Connemara Conservancy provides land conservation services in an area of North Texas extending from the Louisiana border westward to Wichita Falls, and from the Oklahoma border southward to Waco. Our area of land conservation activity includes parts of five different eco-regions across North Texas: Piney Woods, Post-Oak Savannah, Blackland Prairie, Cross Timbers and Prairies, and Rolling Plains. An Ecoregion is defined as a relatively large unit of land or water that is characterized by a distinctive climate, ecological features, and plant and animal communities.
||The Connemara Conservancy Foundation (CCF) is responsible for a number of easements in the North Texas Area. Counties included in the broad area served by Connemara Conservancy include:
Anderson, Archer, Baylor, Bosque, Bowie, Camp, Cass, Cherokee, Clay, Collin, Cooke, Dallas, Delta, Denton, Eastland, Ellis, Erath, Fannin, Franklin, Freestone, Grayson, Greg, Harrison, Henderson, Hill, Hood, Hopkins,
Hunt, Jack, Johnson, Limestone, Kaufman, Lamar, Marion, Montague, Morris, Navarro, Palo Pinto, Panola, Parker, Rains, Red River, Rockwall, Rusk, Somervell, Smith, Stephens, Tarrant, Throckmorton,
Titus, Upshur, Van Zandt, Wichita, Wilbarger, Wise, Wood, Young
These landscapes are what make North Texas the rolling, grassy lands and forested areas that we love. But increasingly, urbanization threatens the remaining parcels of each of these ecosystems. Connemara Conservancy is focusing its conservation efforts in these areas just outside of the metroplex that are threatened by development; rural counties in the Blackland Prairie and the Cross Timbers and Prairies ecosystem areas.
More About the Threat in the Blackland Prairie and the Cross Timbers Ecoregions
Though all of these landscapes are important to North Texas conservation, one of the most critical eco-regions in need of preservation is the Blackland Prairie. Today less than 1% of the original vegetation of the Blackland Prairie remains, and only in scattered parcels across the region. Almost all of the remaining Blackland Prairie is under private ownership. The single greatest threat to the Blackland Prairie is urbanization, as this narrow, elongated strip follows a line of development stretching across counties north, east and south of Dallas. The natural vegetation of Blackland Prairie is dominated by tallgrass prairie with a large diversity of plants and wildlife. Grasses typically grow as "high as a horse's belly." Common grasses in this ecoregion include Little Bluestem, Indiangrass, Big Bluestem, and Gamagrass-switchgrass as described by early European explorers.
Blackland prairie is a disturbance-maintained system. Prior to European settlement, important natural landscape-scale disturbances included fire and periodic grazing by large mammals that kept trees and woody plants from dominating the landscape. With the conversion of native grasslands to croplands in our early settlement history, the establishment of non-native forage grasses on these prairie sites for cattle and horses, and the urban growth of the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex, there is increasingly more threats to the sustainability of these native prairies. Not only are there fewer native prairie sites remaining after most were converted to croplands or overplanted with non-native grasses, those remaining have fewer fire cycles to keep woody species from overtaking the grassland habitat and more non-native grasses such as johnsongrass and King Ranch bluestem are colonizing the once-native fields. Many other fields were converted to coastal bermuda pastures.
The Cross Timbers and Prairies ecoregion is equally under pressure of development in this region. Although it was not historically as threatened by conversion to croplands due to the shallow soils on top of the limestones in this region, the large ranches with native grasslands in the Fort Worth Prairie are being converted to small ranchettes and subdivisions as urban growth expands into areas north, west and south of Fort Worth. Similar to the Blackland Prairie grasslands, the sustainability of native grass stands have also been affected by historical planting of non-native forage grasses and the overtaking of the native stands by grasses such as bermudagrass, johnsongrass and King Ranch bluestem.
The thin line of post oak and blackjack oak forests in the Cross Timbers ecoregion that extends north-south between Dallas and Fort Worth has been right in the heartland of urban growth in the metroplex, with few undeveloped virgin native forest stands remaining. These trees can be hundreds of years old as they struggle to establish on the sandy, somewhat acidic soils of the underlying sandstone strata.