Naturalist - Galveston Bay Chapter Texas Master Naturalist - Cradle of Texas Chapter Texas Master Naturalist - Gulf Coast Chapter Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Texas Wildlife Association Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Commission USDA - Natural REsource Conservation Service

Gulf Coast Bird Observatory The Texas Master Naturalist™ program activities are coordinated by Texas AgriLIFE Extension Service and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.  Texas Master Naturalist™ programs serve all people regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.  The Texas A & M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas cooperating.