Father Peter Conaty

111204 IMG_4961  by Lan Shen

Susan an Peter Conaty supporting Deer Park Prairie

Another prairie hero has left us: Father Peter Conaty. Peter and Susan Conaty were instrumental in saving the Nash Prairie and supported efforts to save Deer Park Prairie.

From David Bezanson of The Nature Conservancy:

Peter was rector at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in West Columbia, Texas, and it’s due to the vision and leadership of Peter and Susan, his wife, that TNC was able to acquire Nash Prairie Preserve from the church and hospital district in 2011.

The article below is a reminder of Peter’s eloquence and commitment to conservation:


Peter lived an extraordinarily full and interesting life, which was documented in the local newspaper when he retired from St. Mary’s earlier this year:

Kunda Wicce, NPAT Founding Member

From Kirsti Harms, NPAT board member:

“I see from the Facebook posts that our former president and founding member, Kunda Lee Wicce (Lee Stone) passed away on Saturday August 12. … She was a passionate advocate for prairies….

I found one of the last items Kunda wrote as president in the Fall 2008 [NPAT] Newsletter. It gives a sense of our history. Here’s a photo of her at Daphne Prairie holding grasses, something she always seemed to [be] doing!”

By Kunda Wicce, 2008:

This message makes a good marker for the end of an era of sorts. We were founded in 1985, after eccentric, multi-degreed, prairie-conservation-minded, retired British physician Geoffrey Stanford turned to Dallas kindred spirits Madge Lindsay and Arnold Davis at a special touring tallgrass prairie exhibit—which they had themselves put together—and said something brief like “is there an association in Texas for conserving prairies?” Upon hearing the answer in the negative, Stanford continued with “then we must found one.” And we were. Geoff had something like this in mind when he attended the 1984 North American Prairie Conference—which is put together biennially by whoever is willing to do it—and at the post-meeting stood and asked for approval for Texas volunteers to organize the 1986 NAPC! And they did. We still have proceedings from that conference which focused on Texas prairies—it is an excellent series of papers by our best prairie minds.

I was recruited to the Board of Directors in 1987 by Arnold Davis—another wonderful prairie person who cut his prairie teeth with the Soil Conservation Service during the large-scale replanting and soil stabilization work in the Dust Bowl states. Arnold happily mentored all of us in the ways of restoration, drove all over the state, and wore his love of prairies on his sleeve for all of us to see. R.C. “Rollie” Mauldin was another delightful SCS elder who appeared at almost every field trip and meeting. He exhorted us new prairie people to pay close attention to the native legumes, and to remember that a good restoration needed multiple legume species as some species would be most palatability at different times. So, every time I think of Rollie and mention his name, I pass on his message.

I was very very lucky indeed in those earlier NPAT days to have known our inspiring prairie elders, including Edith Hoyt, and Dr. Paul and Virginia Mezynski. Geoff, Arnold, and R.C. have been gone now for a while. Edith passed away last week. It has been with some sorrow now that I’ve realized I’m the last one on the Board who knew them, which makes me an elder of sorts. They would all be cheering to see we are entering a new era of prairie conservation in Texas!

We are focused and we are increasingly more effective. After laying groundwork—and with Jason Spangler’s business acumen—we have received important grants from the Houston Endowment, the Meadows Foundation, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and the Dixon Water Founda­tion to support professional staff, and—for the next two years—to employ prairie-wise contractors, to actively scour each historic tallgrass prairie county to catalog the remnant fields of tallgrass in this state.

This galvanizing survey across 94 Texas tallgrass counties has already added a few hundred prairie owners to our database. We are finding more tallgrass than was previously guessed and it is our intention to reach out to all these owners, offering praise and celebration of what they and their predecessors have been stewarding since settlement times. We also desire to support a network among all prairie owners, and to share information on management and economic opportunities.

I have now served on the NPAT Board of Directors for 22 years. I am standing for re-election to the board to serve for one more term, to be of whatever assistance I can be during this exhilarating transition time, yet this is my last time to serve as an officer. It has been my honor and my great pleasure to serve in various roles with NPAT over these years, always with eyes on the prize of native grassland conservation. My attention is turning towards international grassland conservation and I want to see in what ways I can be helpful. If I’m blessed and persistent, perhaps someday I’ll be emailing reports to this Journal from a Himalayan grassland plateau!

Prairiely yours,
Kunda Wicce (fna Lee Stone)

Let’s Help NPAT Save The Paul Mathews Prairie!


