Bill’s influence on the work of the Property Planning and Stewardship team is unmatched. Kevin remembers Bill’s mentorship as being the “kind of wisdom born of long experience.” In the 1970s, Bill pioneered a fresh approach to wildlife management by advocating for the replication of the environmental conditions that existed in Texas prior to the European settlement of the mid-19th century.
Studying tree rings in the plains and hill country of central Texas, Bill discovered that the land historically burned every 2-6 years. As a result, grasses and trees adapted to fire. In some instances, they even need fire to germinate and thrive.
Other native species, like Ashe juniper—commonly called cedar—required fire to prevent overpopulation. Juniper can’t survive without its evergreen needles, which burn quickly in a fire, leaving a field of dead trees to decompose and enrich the soil. Only a tight grouping of juniper trees, called a cedar brake, will survive a fire. Otherwise, Ashe juniper encroaches on the grasslands, creating a monoculture of cedar trees in the Canyon and throughout the hill country.
Grasslands allow much more water to flow into underground springs, compared to thirsty juniper forests. More water supports more plants and animals, contributing to wholeness in the Canyon ecosystem as well as enjoyment for our guests.
People tend to think fire is purely destructive, but Bill Armstrong taught otherwise.
Is the burn plan working? Trey tells the story of an area of grasslands they burned in midwinter several years ago. Immediately after the burn, everything looked dead. Come spring, the field was densely covered with a shock of wild bluebonnets.