July 3, 2022
  • 4:17 pm Petition and suit filed to remove Judge Harrison before term expiration
  • 4:17 pm Bailey County Republican Party to host organizational meeting in July
  • 4:16 pm Parmer County sheriff advises public about Facebook scam
  • 4:15 pm Library to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with books, videos, activities
  • 4:14 pm Senior Citizens Center offers annual brisket meal during July 4 celebration

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HIGH PLAINS LAND STEWARD WINNERS–The Chris and Judith Grotegut Family and their Tierra de Esparanza Ltd. farm and ranch in Deaf Smith County, near Hereford, were recognized as the High Plains ecological region winner of the 2022 Lone Star Land Steward Award during ceremonies May 25 in Austin sponsored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, the Sand County Foundation, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. They were among winners of the recognition from seven ecoregions of Texas cited for leaving a legacy of private land for public good. Pictured front row, from left, are Judith Oman Grotegut, and Gertrud and Josef Grotegut. At rear, from left are Arch H. “Beaver” Aplin III, Chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director Carter Smith, twin brothers Johan and Josef Grotegut, Dr. Chris Grotegut, and Private Lands Advisory Committee Chair Jimmie Ruth Evans. (Photo by Jim Steiert)



ROLLING PLAINS STEWARD WINNERS–The Mitchell Family and their Indian Springs Cattle Company located near Lake Meredith in Moore County were named the Lone Star Land Steward Award winners for 2022 and were recognized during ceremonies held by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Austin on May 25. Pictured seated are Alyson Ryan and Jess Womack. Standing, from left are Wendi Bonnerand husband Jeff Bonner, a biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at Pampa, Jeff and Jessica Mitchell of Amarillo, Ranch Manager Toby Schenk, Makaley Schenk, Gene Schenk and Jennifer Schenk.  (Photo by Jim Steiert)

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AUSTIN–Two families rooted in the Panhandle were named recipients of the 2022 Lone Star Land Steward Award for the High and Rolling Plains during a celebration of excellence in land, water, and wildlife stewardship at the Hyatt Regency in Austin May 22. Co-sponsors of the coveted award that cites leaving a legacy of private land for public good include the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, the Sand County Foundation, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The Chris and Judith Grotegut Family and their Tierra de Esparanza Ltd. farm and ranch in Deaf Smith County were recipients of the regional stewardship award for the High Plains. The Mitchell Family and their Indian Springs Cattle Company in Moore County received the stewardship award for the Rolling Plains.

They were among winners of the recognition from seven ecoregions of Texas.

A crowd of over 400 wildlife conservation and land stewardship supporters were on hand for the 2022 ceremony, the first recognition of Lone Star Land Steward Award winners held in three years due to the Covid pandemic.

Carter Smith, executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said 202 Lone Star Land Steward awards have been presented since the program began in 1995 with only 35 in attendance at the first awards ceremony. Another 43 special awards have been presented along with 26 Leopold Conservation Awards. The event has grown exponentially through the years.

“The individuals recognized keep land and wildlife resources healthy and flourishing and are keeping Texas Texas.  Some 33 million acres are affected as a result of the efforts of Lone Star Land Stewards and as a result Texas benefits from clean air, water, and agriculture,” said Carter.

Smith was joined by Arch H. “Beaver” Apin, III, chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, and Jimmie Ruth Evans, chair of the Private Lands Advisory Committee in presenting the Lone Star Land Steward Awards to recipients. Also on hand were seven of the nine members of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, and numerous past winners of the award.

In announcing the High Plains ecoregion award, Smith termed the Grotegut Family “wonderful stewards” and was effusive in his praise. Members of the family on hand to receive the award included Dr. Chris Grotegut and wife, Judith Oman Grotegut, Josef and Gertrud Grotegut, patriarch and matriarch of the operation, and Johan and Josef Grotegut, twin sons of Chris and Judith Grotegut.

“Tierra de Esparanza is a working farm and ranch for wildlife and water. The Ogallala aquifer is essential to life in the High Plains and this family are wonderful stewards of water and native prairies,” Smith remarked.

