Local grassland steward the Katy Prairie Conservancy is for the first time branching out beyond its natural habitat with a 5,332-acre ranch about 90 miles outside the area the organization is named for. The Spread Oaks Ranch — part of which is shown above — sits near Hwy. 35 in Markham, just outside Bay City and about 70 miles southwest of Sugar Land. Last December, Spread Oaks’s owner closed a deal with the Conservancy giving the organization’s land trust the power to restrict development and subdivision of the coastal prairie property forever. Spread Oaks still owns the land and can pass it on if it chooses, but the Conservancy gets the power to limit its use, regardless of who has the deed.
Spread Oaks is the name given to the Morrow, Cuenca, and LeTulle ranches — pieced together by a single landowner between 2012 and 2015. The property is a working cattle ranch that “prides itself on raising some of the finest quality Brangus cattle in Texas.” Farming and hunting also take place on the land, which includes lodging for overnight guests. The Colorado River runs along an eastern section of the property.
Before the agreement, all of the roughly 20,000 acres the Conservancy protected were located inside the green ring on the map of west Houston below:
THE BATS OF WAUGH DR. HAVE MOVED DEEPER INTO MONTROSE
During Hurricane Harvey, Buffalo Bayou rose above the Waugh Dr. bridge, killing off some of the 300,000 Mexican free-tailed bats that lived there. Others have found new residences: “Some of the surviving bats have relocated to nearby buildings. Just take a sniff in any of the multi-floored parking garages lining the streets around the bayou, and you’ll smell their pungent droppings.” Now, Maggie Gordon writes, “In addition to a swarm of winged mammals flying out from beneath the bridge, smaller populations exit from nearby buildings. They join up with the bats from the bridge during their hunt, then return to their new homes for the night, before repeating the same cycle the next day.” [Houston Chronicle] Video: Ihadatt
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE PITS
“Up until the 1930s, most oil taken from the ground was quite simply stored in earthen pits. Oil penetrated the soil to about 30 feet vertically and 100 feet horizontally. Humble by itself had 6,000,000 barrels of earthen pit storage. Note that the world’s largest documented land-based oilspills (not related to the Gulf War) were the Lakeview Gusher in Kern County, California (9 million bbl) and Fergana Valley in Uzbekistan (2 million bbl). Deepwater Horizon was the worst maritime spill (4.1-4.9 million bbl). These pits are not considered spills, but the land around them is far more impacted than a spill site. Back then, when pits failed from flooding or erosion, that was often unreported.” [TheNiche, commenting on An Update on the Leaky Oil Well in Missouri City] Image: Lulu
The Bayou Land Conservancy is really pushing to raise $4 million in the next week or so in order to outbid a homebuilder on a 50-acre patch of prairie in Deer Park. The video above is part of what the Houston Chronicle’s Lisa Gray describes as a “Hail Mary pass” to raise the money before August 20.
The sought-after patch is among the last 1 percent of the Gulf Coast’s original prairie, reports Gray. The conservancy has been attempting to raise the money to buy it for the past year and a half — an attempt that’s now being hastened by a recent $4.25-million offer from a developer with plans for a 201-home subdivision on the land near Spencer Hwy. and Luella Ave.
And what would the conservancy prefer for the prairie? Here’s Gray:
The prairie’s fans imagine a visitor’s center fashioned from a next-door ranch house. They imagine busloads of visiting schoolkids. They imagine research into the still-mysterious workings of the prairie biome. They imagine harvesting native seed, to be used in eco-conscious plantings in the area. They imagine Battle of San Jacinto re-enactments more realistic than those that take place at the battlefield itself.
Here’s a rendering of the classroom studio (and vegetable garden and recycled shipping container) that’s now under construction at the Monarch School in Spring Branch. North of the Katy Fwy. near Kempwood and Gessner, the school serves students with neurological disorders, and it says that the design elements and architecture of this very green 1,120-sq.-ft. studio from Architend will become part of the curriculum: