Experts, Enthusiasts Hope to Bring Prairies Much Needed Attention

Regional Conference on Prairie Lands Taking Place in Fort Worth This Week

A regional group is holding a conference in Fort Worth this week aimed at maintaining what remains of Texas prairie lands. You might drive by it every day and wonder why it's not been developed or not even notice that it's there.

The Tandy Hills Natural Area boasts one of the largest and healthiest native Texas prairies in the area, right along Interstate 30.

This week the Fort Worth prairie is getting some extra attention, as the Fifth Annual State of the Prairies Conference is taking place at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.

On the first day of the conference, experts and enthusiasts took part in field trips to local prairies and Tandy Hills got some extra visitors.

"It is in a very real sense a little postage stamp museum of what the entire North Texas region looked like at one time," said Don Young, who helps to run Friends of the Tandy Hills Natural Area.

Tandy Hills may be a trek back in time, but Young hopes that it will stick around in it's native state for all of time. He hopes the conservation effort will continue, younger generations get involved and the wildflowers and tall grasses flourish.

"We can't really expand too much, but what we can do is preserve and protect and enhance what's already here," he said.

There aren't many native Texas tall grass prairies left. According to the Native Prairies Association of Texas, just 1 percent of the once 20 million acres of such prairies still exist today.

"And a lot of that 1 percent in very poor condition," said Brandt Mannchen.

Now retired, Mannchen spends his days near his home in Houston rehabbing prairie land.

"Well, they're our heritage," Mannchen said.

He's attending the conference to learn, network and visit other prairies as he sees a historical connection to these lands. 

"I want to keep that connection, I want kids to see it," he said. "I want the parents to see it, I want everyone to go, 'Oh, that's where we came from.'"

Mannchen joins participants and presenters from Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana attending the conference.

In addition to the visitors this week, Young hopes more people will come to enjoy the natural area and take something away.

"We can encourage people to plant native plants here, which will certainly help with our current water crisis," he said.

As these prairie promoters see their projects and passion as more than just open space, but an important part of Texas life.

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