Prairie Wisdom from Tim Siegmund: Bees, Pollinators, Ag Exemptions & More

Tim Siegmund (scroll to 2/2020 meeting)  leads the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Private Lands and Habitat Program  and is on the board of Native Prairies Associations of Texas (NPAT).

Recently blogged at this website was his answer about mowing to maintain a prairie. We plan to continue blogging his answers to various prairie related questions under the tag Prairie Wisdoms from Tim Siegmund

Question #1 (from Kirsti Harms, Executive Director, NPAT): What are the benefits of keeping bees on a prairie. Does that count as an agriculture valuation? Does it negatively impact native bees?

Tim’s answer: Yes to both. The law was changed to allow properties between 5 and 20 acres to qualify for ag by keeping bees, but you have to keep a lot of hives. More than that acreage could really support so they bees are depending on their neighbors. Yes, honey bees can out compete or over saturate areas to push out native pollinators. Further, honey bees are generalists so they can exclude species specialists from their preferred nectar source while also not begin quite as efficient at pollination as the native bee. So honeybees are cool, and beekeeping can help folks qualify for ag. However, they should be kept off natural areas as they can negatively impact our native pollinators.

Page 3 in TPWD’s Pollinator Management guidelines highlights the potentially detrimental relationship of honey bees with native bees. https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_bk_w7000_1813.pdf

…[I am] highlighting this link to our “Private Lands and Pollinators” page…  There are lots of folks with wildscapes, prairie gardens, pocket prairies, and so on that might benefit from some of the resources on this webpage. It discusses different species of native pollinators and how to manage to attract them, and what species of plants to select as well. https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/nongame/native-pollinators/

Question #2 (from Andrew Coulter, HNPAT board member): How do the tax incentives for wildlife management/conservation (by which I mean, in this case, management to promote native pollinators) compare to the ag exemption for beekeeping?…

Tim’s answer: Beekeeping only allows you to take land from full value into an ag valuation which lowers the overall taxable value.  It is then broken down into production catergories (native pasture, irrigated cropland, dryland cropland, orchard, bee keeping, etc).  Once it’s been broken down into its categorical use the switch over to wildlife is tax neutral.  So whatever it did to qualify for ag (farming, ranching, beekeeping) and the previous taxable value associate with that property stays with it as it moves to the wildlife valuation.  Beekeeping is actually one of the highest appraised practices because on a per acre basis it raises more money than native range or other uses.

So there really is no incentive or disincentive between beekeeping and the wildlife  valuation.  Beekeeping can help those smaller properties between 5 and 20 acres to qualify for the open space exemption with an ag valuation.  Then long term allow them to transition to the wildlife valuation at the same taxable rate if they so choose.  In order to get to wildlife valuation currently you have to already be in an agricultural or timber valuation first.

Comment from Wally Ward (HNPAT board member):  Dr. John Neff of the Central Texas Melittological Institute in Austin made a presentation to the Houston Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association several years ago. He said africanized bees have displaced European honeybees throughout much of Texas. Native bees are also more efficient pollinators. Honeybees are invasive exotics.

Prairie Maintenance #1: Mowing

A question came to NPAT (Native Prairies Association of Texas): “We will be converting some acreage in our parks [to] prairies and wildflower areas… What is the recommended amount of times per year and height… to mow the areas…

Answered by Tim Siegmund of Texas Parks & Wildlife and board member of NPAT

I would agree with the once or twice.  6 or 7 times a year is wayyyyyy too much for any type of prairie in Texas to truly express itself floristically….

I would recommend 6” being absolute lowest they would shred.  It would be better at 8-12”.  This leaves more growing points (buds, leaves, stems) on the vegetation so it can recover and survive. I tell folks that shredding in late February is ok before spring wildflowers begin to lift from their rosettes, and then early July is ok once spring wildflowers are done, and it gives summer and fall wildflowers enough time to recover to bloom again in the fall if they get rain.

As far as untidy that is the in the eye of beholder.  Some would say thickets of Japanese honeysuckle, Chinese privet, Ligustrum, and callary pear are untidy, but that’s what I see when I go to most city parks.  So an untidy native area with lots of bees and butterflies may be of better worth especially with a few interpretive signs to let folks know why it looks the way it does.

Nature Related Free Presentations and Videos updated 9/3/2020

Updated 9/3/2020

Recently there are so many interesting free presentations and videos/podcasts online. After missing some, I’ve decided to organize some of those that might be interesting to people interested in nature, conservation, etc. Included are date, title, registration information. This is not a comprehensive list, but just some of which I am aware. Also note, many online meetings have limited capacity, so register early.

Free Zoom-type Presentations & Webinars : updated 9/3/2020

Free videos / podcasts

Check out the five videos by the Deer Park Prairie Education Program in this Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC61bpw5Fiuj1d7vtT51gMtg/videos . Read about the videos here: https://texasprairie.org/the-deer-park-prairie-education-program/ )

*****

This list will be updated as more information becomes available, so bookmark this page to come back to it.

 

Powerpoint: Build a Pocket Prairie – Prairie Garden

This is the PowerPoint presentation (or click the above picture) of the talk given by Lan Shen via Zoom on July 2 to the Texas Master Naturalist, Coastal Prairie Chapter. The talk was basically information provided in Katy Prairie Conservancy’s “Build a Pocket Prairie” by Jaime Gonzalez.

A few of the slides have speaker notes attached. To see the speaker notes, view the pdf version of the presentation.

Urban Prairie Series Written & Edited by Bob Romero

Bob Romero publishes the Urban Prairie Series about our local pocket prairies in HNPAT newsletters.  Links to the pertinent newsletters in this Series are listed below. For each link, scroll down to the Urban Prairie Series article.

MD Anderson Prairie by Flo Hannah

Blog by Don Verser on the Mandell Prairie Garden

In Memory of Charlie Lundquist – Deer Park Prairie Volunteer

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We are extremely sad to announce that HNPAT (Houston – Native Prairies Association of Texas) member and devoted Lawther – Deer Park Prairie (DPP) volunteer Charlie Lundquist of Friendswood passed away on Saturday, May 16, 2020. Charlie had been volunteering at Deer Park Prairie since 2014, the year when NPAT acquired the Prairie.  The funeral service will be accessible via Zoom at 4:00 pm on Saturday, May 23, 2020. Email Lan.shen@txgcmn.org for more information.

Charlie’s sister, Katie Sallean, contacted NPAT to let us know that she wants to set up a memorial in his name at DPP, because he loved it so much.  We thought a project to build the Charles Lundquist Memorial Boardwalk into the prairie would allow people of all ages and physical abilities access to the prairie including to the wetland areas. That would be one of the best ways to experience the prairie and we think that would have made Charlie very happy.

To honor Charlie’s memory, the family requested donations toward this boardwalk project.  Also, read more about Charlie’s “passion in…observing the natural world and striving to understand the complexities that come with its beauty.” at the NPAT blog: texasprairie.org/charlie-lundquist

On a personal note, I met Charlie in the summer of 2014 when his sister Katie brought him to a Memorial Park Prairie walk prior to a Native Plant Society of Texas – Houston Chapter (NPSOT-H) monthly meeting. When we talked about NPAT’s newly acquired Deer Park Prairie, Charlie said that he lived not too far from Deer Park.  Shortly thereafter, he started coming to DPP to volunteer. As Katie said, “[Charlie] felt it was a great misfortune that, through our modern-day actions, the unique and exceptional flora and fauna that have evolved over eons are being wiped out. This feeling spurred Charlie to action and Lawther – Deer Park Prairie became that outlet.”

To maintain DPP, there are routine tasks that need to be done and our regular volunteers often take them on. For Charlie, one of those tasks was mowing the fenceline. In addition to whatever special task of the workday, Charlie was often on the mower creating a firebreak, a walking/driving path along the west side between the prairie and our neighbors’ backyard fences.‘ backyard fences.
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We missed Charlie, this past winter, while he was ill. We will miss him on future workdays.
.
Lan Shen
HNPAT Volunteer at Deer Park Prairie

 

Shady Nine: Video Presentation & Vote for Your Favorite Local Native Plants for the Shade

HNPAT’s first Zoom monthly meeting was a HUGE success, thanks to speaker Beth Clark, Principal at Clark Condon Landscape Architect & HNPAT Vice-President, and Bob Romero, HNPAT Communications Chair, who handled all the technical aspects of the Zoom meeting. We had a record 78 attendees!

