Texas Hill Country Transformation: Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve

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Tony Maples Photography


If you love the Texas Hill Country, you may have fantasized about buying parcels of it and preserving it or creating a haven for native flora and fauna. If a role model is what you need for this type of experiment, look no further than the work of J. David Bamberger, whose site Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve in Blanco County shows what over 50 years of carefully curated land stewardship can look like.

Video: YouTube/National Geographic 

In the last year of the 1960s, David Bamberger had a chance to step back from the big business of fried chicken and think about what he could do for Texas. He decided to buy 5,500 acres of Texas Hill Country land which had been overgrazed and neglected. The soil was dry and barren; cedars and dirt were the overwhelming population. After drilling seven wells, 500 feet deep each, and not getting a drop of water, action was taken. By first removing the Ashe juniper, then replanting native grasses which slowed the runoff of rainwater, the aquifers below were then able to retain water, springs came back, and life returned to the property. Now, the major spring produces 4,320 gallons per day on average.


Photo: @kayakmermaid via Twenty20

In the process of becoming one of the largest habitat restoration projects in Texas, the ranch preserve won numerous awards including Soil and Water Conservation Service, Texas Forest Service, Leopold Conservation Award, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Lone Star Land Steward, and the National Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award. To this day, Bamberger and others have dedicated their lives to changing the landscape from bleak to a place of generous biodiversity. He is regarded as a pioneer in the fields of land management and water conservation, and his model is replicated across the area. On the 5,500-acre ranch, seminars, research opportunities, science classes, nature camps, public tours, and workshops are all offered. The site even has its own, homemade bat cave. Schedule a tour here!