My grandfather, who passed before I could grow to know him, is said to have believed “land” was one of the most valuable possessions there is. Those who knew him have recalled him saying “land, they’re just not making any more of it” reinforcing his belief in the value of land. As a result, over his lifetime, he acquired many rural acres in northeast Texas and southwest Arkansas, near his home. A portion of that acreage now belongs to my sister and me where we have a tree farm. (See Our Tree Farm.)
The value of land is obvious in so many ways. On the land is where we live, where we work, where we travel, where we get so much of our food, and where we enjoy nature. Thoreau found and wrote about the beauty, magnificence, and importance of land and nature in the well know book Walden. Thoreau’s philosophy toward land has been extremely influential to many well-known environmentalists, like John Muir who was instrumental in the founding and first president of the Sierra Club in 1892. Thoreau also influenced some lesser known environmentalists like David Bamberger.
Recently I received a note from my brother-in-law (I’ll call him “Jim”) which contained a link to a National Geographic film – 8 minutes in length. The film features David Bamberger’s work to reclaim 5,500 acres of “wasteland” in central Texas – Bamberger’s Selah Ranch. The term wasteland was appropriate because the land lacked water – even when you drilled for it. Jim, a landscape architect and land planning consultant, was part of a team that worked with Bamberger in the early 1990s to document and share his story and methods with other ranchers and conservationists. One of Jim’s drawings is included in the film which illustrates the environmental processes that brought the land back to life. The process involved what plants to remove, and what to plant, in order to allow the land to retain water, which later produced springs and lakes. This area, now known as the Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve, is located in the Texas Hill Country, specifically Blanco County, just outside of Johnson City, Texas. As stated on the website, this preserve serves as a reminder that “given a chance, nature can heal itself, and nature can heal us.” Visitors welcome. Click the link to watch this truly inspirational film, Selah, Water From Stone.
Private citizens like David Bamberger will leave us and our children, a wonderful legacy – the beauty and enjoyment of nature. They also provide us an example of what can be accomplished by an individual with the right plan. Today, many people, most behind the scenes, are fighting on a daily basis, to preserve the natural treasures our forefathers have wisely protected. We here in the United States, enjoy the majesty of our National Parks Service which manages 84 million acres across all U.S. states and territories, and has served as a model for countries around the world. We owe a debt of gratitude to all those individuals that advocate for nature and especially to leaders like Abraham Lincoln, who in 1864, advanced the Yosemite Grant Act to protect land in the Yosemite Valley; Ulysses S. Grant, who signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act in 1872, creating the first national park, Yellowstone; and Theodore Roosevelt, who in 1906, signed the Antiquities Act, which gave presidents the authority to create national monuments to preserve areas of natural or historic interest on public lands. These leaders successfully faced significant opposition to set aside lands for public use in lieu of commercial development and because of that, “we the people” can continue to enjoy some of the most magnificent nature on our planet. As MasterCard would say “priceless”.
In recent years, the National Park Service (NPS) has faced severe funding cuts. Between 2011 and 2018, the NPS decreased its workforce by 11 percent, despite the fact that visitation to parks climbed to record high levels during that period. So besides appreciating the work of others in the past, we have an ongoing obligation to let our current and future leaders know that we support the National Parks Service. It’s a choice we can affect, but only if we make our views known. Additionally, we can support local and national initiatives and groups, like the Sierra Club, that are advancing conservation initiatives like planting trees or advocating for nature and our planet. That’s the choice I’m making and I hope you can too. I also encourage you to visit a national park this year. As of this writing, many of the National Parks are closed to visitors because of the coronavirus, and to protect the park service workers. But some are remain open so check on-line before you go. I hope we can all visit some of this beauty soon, – we’ve yet to be disappointed. And the next time you’re visiting the Texas Hill Country for some magnificent wines, consider including a visit to Selah, Bamberger Preserver Ranch.