By Joan Russell –Vice President of PPLT
First appeared in Saving Land, 31(1):38 a publication by the Land Trust Alliance
Never doubt how quickly things can change. With the drop of a spark, our beloved Lost Pines ecosystem in Bastrop County, Texas, was devastated. The fast moving firestorm destroyed 35,000 acres of loblolly pines and post oaks, as well as 1,600 homes, many rural subdivisions and 95% of Bastrop State Park.
The fires have personally touched everyone living here. Bastrop County has fewer than 75,000 residents, and the devastation of so much of this pine forest landscape has affected them almost like a death in the family. The economic viability of the county has taken a serious hit.
Pines and Prairies Land Trust has been operating in Bastrop County for 11 years, with a 12-member board and one half-time paid executive director. PPLT owns 1,100 acres in fee and holds 1,200 acres in conservation easements. Luckily, PPLT’s properties, conservation easements, and office were unharmed.
The stunning losses experienced by this close community have not crushed the spirit of the Bastrop County citizens who want to help rebuild and replant. PPLT has already been in discussions with the Texas Forest Service and Texas Parks and Wildlife about working together to involve civic clubs, school children, and other community resources to restore the entire forest, not just that on state-owned land.
Among properties PPLT owns is the Colorado River Refuge, a serene nature park developed and maintained entirely with volunteers. The miles of peaceful nature trails, picnic benches, and scenic overlooks along the river will be more important than ever for residents to hike and find peaceful respite from ongoing stress. Never doubt how important a piece of land can be to those who need it.
The sadness over losing so much of the Lost Pines forest will never be entirely gone, but watching the forest slowly return, with the assistance of those who love and care for it, will help. Pines and Prairies Land Trust will always be a force in this effort.