NPAT has an exciting opportunity to conserve a vibrant prairie in North Texas. The Paul Mathews Prairie is a rare and pristine 100-acre remnant of the Blackland Prairie near Floyd, TX in Hunt County, not far from the well-known Clymer Meadow. For an incredible price of $50,000, NPAT can become the owner of this unique prairie! We believe this is the chance of a lifetime and one that we should not pass up. NPAT only has a limited time to raise the funds to buy this beautiful prairie. We hope you will help us purchase the prairie, cover the land transaction fees, and create an endowment fund for its stewardship & protection. Those of you familiar with the Deer Park Prairie, will know how expensive it is to maintain a prairie and defend it against pressures such as invasive plants, trees and shrubs, etc. without the traditional tools such as fire and bison. We need to raise $50,000 to cover the entire project.

Although the land is already under conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), purchasing the property will ensure that NPAT with its vast prairie expertise will be able to manage the preservation of this extremely rare remnant of what was once a dominant habitat in North American and today is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world.

Hey, Houston Prairie People: if we could do the Deer Park Prairie (~50 acres for ~$4 million), we should be able to do this easy! People from all over the world helped us save the Deer Park Prairie, let’s return the favor! Please donate and pass the word onto your friends & relatives in the DFW area.

Donate now online at this link or by mail (use this form) to Native Prairies Association of Texas, 415 N. Guadalupe St. PMB 385, San Marcos, TX 78666 (please write Mathews Prairie in the memo line of your check if you want to direct your donation specifically to the Mathews Prairie.)

History of the Mathews prairie:  Paul Mathews played in this prairie as a boy in the early 1900s and wanted to preserve it. He finally bought the land in 1969, put it under conservation easement with TNC in the 1980s, and managed it by haying until about 1996. He had received the Lone Star Land Steward award and died at age 101 in 2005. The current owner is Dr. Jim Conrad, a history professor in Commerce, who wants to sell the land and is happy to sell it to NPAT.

Former TNC manager Jim Eidson considers the Mathews Prairie as one of the best representatives of a gamagrass/switchgrass/indiangrass vertisolic (gumbo clay) prairie in Texas. It has very deep gilgai formations.

This prairie has some rare species as well, including a crawfish that was thought to be rare, but now is considered more common than originally thought. Other wildlife information about this prairie can be found at the links below:

Check out the information about the Paul Mathews Prairie at the NPAT website’s home page: TexasPrairie.org


Photo credits. Top: Jason Singhurst. Bottom: Kirsti Harms.


UP Team/Aug: July Photos & News, Aug Events, & Fall Previews

Scroll down for upcoming activities
In July, the UP Team schedule had several changes. Since UP Team announcements are sent once per month, close to the workday you wish to attend, please check the UP Team calendar (tinyurl.com/UPTeamCalto view all updates. Click on the event and then the “more details” to show all details, including meeting place and parking specifics. All events have at least one contact person.
If you are planning to attend an event and RSVP’ed to the contact person, that person will let you know of any changes.
UP Team at Willow Waterhole Prairie Demo Garden
From Hazel Potvin:
“In February 2017, Willow Waterhole Greenway Park in SW Houston,  with the help of the the Department of Natural Resources  of the City of Houston, planted lots of prairie grasses and flowers in a newly created garden on S. Willow Drive.  Needless to say, no garden stays decent without care. Thanks to the vision of the Coastal Prairie Partnership, Urban Prairie gardening groups have been established to help maintain pocket prairies in schools, parks, and neighborhoods.  
A team of five members of the Houston Native Prairie Association of Texas  and two Westbury women  gathered on Monday, July 17, at 6 p.m. to tackle the weeds and find the plants originally planted in February.  The soil was moist and the day was cooling down to give good conditions for some gardening.  The team and anyone else wishing to join will meet again on Monday, August 21 at 6 p.m. to continue their work.  The best place to park is at 5310 S. Willow Dr., Houston 77035.  The garden is a short walk from there.  Bring your favorite weeder and gloves.
The UP Team members on July 17 were Jane Reierson, Diane Kerr, Maya Fletcher-bai, Sara Lyons, and Hazel Potvin.  Janie Schexnayder and Jackie Heidorn, who both helped plant the garden, joined in with the team and were glad to have help in maintaining the prairie garden.”
Photo credit: Agalinis purpurea at Willow Waterhole Project in SW Houston, Texas. Sept. 2010 by M.P.N.texan or PINKE at https://www.flickr.com/photos/8113246@N02/5037570404. Creative commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