Video of Beth Clark’s Zoom talk on April 29, 2020 on “Shady Nine” (nine native plants for the shade garden) has been uploaded and available for viewing. The recording did not start at the beginning of her talk, but rather at the point, when she started talking about the shade plants.

As promised, we are letting you vote for your favorite NINE local native plants for a shade garden. However, please be aware, that the final list will NOT totally be dependent on which plants receive the most votes. Scroll down for link to the survey.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

Video of Beth Clark’s Zoom talk on April 29, 2020 on “Shady Nine”click here.

Spread sheet of information about the plants is at this link.  The list is based on Beth Clark’s talk plus plants suggested via the Zoom chat that evening.

Attendees’ chat log is also available here.

PARAMETERS AND CRITERIA

From Beth: “The parameters for selection are for species that grow in part to full shade. Example – Under a live oak they may get early or late afternoon sun but no sun mid-day. So this palette is the natives alternate to the shade garden of azalea, aspidistra, gingers, etc.

All species need to have ‘significant landscape value.’ The foliage needs to have substance, even when not in flower. Some deciduous and perennial species are ok but need some evergreen.

Please keep in mind the CRITERIA for good nine native plant candidates:

  • Simple palette
  • Commercially available plants or seeds
  • Desirable growth habit
  • Appropriate to gardens; compatible in urban and/or suburban settings
  • Potential for use in neighborhood street medians
  • Plants with a high chance of persistence (not composed of species that will quickly faded away).
  • Seasonality: this plants can be part of a combination that will provide visual appeal year-round
  • Highly beneficial to wildlife.
  • Ethnobotanical value

Click here for google form to vote for your favorite nine local natives for a shade garden.

Please vote only once per person. However, if you change your mind, you can change your vote. Just save your response receipt from google form.

Upcoming on May 27: Native Plants for Green Roofs by Bruce Dvorak, professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning at Texas A&M and part of the Interdisciplinary Green Roof Research Group. More information on our home page HoustonPrairie.org. A Zoom meeting. Registration (link on home page) required. Limited to 100 attendees.

 

Update on City Nature Challenge 2020

An update on City Nature Challenge (CNC) from Jaime Gonzalez is posted below.

Basically:

  • CNC will still be on, but NOT as a contest: observations being made and shared April 24 – 27; observations being uploaded and identified April 28 – May 3
  • People are encouraged to take photos of nature in keeping with local public health guidelines. For example, find nature in the backyard.
  • Virtual events, trainings, and lectures are on April 11, 15, 22. Details given below
  • See Houston-Galveston City Nature Challenge webpage for more information.

Jaime’s email:

Dear Houston-Galveston City Nature Challenge Team,

Click on photo for full page size.

We all hope that this email finds you well. As you know this is a time of great challenge. It is also a time when many people are rediscovering the nature all around them for mental and physical well being. The organizers of the City Nature Challenge have made the thoughtful decision to move forward with this year’s event from April 24-May 3, 2020 but with some important safety modifications to ensure that we, our loved ones, our partners and our colleagues remain safe during this time of Covid-19 (we ask that all participants read and widely share the safety section below).

Changes and Safety for this Year’s Challenge

We can’t say how very excited we are that the Houston-Galveston City Nature Challenge Team is getting back together. As you know, last year our region placed #1 in the USA and #3 globally for species observed during the challenge! Although we are very proud of last year’s effort, this year will look and feel different.

  • We are not calling this a competition this year and will not be seeing leaderboards. This is a time for solidarity with our fellow cities/regions across the planet (yes, even Dallas ). Therefore, we are seeing this as an opportunity to [enjoy] nature and to add to our growing and amazing observations in Texas.
  • We also will highly, highly discourage any public gatherings or bioblitzes this year and highly encourage all participants to consider making observations closer to home (including in your yards or nearby nature) and only with people that you have already made a decision to Stay at Home with, aka you QuaranTeam. For example, I am quarantining with my son, wife, and her parents and those are the only people I will experience the Challenge within person this year. We are pushing the hashtag #backyardchallenge to further encourage participants to rediscover their dwellings as place rich with nature.
  • SAFETY GUIDANCEClick here to find and share very important safety information for experiencing and participating in the Challenge. Texas Parks will issue additional safety language soon and we will send to you as soon as we get it.

