Conserve: to avoid wasteful or destructive use of conserve natural resources; conserve our wildlife: to maintain (a quantity) constant during a process of chemical, physical, or evolutionary change.
Many of us who sit behind keyboards most of the day admire people who work the land. We may love what we do, but there is an inner longing to scratch out an existence by more natural means, such as running cattle, or farming or even just nursing overused land back to health.
A new book details the transformation of one plot of land in Blanco County run by J. David Bamberger, who built a fortune building the Church’s Fried Chicken franchise, then spent a good part of it on “the sorriest piece of land he could find.”
“Seasons at Selah: The Legacy of the Bamberger Ranch Preserve,” by Texas A&M Press, has has just been published. Its prose was penned by sometimes Stonewall resident Andy Sansom, former Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director who now leads The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University.
In 1969, Bamberger bought acreage of overused land with the specific purpose of restoring it. He brought back native grasses (Muhly and Little Bluestem), he used water capturing techniques, and reintroduced native wildlife. In time, runoff was minimized and springs began to flow again. This just scratches the surface of what he has done
He named it “Selah,” from the Bible, which means “to stop, pause and reflect.”
Today, at 5,500 acres, Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve is one of the largest habitat restoration projects in the state. It has won numerous awards for stewardship and it serves as a model for land conservation and environmental stewardship.
The book has beautiful photography from Rusty Yates and David K. Langford, two Hill Country treasures themselves. They capture Selah in all its seasons and detail the management and work needed to keep up with this beautiful plot.
Though Mr. Bamberger was well-heeled from a successful business career, he noted, “It doesn’t take a lot of cash to be a good land steward. But it does take hard work and dedication.”
I first learned of Mr. Bamberger through another book, “Water from Stone,” by Jeffrey Greene (and featuring illustrations by Margaret Bamberger). I had taken a master gardener’s course and wanted to learn more about land conservation.
In this 2008 book, Greene is noted as a poet, but wrote a beautiful book detailing Bamberger’s career and his work to restore this hardscrabble piece of Hill Country. If you are a landowner, this entertaining book should be on your bookshelf, as well.
While my daydreams of working the land never came to fruition, my appreciation for those who do grew exponentially. It was a great glimpse into the life of this man who likely doesn’t “pause and reflect” as often as he hopes we will — he is driven and determined.
Former First Lady Laura Bush also has recently formed the Texan by Nature program, recognizing “transformative conservation projects” around the state. Read more about this program at www.texanbynature.org.
Kudos to all of you who manage your land with an eye toward the next generation. You make our beautiful state of Texas even better and even we paper pushers recognize that as a gift.