The second annual Bennett Land Stewardship Conference is scheduled for April 23-24 at the Inn of the Hills Resort and Conference Center in Kerrville. The conference is funded by the Ruth and Eskel Bennett Endowment and hosted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, said Dr. Larry Redmon, co-chair and Bennett Trust AgriLife Extension specialist. Redmon said the Bennetts posthumously provided an endowment that will support land management and stewardship education in the Edwards Plateau for generations to come. The Bennetts retired to a ranch just outside Dripping Springs and established this endowment by generously gifting a portion of their estate to AgriLife Extension.
“Mr. Bennett loved the Edwards Plateau and left a legacy that will afford landowners and resource managers ongoing opportunities to acquire knowledge and sharpen their skills as responsible stewards of this unique and storied part of Texas,” Redmon said. “The proceeds from the invested endowment will provide unparalleled private sector support for AgriLife Extension educational efforts in the region.”
Cost of the two-day conference is $75 and includes all meals, break refreshments and tour transportation costs. Register online or by calling 979-845-2604.
Dr. Rick Machen, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist from Uvalde, said the conference will include “the best and wisest, accomplished stewards, visionaries and legacy-leavers together as educators for this conference. Those with a passion for natural resource stewardship and a love for the Texas Hill Country will want to be there.”
Titled “Keys to Hill Country Living,” the conference’s preliminary agenda for the first day includes a presentation on the history of the Hill Country plants, wildlife and early people found in the region. Additional discussions regarding the water cycle of the Hill Country and Edwards Plateau will highlight the morning’s agenda. Specific topics will include aquifer recharge and spring flow, drought, urban sprawl and rainwater harvesting, Redmon said. There will also be a presentation on juniper impacts on rangeland health, herbivore-forage interaction, and stocking rate and infiltration versus runoff on the Edwards Plateau.
“Texans work hard to purchase and maintain their Hill Country property, so additional presentations will take place regarding estate planning, elder law, 1-D-1 Open Space land tax valuation, and leasing implications,” he said. “Each of these topics is an important aspect that will enable participants to better understand how to hold on to their piece of Texas.”
The first day will close with a discussion on which animal species combinations are appropriate for which properties and an update on forage crop insurance, Redmon said. Day two of the conference provides unique behind-the-scenes tours, Machen said.
The first tour, Natural Resource Stewardship, includes a visit to the historic Hillingdon Ranch in Kendall County and a pasture walk with Robin and Carroll Giles. Robin is the grandson of the ranch’s founder Alfred Giles, and the ranch has been in the same family for over 125 years. Identification of local plant species will also be included in this tour. With agritourism in mind, the second tour will go to Fredericksburg and Gillespie County. It will include visits to sustainable vineyards, orchards and gardens to get a glimpse of essential elements for stewardship success, he said.
The third tour will highlight wildlife management and the hunting industry on the Edwards Plateau with stops at landowners with reputations for being good stewards of their wildlife resources, particularly white-tailed deer. “For as long as I can remember, the Edwards Plateau has attracted hunters from all over the state, nation and world,” Redmon said. Both days will conclude with Texas Hill Country hospitality – good food, good music and the opportunity to sit and visit with conference presenters, the coordinators said.
For more information regarding the upcoming Bennett Trust Land Stewardship program, contact Redmon at email@example.com, Machen at firstname.lastname@example.org, or an AgriLife Extension agent in the region. Land management in Texas starts on the ground, but it takes informed stewards to make good things happen.