The Simpsons of San Saba were recognized as Outstanding Wildlife conservationists at the Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (ATSWCD) Area 2 Annual Awards Banquet held in Wall, Texas on May 6th. Area 2 covers a vast region of Texas and includes 51 counties. The Simpsons were awarded 1st Place among nominees throughout this region for soil, water and wildlife conservation efforts on their 1507 acre ranch.
Prior to the Simpson family's acquisition of their ranch in 1998, it had been overgrazed and unmanaged, leaving the landscape inundated with dense stands of invasive brush. Following recommendations from various sources, including the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), the USDA Natural Resources conservation Service (NCRS), the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), the Texas Cooperative Extension (TCE) and the San Saba Soil and Water Conservation District (SSSWCD), the Simpsons embarked upon a comprehensive land restoration project.
The Simpsons operate their ranch under a wildlife management plan written in cooperation with the San Saba Wildlife Management Association and a Conservation Plan of Operation written by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Native Grasses and Forbs -
Through the USDA Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) and the LCRA Creekside Conservation Program, the Simpsons have selectively removed over 350 acres of invasive species. They also have implemented an aggressive rotational grazing system which facilitates natural aeration and fertilization of the soil, and creates a niche for native grasses and forbs to thrive.
Quail Habitat Restoration -
Joe Simpson is an avid outdoorsman and a quail enthusiast. In 2000, Mr. Simpson requested the help of Dale Rollins, Texas Cooperative Extension Service, in determining factors influencing quail predation. In turn, the Simpsons installed conservation practices for quail habitat restoration, food plot installation, and predator population reduction.
White-tailed Deer Improvement -
With the assistance of TPWD wildlife biologist, Mike Krueger, the Simpsons conduct white-tailed deer spotlight surveys at least three times a year. Likewise, they take daylight surveys to track fawn crop, body condition and antler development. They diligently maintain the information that they gather in data logs to help determine population trends.
The Simpsons have used selective brush management to create a corridor effect, leaving strips of brush along riparian areas. They also abide by Krueger's deer harvest and food plot development recommendations.
Livestock Production -
Through brush control and rotational grazing, the Simpsons have nearly doubled the carrying capacity of the ranch. They are now able to manage their cow herd in a manner that potentially increases their profit margin and restores ecological balance to the land.
Water Quality and Quantity -
An added benefit of the Simpsons' brush management efforts is enhanced infiltration and absorption of rainfall. To maximize this benefit, the Simpsons have added three stock tanks ranging from one to three acres in size. Likewise, they have identified seven well sites for future water development.
Improved Pastures -
The Simpsons have worked to improve native rangeland. They have also converted over 100 acres of old cropland fields into improved Klein Grass pastures, thus reducing the potential for soil loss and sedimentation in nearby waterways.
Wildlife Management -
The Simpsons have actively tracked the quality and quantity of white-tailed deer. With a proactive approach to game management, they have worked diligently to improve buck antler development and buck to doe ratios.
Species Diversity -
The Simpsons recognize that white-tailed deer are only one part of what comprises a thriving Edwards Plateau ecosystem. With ecological balance in mind, they have strived to increase habitat for all native plant and animal species. In the process of selective brush management, the Simpsons have left corridors of brush for wildlife shelter. They have grown small food plots in various locations to augment the native food supply. An array of native wildlife such as turkey, quail, dove and small mammals can now be seen flourishing throughout the Simpsons' 1507 acre ranch.
Artesian Springs -
The Simpsons are blessed with a number of artesian springs on the ranch. They take particular care in managing the native grasses and forbs that grow in these areas. Likewise, their brush management efforts have resulted in increased spring flow.
Old Homestead -
This ranch was originally settled by German immigrants. Built in the early 1900s, the old ranch homestead remains on the property. Rather than tear it down, the Simpsons chose to restore this homestead as a reminder of the pioneer families that depended on this land for food, water and shelter. This restoration project is ongoing.
Native American Artifacts -
Joe Simpson has taken a special interest in Native American culture, particularly the art of flint knapping. In fact, Mr. Simpson is an avid flint knapper himself. Additionally, Mr. Simpson has worked to preserve Native American artifacts found on the ranch.
Cooperative Research, Demonstration and Education -
The Simpsons are members of the San Saba Wildlife Management Association. Likewise, they are cooperators with the San Saba Soil and Water Conservation District. Through these affiliations, they have participated in a number of educational field days and seminars on subjects such as prescribed burning, integrated pest management and white-tailed deer management. They have expressed an interest in potentially hosting an educational field day on their land in the future.
Outdoor Recreational and/or Educational Opportunities -
In 2000 and 2001, the Simpsons invited local scout groups, comprised of both boys and girls, to hunt on the ranch. This hunt, coordinated in cooperation with Mike Krueger of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department provided an opportunity for these youth to learn and apply soil, water and wildlife conservation principles.