Throckmorton Soil and Water Conservation District





"Partnering" for the Environment

Land stewardship and partnering are not just buzzwords when it comes to describing the efforts that Ms. Sallie Tharp, of Midland, Texas on her ranch property in Throckmorton County. Although an absentee landowner, Sallie has made a real commitment to protecting the environment and reclaiming the health and productivity of the land that has been in her family for the better part of the past century.

Sallie’s ranch west of the town of Throckmorton consists of 566 acres of native rangeland, cropland, and wildlifeland. Sallie had moved away from Throckmorton to pursue her career in geology and her family land had been taken care of by various leaseholders over a period of years. With time, Sallie became more involved with the management of the property and soon realized that the ranch productivity and health had declined through years of leasing out the land. The ranch was covered with a dense stand of multi-stemmed mesquite brush. Through the years the grass productivity had declined as the brush increased, yet the grazing lessors generally did not adjust their stocking rates accordingly. Saltwater damage from oilfield activity years earlier had left a large drainage denuded of vegetation and exposed to soil erosion. In addition, tank water for livestock was undependable. Knowing that the land needed lots of work, Sallie began looking into the various USDA programs available that might help her to formulate and implement a plan to address the resource problems she had. After conducting a resource inventory of the land and identifying the environmental concerns, the NRCS began discussing the various alternatives needed to meet the needs of the land and the producer.

A comprehensive plan was developed for the ranch and an Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) contract was signed and Sallie selected several conservation practice to help her reach her goals of reversing the past years’ neglect. Sallie chose "Brush sculpting," or selective removal of mesquite in irregular patterns to address the brush problem while leaving the landscape attractive to deer and other wildlife. Next, the grazing management was addressed through implementing a rotational grazing system. Cross fencing was installed dividing one large pasture into two pastures. Eventually, more cross fencing will be added to make a four-pasture grazing design. A prescribed burn to reduce prickly pear and improve native grasses is being planned for these pastures as well. And finally, Sallie called on the NRCS and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to address the salt damaged land. With NRCS design and construction technical assistance, a large embankment was constructed on the salt damaged drainage, effectively stopping all erosion and sedimentation coming from the area, while providing a permanent source of livestock water, and creating a 12 acre wetland benefiting fish and wildlife. The US Fish and Wildlife Service was instrumental in getting the embankment built through funding from their "Partners for Wildlife" program.

In the past 4 years, a dramatic change has taken place on the Tharp ranch. Grasses have increased in amount and species on the areas where brush sculpting and rotational grazing has taken place. Even during a severe drought, the rangeland has made improvements. The salt damaged land is almost unrecognizable, with a beautiful wetland and lots of vegetation reclaiming the once barren ground.




Send mail to Debbie Richards with questions or comments about this web site.
Last modified: 7/11/03