Dr. Chris Grotegut, a veterinarian in Hereford and a farmer and stockman in the Dawn area, with wife Judith and his family operate according to the philosophy of “living within water means” that incorporates sustainable and responsible irrigation in line with aquifer recharge levels. Livestock grazing and pasture management practices are crucial tools.

Recognizing the unique challenges facing producers in the southern High Plains, including wind erosion, severe drought events, and a rapidly depleting Ogallala aquifer, the Grotegut family’s Tierra de Esperanza farm and ranch is a model of sustainable land management and production practices that utilize native grasses to create cover on the land and along with their carefully conserved playas, replenish the aquifer lying beneath their property. They have cut back substantially on irrigation, while utilizing restored native grasses and functioning playas to enhance aquifer recharge.  The Groteguts have hosted numerous Playa Field Day events and other educational activities on their property.

Dr. Grotegut serves as a county committeeman for the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District and is an agriculture representative on the Llano Estacado (Region O) Water Planning Group.

Indian Springs Cattle Company is located near Lake Meredith in Moore County in historic surroundings associated with the Alibates Flint Quarry. Members of the Mitchell family became aware of the historic nature of the property and work to enhance wildlife values on their ranch holdings.

On hand to accept the regional stewardship award for the Rolling Plains were members of the Mitchell family including Jeff and Jessica Mitchell, Jeff Bonner, biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and his wife Mendi, Ranch Manager Toby Schenk and wife Jennifer, daughter Makaley, and Toby’s Dad, Gene, of Wildorado, and guests Jess Womack and Alyson Ryan.

In recognizing the Mitchells Carter Smith related that prior to the Mitchell family purchasing the Indian Springs property in the Canadian River breaks, it had been heavily overgrazed.

“Since developing a detailed grazing plan, the native plant diversity has responded exponentially to the family’s care and stewardship. Over the course of six years, the dominance in grass types on the ranch have transitioned to high quality bluestem and vine mesquite among others indicative of healthy short and mixed grass prairie. In addition, the property’s cattle carrying capacity has far exceeded its previous condition while providing plenty of habitat meeting the cover, food, water, and space needed for grassland birds, small mammals, reptiles, predators and quality big game species. The ranch often lends itself to cooperative research, demonstration, and educational programs that promote good wildlife and habitat management practices for private landowners who own and manage land in the area. Their management benefits all of those who use Lake Meredith,” Smith said.

Other ecological region winners included Karl, Kelli, Christian and William Ebel of Ebel Grasslands Ranch in Hopkins County, the Blackland Prairie winner, Johnny and Susan Grahmann and Manager Eric Grahmann of Grahmann Family Ranches in Victoria and Goliad counties in the Coastal Prairies, Jay and Sue Wagley of Wagley Ranch in Palo Pinto County in the Cross Timbers, the Wuest Family of Wuest Ranch and Natural Bridge Caverns in the Edwards Plateau, and Conoco Phillips  and Manager Jesse Wood of Quail Ranch LLC in Upton County, the Trans-Pecos winner. 

The Texas Leopold Conservation Award was presented to the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center and Rosewood Ranches in Kaufman County at Combine, Texas, Kenneth Braddock and John DeFillipo and Manager John DeFillipo. The late John Bunker recreated a wetland at the East Fork of the Trinity River that had been drained to grow crops that is now part of a 2,000 acre system of 28 wetland cells that filter natural and treated wastewater from the Trinity River at a rate of 90 million gallons daily. A closed loop urban water cycle, the wetland doubles as habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife and provides a unique opportunity to teach children and adults about the importance of wetlands, water conservation, and wildlife ecosystems.

The Leopold Conservation Award for Texas is presented by the Sand County Foundation, the Private Lands Advisory Committee, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department along with the Dixon Water Foundation, Lee and Ramona Bass, and McDonald’s.  

Grotegut Family cited in Austin ceremonies

By Jim Steiert

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