Albert native has worked in rangeland management for half century
Dalton Francis Merz, an Albert native and current resident of Holland, Texas, was the recipient of the 2018 Charles Leonard Weddle Memorial Award at the Native Plant Society of Texas annual convention held in San Antonio.
The award was for lifetime achievement in the field of native plants and for over 50 years of work advising landowners to value, properly use and conserve native range plants for livestock, wildlife and people.
Weddle was an internationally known plant hybridizer and distinguished alumnus from Texas Tech College of Agriculture.
This year marks Merz’s 50th year of promoting the beneficial uses of Texas native plants.
For his entire adult life, Merz has been an enthusiastic promoter of the conservation, wise use and re-establishment of native plants in the Texas landscape.
As a Rangeland Management Specialist with the USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) formerly Soil Conservation Service he taught and advised landowners how to value, properly use and conserve native range plantd for the benefit of livestock, wildlife and human beings.
Throughout his life, he has been a trustworthy and knowledgeable consultant on best management practices, prescribed burns, prairie plants, native grasses and forbs, identification of returning natives, and specialized control of invasive species, award officials stated.
Merz has been a willing speaker at large and small gatherings and has presented thousands of papers and talks to interested groups.
Since his retirement from public service, Merz has worked as a private consultant, instructor and part-time manager for the Central and South Texas landowners, county agents, master naturalist and native plant enthusiasts.
His farm near Salado serves as an example of the potential uses of native plants both on the range and in the yard. There, one can see several plots devoted to his ongoing experiment with various native grasses and other native Texas plants.
Merz established the Native Prairie Replication Project at the Stiles Farm Foundation in Thrall. This is viewed at the annual field day.
In 2014, he was named Outstanding Conservation Rancher by the Little River/San Gabriel Water Conservation District.
In April 2015, Merz was featured in a Progressive Farmer national magazine article titled “Laying Down Roots.”
At 75, he is busier than ever with his calling to spread the word of the value of native prairie plants. He continues speak to groups and engage in prairie walks, opening his Darrs Creek Ranch in Holland to native plant novices and veterans.
Hill Country roots
Merz was raised in Albert and went to school at Pleasant Hill, Stonewall and Johnson City.
He graduated from Texas State University in 1966 with a degree in rangeland management. He worked for the USDA, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) 37 years in Bandera, Rocksprings, Sonora, Austin and Temple.
He is the son of John Francis Merz and Dorothy Merz with four brothers: Jerry, Nathan, Bernie and Myron. Bernie Merz lives on the Albert Family Farm.
Jerry, Nathan and Myron Merz also have degrees in rangeland management and worked for NRCS. The four Merz boys have over 100 years of service with NRCS, advising landowners in the wise use of private lands.
Merz and wife Brenda were married in Rocksprings 49 years ago and have three children: Jason, Bonnie and Kayli.
Merz is an active member of Texas Section, Society of Rangeland Management (SRM) and consults as a SRM Certified Professional in Rangeland Management.