The BigWoods on the Trinity receives 2015 Leopold Conservation Award

Watch the video story. BigWoods

Dr. Robert McFarlane spent his youth hunting and fishing the lands and waters of the Middle Trinity River near Tennessee Colony. Those memories of the land stayed with him when he left for medical school at Harvard. When he returned, he saw a different landscape. It was fragmented, converted to pasture and farmland, and significantly different from the pristine land he remembered.

Determined to return the land to its former glory, Dr. McFarlane purchased the first 1,500 acres of BigWoods on the Trinity in 1995. Today, he has expanded that to 7,500 acres composed of bottomland hardwood, nearly 2,500 acres of restored savanna and a total of 25 different wetlands spanning 500 acres.

The main conservation emphasis at BigWoods is emergent wetland and bottomland hardwood restoration and management. The wetlands are intensively managed to attract waterfowl and wetland-dependent bird species, and the filtration capabilities of the vegetation has vastly improved water quality.

To defray maintenance costs and increase long-term sustainability, Dr. McFarlane created a wetland mitigation bank and established a commercial hunting operation. The mitigation bank generates income from payments made for offsetting negative environmental impacts to water. The hunting operation generates substantial income due to the significant interest in hunting the waterfowl, deer and feral hogs.

The exceptional bird attraction to the land makes BigWoods a premier spot for birding, and it’s cited as one of the best places in Texas to view colorful neotropical migratory birds. Although quail and turkey are not yet frequent visitors, Dr. McFarlane is working to implement practices that will draw both species to the property.

An avid contributor to his community, Dr. McFarlane has hosted several tours and events at BigWoods to demonstrate the importance of conservation. He recently opened his doors to allow 25 high school kids stay for six days to learn about waterfowl biology and conservation management.

It’s clear that this land made an early impression on Dr. McFarlane. Thanks to his love for the land and his passion for stewardship, children and adults alike have the opportunity to create their own unforgettable memories of the Trinity River.

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Texas Partners:

Sand County Foundation SCF-Logo-Black-2014Sand 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 tp&wAt 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.