UP Team at City of Houston Greenhouse in Memorial Park
Photos from Workday on July 13, 2017
Top left: Gail Baxter, GCMN-PPP liaison; 
right: UP Team volunteers;
bottom left: Jed Aplaca & Kelli Ondracek, Houston Park & Recreation Department’s (HPARD) Natural Resources Management Program (NRMP) Team.
Bottom center: Deer Park Prairie’s rough coneflower (Rudbeckia grandiflora) seedlings. Bottom right: San Jacinto Battleground’s beebalm (Monarda lindheimeri). Seedlings were from seeds collected by Katy Prairie Conservancy (KPC) and grown by Wally Ward, KPC’s germinator extraordinaire, and given to the NRMP for planting in city parks.
Facebook videos & photos of UP Team at with Houston Zoo’s Teen Conservation Program at 


Events This Month

Details of all events are on our calendar  tinyurl.com/UPTeamCal

Monday, August 21, Willow Waterhole Demonstration Native Gardens, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
From Hazel Potvin: “…We are currently trying to get the weeds down in the gardens which were planted in March with plants from the City of Houston Natural Resources Dept. We work from 6-8 in the evenings because of the heat. The address is 5500 block of S. Willow. We drive up into the area but you can park at The Gathering Place at 5310 S. Willow and walk over. ” To RSVP and for more information, contact Hazel Potvin, email: hazelnut856@yahoo.com
Regular monthly UP Team volunteer events are posted on the calendar at tinyurl.com/UPTeamCal. Check the calendar for location, time, contact information, and other details.
  • Saturday, August 5 (1st Saturdays): Hermann Park, Bayou Savannah Workday (near 6520 Almeda)
  • Wednesday, August 9 (2nd Wednesdays): Deer Park Prairie Workday
  • Thursday, August 10 (2nd Thursdays): Native (and mostly prairie) plant propagation at City of Houston Greenhouse at Memorial Park
  • Saturday, August 12 (2nd Saturdays): Hermann Park, Whistlestop Prairie Workday (near Japanese Garden)
  • Thursday, August 24 (4th Thursdays): Native (and mostly prairie) plant propagation at City of Houston Greenhouse at Memorial Park
  • Saturday, August 26 (4th Saturdays): Cancelled: Deer Park Prairie Workday
  • Saturday, August 26 (4th Saturdays): Hermann Park, Bayou Savannah Workday (near 6520 Almeda)

Save these future dates:

  • Monday, September 18, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm – Willow Waterhole Demonstration Native Plant Gardens
  • Saturday, September 30, Deer Park Prairie Fall Prairie Day & Bioblitz. Volunteers are needed to participate in the bioblitz and/or to man stations for visitors. Lunch will be served. 9:00 to 2:00 pm with bird survey at 7:30 am.
  • Monday, October 16, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm – Willow Waterhole Demonstration Native Plant Gardens
  • Saturday, October 14, HPARD’s Natural Resources Management Program – Hobart Taylor Park Prairie Planting Event, 8100 Kenton St., 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
  • Saturday, October 21, HPARD’s Natural Resources Management Program – Stuart Park Prairie Planting Event, 7270 Bellfort St., 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
  • Saturday, October 28, HPARD’s Natural Resources Management Program – Clinton Park Prairie Planting Event, 200 Mississippi St., 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
General workday attire/needs: long pants and closed toe shoes. Optional: hat, sunscreen, long-sleeved shirt, insect repellent, water. If you have them bring some garden tools like garden gloves, trowel and/or shovel.
Want to volunteer in your own home? Join the Great Grow Out Program. Katy Prairie Conservancy is seeking volunteers to grow (in the comfort of their own home) plants from wild collected seeds that we will send you. Then return the seedlings to KPC for restoration projects! Don’t forget to keep a few for your garden!

Instructions in the form of a Grower’s Handbook or in the form of videos are at www.KatyPrairie.org/ggo. For more information, view the webpage or contact Lan.Shen@txgcmn.org.

If you are not an UP (Urban Prairie) Team member, please join our team of volunteers interested in helping at urban pocket prairies and/or to communicate about prairies. See UP Team information and a flyer at this link. Or click here to get monthly emails on Urban Prairies activities that need your help!

