Monday, December 21, 2009

Get a Tree, Do a Good Deed

from the December, 2009 issue of Texas Highways

The Nature Conservancy’s Davis Mountains Preserve rises above the surrounding West Texas desert. “Sky islands” within the preserve form cooler and wetter areas covered in pinion- juniper woodlands. Every December for the past 10 years, the preserve has opened its gates on select dates (Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 this year) so families can cut one of these sturdy trees for Christmas.

Participants can enjoy an entire day at the scenic site, which offers hiking trails, great birding, and picnic areas. By taking home a tree, they also help protect a special piece of Texas, says The Nature Conservancy’s John Karges. Historically, he explains, this ecosystem contained roughly 30 trees per acre along with wildflowers and grasses. Slow-moving, low-intensity natural fires maintained that arrangement, clearing out the underbrush and most tree seedlings. After decades without such fires, though, thousands of trees now fill each acre. Efforts to restore the savannah include prescribed fire and mechanical thinning, which is where the Christmas-tree hunts come in. The events provide an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of conservation, and are lots of fun.

For more information on the 2009 hunts, call 432/302-0550; (go to Events).

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