We are in the process of restoring two fields totaling 46.9 acres at our Bassett Farms Conservancy with native grass and forb vegetation through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Pastures for Upland Birds (PUB) cost-sharing program.
Bassett Farms is located at the edge of the post oak savannah ecoregion where it transitions to blackland prairie. In the late 19th and early 20th century, cotton was grown on the land by tenant farmers; later it was used for grazing by the Bassett family’s Polled Hereford cattle. These intense agricultural uses for over a century have resulted in the loss of native plant and wildlife habitat.
The goal of the PUB program is to “improve biological diversity and provide habitat for resident, breeding, migrating, and wintering bird populations.” Preservation Texas’s involvement with the PUB program is consistent with the organization’s commitment to careful stewardship of the diverse natural and cultural resources of its 2,400-acre Bassett Farms Conservancy, straddling the Falls / Limestone county line. It also honors the late Mrs. Willie Ford (Bassett) Sparkman (1913-2010) of Dallas, who bequeathed her family’s farm and ranch to Preservation Texas in 2012. She shared a love of wildflowers, birds and butterflies with her husband, Dr. Robert S. Sparkman, which was expressed through the subject matter of their extensive collection of rare prints, books and collectibles.
Our PUB project was initiated in 2015, guided by TPWD Private Lands Biologist Billy Lambert, with our neighbors and ranch tenants Karen and Tim Partin of Kosse volunteering their labor. Two fields were selected, known as the “West Field” and the “East Field,” that did not require removal of invasive, woody species. Excessive rainfall in 2015 followed by a period of drought delayed the project until 2016, when appropriate herbicides were applied in the early summer.
In March 2017, additional herbicide was applied and native seeds from Bamert Seed Company in Muleshoe, Texas arrived for planting in early April. Twelve 40-pound bags contained a special seed blend consisting of:
- Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)
- Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
- Sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)
- Daisy engelman (Engelmannia peristenia)
- Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)
- Eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides)
- Illinois bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis)
- Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans)
- Green sprangletop (Leptochloa dubia)
- Purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea)
- Maximilian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani)
- Partridge peas (Chamaecrista fasciculata)
- Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria)
- Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera)
- Blackeyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
We also included green milkweed seed (Asclepias viridis) from Native American Seed in Junction, Texas. While are fortunate to have some areas of native milkweed growing at Bassett Farms, we want to encourage additional habitat for the endangered monarch butterfly.
In the future, we plan to incorporate additional grazing pastures into the restoration project as well as a management program of prescribed burning.