Updated 7/13/17: UP (Urban Prairie) Team Events July, 2017

UP (Urban Prairie) Team Events July, 2017

Details of all events (regular and special) are on our calendar tinyurl.com/UPTeamCal

Changed: Friday, July 14, St. Thomas University Prairie, 9:00 am – noon

Join University of St. Thomas students for a workday at their prairie.
Address: 4103 Graustark., Houston, TX 77006
Monday, July 17, Willow Waterhole Demonstration Native Gardens, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
From Hazel Potvin: “We have 8 smallish gardens with concrete walkways around them so people can visit and observe. We are currently trying to get the weeds down in the gardens which were planted in March with plants from the City of Houston Natural Resources Dept. We work from 6-8 in the evenings because of the heat. The address is 5500 block of S. Willow. We drive up into the area but you can park at The Gathering Place at 5310 S. Willow and walk over. ” To RSVP and for more information, contact Hazel Potvin, email: hazelnut856@yahoo.com
May Be Changed. Updates will be posted on calendar next week:  Friday, July 21, Buffalo Bayou Park, Prairie Area Workday, 9:00 am – noon
For detailed information on meeting location and parking, please check the calendar, tinyurl.com/UPTeamCal,  for updates a few days before the event or contact JGonzalez@KatyPrairie.org
Cancelled: Friday, July 28, UH Downtown Pocket Prairie
Reason:  The construction in Johnny Goyen Park, site of the UHD Pocket Prairie, continues and appears unlikely to be completed by July 28th.

Regular monthly UP Team volunteer events are now posted on the calendar: tinyurl.com/UPTeamCal

Check the calendar for details.
  • 1st Saturdays: Hermann Park, Bayou Savannah Workday (near 6520 Almeda)
  • 2nd Wednesday: Deer Park Prairie Workday
  • 2nd Thursdays: Native (and mostly prairie) plant propagation at City of Houston Greenhouse at Memorial Park
  • 2nd Saturdays: Hermann Park, Whistlestop Prairie Workday (near Japanese Garden)
  • 4th Thursdays: Native (and mostly prairie) plant propagation at City of Houston Greenhouse at Memorial Park
  • 4th Saturdays: Deer Park Prairie Workday
  • 4th Saturdays: Hermann Park, Bayou Savannah Workday (near 6520 Almeda)

August Preview:

  • Monday, August 21, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm – Willow Waterhole Demonstration Native Plant Gardens
General workday attire/needs: long pants and closed toe shoes. Optional: hat, sunscreen, long-sleeved shirt, insect repellent, water. If you have them bring some garden tools like garden gloves, trowel and/or shovel.

Reminder: Invasive Species ID + Field Application (Sat, 6/24) & Butterfly ID Class (corrected – Thur 6/29)

Just a few more spaces left for this Saturday’s (6/24) Invasive Species ID Class and Field Application (9:00 am – noon) to be taught at Deer Park Prairie (DPP) by Glenn Merkord, essentially DPP’s volunteer “Land Manager”. This workshop will be a great primer on invasive species of the coastal prairie and will provide hands-on demonstrations of how to control these noxious weeds. $15 class fee includes materials and lunch. Class rated for novices. Click here for more information and registration.

Come and see the wildflowers in bloom at Deer Park Prairie and how non-native invasives are being controlled to ensure continued abundance of our native prairie wildflowers.


More spaces are also open for next Thursday’s Prairie Butterfly ID Class (6/29, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm) . Wally Ward, member of Butterfly Enthusiasts of Southeast Texas (B.E.S.T.), as well as Katy Prairie Conservancy Board Member and President of Native Plant Society of Texas – Houston will give an overview of local prairie butterflies and their identification at Trini Mendenhall Community Center in Spring Branch. Class rated for novices.  Click here for more information and registration.

Class participants are encouraged to practice their new knowledge and join Wally on a local butterfly field trip on Saturday, July 8th, 10 a.m. – noon at Katy Prairie Conservancy’s Indian Grass Preserve. For more information and registration for the field trip, Click here.  Note: due to unexpected problems, previous offer for a field trip on July 1st has been cancelled.

7/7/17 Urban Prairies Manager Summit

On Friday, July 7th, the Coastal Prairie Partnership will host an innovative morning of learning and networking focused on the challenges of managing, restoring, and interpreting urban grasslands in the Greater Houston Region. There are only about 12 seats left, so if you or someone you might know would appreciate this offering please send them the link to this page.

The Texas Institute for Coastal Prairie Research and Education!

News from Dr. Steve Pennings, Director of the University of Houston Coastal Center (UHCC), one of the premier coastal prairie remnants in the Texas:

I’m happy to pass on the news that House Bill 2285, which designates the UHCC as “The Texas Institute for Coastal Prairie Research and Education” has passed the Texas legislature and been signed by the governor. Although this bill does not directly generate any new funding, we hope that it will raise the profile and status of the UHCC and help us compete for funding.

Want to see the UH Coastal Center (in La Marque), which is not usually open to visitors? Join Lan Shen and other volunteers to help the Katy Prairie Conservancy collect prairie plant seeds in the wild. We visit and collect seeds at the UH Coastal Center at least once per year, usually in fall. Sign up to receive the seed collecting announcements via email at this link.

