Blue Mountain Peak Ranch receives 2016 Leopold Conservation Award
Blue Mountain Peak Ranch was once in a state of disrepair; its poor range health was a result of overgrazing, and the land was heavily dominated by blueberry juniper. When it was purchased by Richard Taylor and his late-wife Sally in 2001, it was their dream to rehabilitate the land to what it was before European settlement ‒ more live oak savannah grassland in the uplands, and a higher density of woody plants restricted mainly to the draws. For the past eight years, Suzie Paris, Richard and Sally’s longtime friend and now Richard’s partner, has been active in the ranch restoration.
While several years were spent working to clear the juniper and allow the native herbaceous plants to recover, Taylor began applying prescribed fires on segments the ranch every year. With the exception of a 10-acre educational demonstration plot, all of the juniper has been eradicated, bringing back the potential for livestock grazing and the grassland and wildlife benefits that come with proper management.
The quantity and quality of the ranch flora has thrived under the management of Taylor. Improvements have been made to rainwater catchment and infiltration through increased ground cover, reducing soil runoff and erosion. This has also led to improvements in wildlife habitat for black-capped vireos, Texas horned lizards and spot-tailed earless lizards.
With assistance from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the ranch undergoes an annual deer survey for harvest recommendations and has made significant improvements in buck quality and age structure. To control the feral hog population, feeders are used to help attract and harvest the hogs, which have been captured by the hundreds over the years.
Education is an important aspect of the ranch. The ranch has served as a study site for multiple graduate level projects by Texas Tech on the effects of prescribed burning and for species such as the Texas horned lizard. Beyond the ranch, the Richard and Sally co-founded The Conservation Agency, a scientific, non-profit dedicated to the conservation of natural biodiversity.
“The interesting aspect of the Taylor’s management style is that they didn’t come in here to see what the land could do for them,” says Matt Kast, USDA NRCS Natural Resource Manager. “But rather they wanted to see what they could do to help the land. It’s been kind of a ranch remodeling project, from the ground up, and the results have been very impressive.”
Sand County Foundation Sand County Foundation is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to working with private landowners across North America to advance ethical and scientifically sound land management practices that benefit the environment.
Texas Parks & Wildlife At Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, our mission is to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. We seek to balance outdoor recreation with conservation as we achieve greater self-sufficiency. On one hand, we must manage and protect our natural and cultural resources. At the same time, we must generate increased revenue by adding value through more and better public services. We affirm that a culturally diverse, well-trained staff will best achieve this balance. And we must never forget, not in the haste of business, nor in the pride of science, that the outdoors should above all be a source of joy! Providing outdoor experiences, whereby young minds form values, will be our greatest contribution to the future.