On May 16, Texas Parks and Wildlife named the H. E. Butt Foundation as a winner of the 2019 Lone Star Land Steward Award, celebrating private landowners’ accomplishments in habitat management and wildlife conservation.
Foundation president David Rogers said, “We weren’t seeking this recognition, but two Parks and Wildlife biologists who have become familiar with the Canyon nominated us for our efforts in caring for the property and its wildlife.”
“We were one of six property owners throughout Texas whose progress in natural resource management was noticed,” David explained. “Deborah and I are grateful—not for the award so much as what it represents.” The award is significant in part because it is meant to inspire other landowners to invest in their own habitat conservation, which is a vital need in the Texas Hill Country.
“In recent years, we’ve prioritized stewardship…which we define as ‘taking care of everything that is entrusted to us.’ That includes our guests, team members, and financial resources—and it most definitely includes the Frio River Canyon,” he said. When Deborah’s grandparents first purchased the land, Mary Holdsworth Butt wrote in her journal that she and her husband Howard wanted to establish a site where a hundred years from now deer, turkey, squirrels and rabbits can still be seen. “Especially,” David said, “by children who may not otherwise have a chance to experience God’s beauty as revealed in creation. We’re honored to carry on this legacy, and we’re thankful to you for supporting and encouraging the work of all our programs.”
In 2014, David and Deborah Rogers convened a full-time Property Planning and Stewardship team that has rolled out a three-pronged stewardship vision with clear goals to cultivate and manage the Canyon’s land, water, and ecological resources.
Texas Parks and Wildlife said in a recent media release:
“Since purchasing the Real County property northwest of San Antonio in 1954, the H. E. Butt Foundation has sought to create a natural setting for spiritual renewal. Land stewardship objectives direct activities to achieve the goal of managing the property so that animal and plant life is diverse, balanced, robust and native. The Foundation currently operates five programs at six camp facilities where land management practices are rooted in the long-term vision that the property can be even healthier and more beautiful in 50 years than it is today. This is accomplished through habitat management practices, including: extensive ashe juniper clearing, prescribed burning, population control of native and exotic wildlife species, control of invasive plants, and native plant reseeding efforts. Each year thousands of camp visitors are able to enjoy the fruits of the Foundation’s labor while participating in activities such as bird and wildlife watching, photography, hiking, biking, kayaking, and canoeing during their stay.”
Assistant Director of Stewardship, Kevin Wessels, said that implicit in Mrs. Butt’s journal entry was her recognition that such things as free-ranging wildlife and free-flowing clean water cannot be assumed. Care must be given.
“David and Deborah have made a very significant commitment,” Kevin said, “by developing a stewardship vision, creating a team specifically committed to stewardship, and choosing stewardship to be a core value of the Foundation. This staffing and associated budget alone demonstrate a deep commitment to the mission that they have charged us with. Not only is this commitment inspiring, we are also specifically called, charged, and held accountable to achieving our stewardship goals.”
Justin Dreibelbis, director of Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Private Lands and Public Hunting program, said, “The 2019 winners are diverse in property size and management focus but what they all have in common is a love for the land and a desire to make it the best functioning system it can be.” He continued, “The clean air, water, food and fiber that come from these properties is important to all Texans and we are honored to be able to recognize this group of land stewards for their efforts.”
“The setting of the Canyon and the Canyon experience are crucial to the mission of our programs,” said David. “Without the Canyon, the programs cannot exist as we know them. God uniquely uses his creation that he has entrusted to us, the Frio River Canyon, to point to and unlock hope, mystery, beauty, and love. The programs we run directly depend on the Canyon and the Canyon Experience to facilitate their work of nurturing the human spirit.”