An email from Katy Emde of the Native Plant Society of Texas – Houston Chapter said that Evelyn Merz of Sierra Club was also actively involved in getting House Bill 2285 passed and that Katy wrote a letter of support.

Breaking News – Deer Park Prairie!

Announced at the May 24th HNPAT meeting by Pat Merkord, Executive Director of NPAT: Shell Deer Park Manufacturing Complex just awarded Native Prairies Association of Texas (NPAT), owner of the Lawther – Deer Park Prairie Preserve (DPP), a grant for an educator position as well as funding for teaching materials. This achievement resulted from the hard work Pat and NPAT President, Barbara Willy, did in putting together the project proposal.

In early 2016, the Deer Park City Council granted NPAT a specific use permit to allow groups of up to 30 students onto the prairie, provided, among other conditions, that two ADA (American with Disability Act) approved bathrooms for each sex is available at the site. According to Pat, before conditions for the specific use permit are met, plans are for the educator to bring prairie lessons to classrooms in local schools and establish a working relationship with local school district teachers. Meanwhile Pat is meeting with architects regarding building the required facilities.

Pat also announced that the Deer Park Chamber of Commerce has indicated that it is interested in supporting the building project. NPAT appreciates community support from both Shell and the Chamber of Commerce to enable local children and youth to learn about our natural and cultural heritage on this platinum quality remnant of the nature that was once here.

We hope that our supporters will donate to help NPAT maintain Deer Park Prairie and to this new endeavor to bring school groups onto the prairie. (Read a past blog about funds and volunteers needed to maintain the prairie.) Donations for NPAT and for Deer Park Prairie are taken at this webpage. Non-directed donations will go toward very much needed support for staff and overhead, the non-glamorous part which often unfortunately does not get funded by grants . Should you wish to  specifically earmarked your donations for Deer Park Prairie, add “For use at Deer Park Prairie” in the comment section. When the fundraising for the required building facilities commence, we will post that information in a future blog. A heartfelt thank you to all our donors, volunteers, and supporters!


Houston: Largest NWF Community Habitat!

The City of Houston has been certified by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) as it’s “largest ever Community Wildlife Habitat™”! Among other requirements, this certification means that in a public and private collaboration, “nearly 1,000 yards, balconies, schools, parks and other properties provided the 4 elements that all wildlife need to thrive and survive – food, water, cover and places to raise young.”(1) In addition, “the Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD) has identified 80 parks with 16,000 acres of land as having natural areas” and “worked with volunteers to plant 2,500 native plants in public parks, maintained demonstration gardens at the City Hall Annex and Clinton Park, involved the master naturalists and the native plant society, spread the word at Earth Day Houston, Nature Fest and other events, and so much more.”(1)

To mark this accomplishment, on April 18, 2017 at City Hall in the Council Chambers, Mayor Sylvester Turner proclaimed that day as Wildlife Habitat Day in the City of Houston. As shown in the above photo from HPARD facebook, many of the partners in this effort were present to celebrate, including HNPAT President, Kelly Shield, who was an HPARD intern.

HPARD’s Natural Resources Management Program (NRMP) under Jed Aplaca (jed.aplaca@houstontx.gov) has done a wonderful job in making our city wildlife friendly. To be up-to-date on all NRMP programs, including its twice monthly plant propagation programs using volunteers at the City of Houston Greenhouse in Memorial Park, its plantings at city parks, and its free training classes, email Jed to get on the NRMP monthly email list. Join these activities and learn by doing! A vast majority of the plants propagated are prairie plants, so volunteering for the workdays enables learning about prairie plants from seed to maturity.

Want to create an oasis in your space (yard, balcony…) for wildlife? Get certified as a NWF Wildlife Habitat.

Horrors! I was intending to write “Get certified as a NWF Wildlife Habitat or as a Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Best of Texas Backyard Habitat” But at the TPWD website is this notice:

Thank you for your interest in becoming recognized as having a Certified Texas Wildscape.
Due to the lack of staff and a current hiring freeze our agency is not currently able process, review, and approve new “Texas Wildscapes” or “Best of Texas Backyard Habitat Certification” applications.
We apologize for this inconvenience.

Please watch our website over the next year for updates on the Texas Wildscapes Certification Program.

Don’t get me started on what this state is wasting its money on!


Reference: (1) https://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/Media-Center/News-by-Topic/Wildlife/2017/4-18-17-Houston-100th-Community-wildlife-habitat.aspx