The Rob and Bessie Welder Wildlife Foundation uses a number of tools to manage the habitat for both native wildlife and domesticated animals. Through the years, the encroachment of honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), huisache (Acacia smalli), and the invasiveness of old world bluestems such as King Ranch bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemum var. songarcia), Kleberg bluestem (Dichanthium annulatum), and guineagrass (Urochloa maxima) are making it increasingly difficult to maintain viable habitat for native wildlife. Prescribed fire, mechanical, and chemical treatments have been applied to determine their effectiveness at reducing these invasive species. Many of our Welder Fellows’ research projects address these problems. Historically, south Texas was a short to mid-grass prairie, and species like bison roamed these prairies. Through a number of human actions, brush species have become established often to the competitive exclusion of native grasses. Our goal is return portions of the Refuge to native grassland habitat while still maintaining some of the brush habitats on which many wildlife species are dependent.
Our goal is to to provide wildlife habitat for both brushland-dependent and grassland-obligate species by restoring a ratio of 40-60% brushland to 40-60% short to mid-grass prairie. Learn about our most recent management efforts below and check back to see our progress in this endeavor.
Fire has been used as a management tool in ecosystems for thousands of years. Wildfires, which occurred primarily through lightning strikes, would remove old decadent plant growth on the landscape and allow new growth to emerge. The ash produced by fire provides nutrients back to the soil and the cycle continues. Fire can serve as the ‘reset button’ in rangeland habitats and restore some habitat to previous succession stages. Fire is an essential component in maintaining plants and wildlife species dependent on these ecosystems. Over time, with the suppression of wildfires and other human interactions, ecosystems are reaching the climax stages. In some cases this has allowed the encroachment of invasive or noxious species to overtake the landscape. Prescribed burning has been employed as an inexpensive and effective tool used in management practices worldwide. Research has proven that prescribed burning, when used properly, can have a positive impact on the landscape and associated plant communities. The Foundation’s plan to annually burn segments of the Refuge are often stymied by south Texas weather conditions, which are rarely optimal to conduct burns.
Most recently, a crew of 15 individuals burned approximately 340 acres of our Triangle Pasture on August 16, 2019. Effects of the burn are still being studied. Below are some photos of the burn.