A pristine native prairie site in Franklin County and a sprawling 158,000 working ranch spread over two Texas Panhandle counties were among the winners Tuesday night of the Texas Lone Star Land Steward Awards.
Texas Parks and Wildlife, which has chosen regional winners each year since 1996, selected five properties for inclusion in the exclusive club this year.
The family-owned Daphne Prairie property is owned by B.F. Hicks and has been in the family since 1839. It features an 840-acre restored prairie and a rare 120-acre virgin prairie site.
On the other end of the spectrum is the gigantic JA Ranch in Donley and Armstrong counties in the Panhandle. Ranch owners there have worked to restore native plant diversity and to use rotational grazing and prescribed burning to control unwanted brush.
Other properties recognized during the evening, which featured a keynote address by former First Lady Laura Bush, were the Jewett Mine site operated by Texas Westmoreland Coal Co., the Thomsen Foundation in Montague County, and the South Llano River Watershed Alliance in Edwards and Kimble counties.
The Lone Star Land Steward Awards recognize individuals and properties, as well as foundations and businesses, that are doing work to enhance and protect Texas land treasures. Youth education programs, wildlife conservation and habitat management practices also are considered when choosing the regional winners.
During the event, TPWD executive director Carter Smith also presented a $10,000 check from the Sand County Foundation to Jack and Jan Cato and their Buckhollow and Stockard-Siriani Ranches.
The Catos have twice received Lone Star Land Steward Awards for their work in wildlife and habitat management and improving native habitat.
In recognizing the Catos, as well as the regional award winners, Smith pointed to the commitments in time and money that landowners throughout Texas make each year. “There are people here who literally and figuratively pouring their hearts and souls and, some would say, their pocketbooks into our ground,” Smith said.