 

Sharing Upcoming Virtual Events, Virtual Trainings, and Virtual Lectures

 

Contact City Nature Challenge Leadership/Team Members

  • National/International Coordinators – California Academy of Sciences and LA County Museum of Natural History
  • State Coordinator – Dr. Tania Homayoun, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
  • Regional Coordinators
  • Coastal Team Coordinators for Houston-Galveston City Nature Challenge Team
    • Anna Vallery, Houston Audubon
    • Elizabeth Winston-Jones, Lone Star Alliance
    • Sasha Francis, Galveston Bay Foundation
  • River Team Coordinator for Houston-Galveston
    • Bruce Bodson, Lower Brazos River Watch
  • Questions about eBird to iNaturalist Conversions (Attached)

As always, thank you for all you do for the environment and conservation. Please share this information with your networks and if you have any questions, please reach out to me via phone (281) 660-6683 or email.

Sincerely,

Jaime González
Houston Healthy Cities
Program Director 

 

 

    ​ The Nature Conservancy
Texas Chapter – Houston Office
3801 Kirby Dr., Suite 740
Houston, TX ​77098

2020 Party for the Prairie: Photos and Report

From the HNPAT March Newsletter (subscribe to the monthly newsletter at http://eepurl.com/79rdz ):

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Native Prairie Association of Texas’ (NPAT’s) first Party for the Prairie, a luncheon on March 7, 2020 at Safari Texas Ranch to raise funds to sustain the Lawther – Deer Park Prairie Education Program, was a Texas-size success! We raised over $26,000 to sustain this highly successful program. This invaluable program has for the past two years connected people of all ages to their natural and cultural heritage and provided prairie lessons through programs at schools, field trips to the Lawther – Deer Park Prairie Preserve, teacher workshops, aiding pocket prairies installations, and a girls camp this summer.

Thank you very much to all Party for the Prairie sponsors, attendees, and donors!

People who were not there missed a fun party! (Scroll down for the program.) During the initial social hour, our supporters were treated with mimosas and delicious hors d’oeuvres, while they had fun (re-)connecting with prairie experts and each other, competing for silent auction items, buying prairie related books, and visiting with authors Joe and Ann Liggio (Wild Orchids of Texas) and Jason Singhurst (Rare Plants of Texas) who brought their books for signing and purchase. Silent auction items included art, photography, books, Astros tickets and even a special chandelier!

After a welcome by Della Barbato, NPAT Director of Education, lunch was served. During lunch, Jaime Gonzalez talked about the Deer Park Prairie Story, Della about Deer Park Prairie Education, and there was a tribute slideshow by Lisa Spangler about our honorees – Susan and Peter Conaty on saving the Nash Prairie.

Then came the lively auction of special prairie tours around the state followed by the paddle raise to donate to specific causes. Honoree Susan Conaty then shared her delightful stories about the preservation of Nash Prairie. Cassidy Johnson ended the program with three prairie trivia questions. Can you answer these?

  1. In which plant family is rattlesnake master?
  2. Which species of bunch grass was mentioned during a State of the Union address?
  3. Extracts of this native forb have mild, antibiotic properties.

Some photos taken by Bob Romero and selected by Kirsti Harms are at https://www.facebook.com/pg/NativePrairiesAssocTX/photos/?ref=page_internal

A fun time was had by all. If you missed it this year, we will be hosting this Party for the Prairie next year. Look for it and join us!

The Program:

Party for the Prairie to Benefit Deer Park Prairie Education Program

HOSTED BY NATIVE PRAIRIES ASSOCIATION OF TEXAS

You are cordially invited
to join us in honoring
the conservation work of

Susan and Peter Conaty at

Party for the Prairie!

Saturday March 7, 2020
from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

at the Safari Texas Ranch,
Palm Pavilion

11627 FM 1464, Richmond, TX 77407

Attire: Texas Festive

There will be a silent and a live auction, an opportunity to test your prairie knowledge, and time to visit with your prairie friends. Learn more about the Lawther-Deer Park Education ProgramAll proceeds will go toward this education program benefitting the young AND the not-so-young.