Texas Native Seeds receives $2 million in support of continued work
Sept. 3, 2019 (Kingsville, TX) - The Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute (CKWRI) at Texas A&M University-Kingsville announced today, a landmark $2 million gift in support of its Texas Native Seeds Program (TNS). The anonymous gift will create an endowment to support operations of TNS across Texas to develop locally adapted native seed supplies for commercial production and to conduct applied habitat restoration research.
The predecessor of TNS, the South Texas Natives Project began work almost two decades ago. Since then, the geographic reach of the TNS program has gone statewide. Today, TNS operates six regional efforts mirrored after the original South Texas initiative. In addition to primary operations in Kingsville, staff conduct native seed increase and restoration research from offices in Austin, Alpine, Stephenville, Midland, Nacogdoches and Edna. A broad network of private and agency collaborators, cooperating landowners, seed companies, and fellow scientists augment the program staff of 12.
The endowment will provide a much needed source of annual and perpetual support of the work of TNS. Since its beginning, the program has been an externally funded initiative, and receives annual grant support from state and federal agencies, private foundations, individual and corporate donors and three existing endowed funds.
Since beginning work to increase native seed supply in 2001, TNS’ efforts have resulted in the large-scale commercialization of over 40 native seed varieties. The resulting native seeds are used extensively for restoration of native plants in Texas, including for erosion control on highway rights of way, for revegetation of energy easements associated with oil and gas pipelines, and by private landowners for range and wildlife habitat restoration. Annually, seeds developed by the program and commercialized through license agreements with Texas seed companies are planted on tens of thousands of acres in the state.
"One of the primary threats to productive wildlife habitat is invasive grasses because these grasses destroy the plant diversity needed by all wildlife," according to Dr. David Hewitt, Executive Director of CKWRI. "The best way to fight the spread of invasive grasses is to plant native plants soon after major soil disturbance. Until TNS made locally adapted native seeds available, land managers and TxDOT could not take this simple step."
A number of landmark cooperative efforts in conjunction with the energy industry have been hallmarks of the program, as have research projects with private landowners to discover practical techniques to restore native plants to former croplands, improve habitat for quail and sustain monarchs.
Earlier this year in recognition of these successes, the program received the prestigious Texas Environmental Excellence Award for Agriculture from Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Previously the program also received the Environmental Excellence Award from the South Texas Energy and Economic Roundtable for their work assisting the energy industry and landowners with restoration in the Eagle Ford Shale.
“Texas Native Seeds continues to receive incredible support from a diverse and generous donor-base of Texans, such as this family, as well as many people in the energy business, the ranching community, and from numerous agencies that care deeply about native plants and the benefits they provide all of us”, said Forrest Smith, the Dan L Duncan Endowed Director of TNS.
“This contribution will ensure that for decades to come, no matter what challenges native plant communities face, TNS will be there to meet restoration needs head on. This endowment takes us one step closer to meeting our ultimate goal of enabling every Texan to restore native plants every time the opportunity comes along,” Smith said.“We are forever grateful for this incredible generosity and the opportunity for continued success that this contribution unlocks”.