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Words From The Wild July 2024

Honoring our 2024 Lone Star Land Stewards

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) held the 28th Annual Lone Star Land Steward Awards ceremony in Austin on May 23. This year’s honorees represented the very best of private land stewardship from the Pineywoods of East Texas to the Trans-Pecos of West Texas, and the many ecoregions in between.

Mike and Mary Terry, owners of the MT7 Ranch near Breckenridge, are this year’s recipients of the state’s highest honor for private land conservation, the Leopold Conservation Award. The prestigious award, given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation and natural resource management by American ranchers, farmers and foresters.

“The MT7 Ranch and its owners, Mary and Mike Terry, exemplify everything we look for when selecting a winner for this prestigious award,” said Kevin Mote, Private Lands and Public Hunting Director for TPWD. “The Terrys and ranch staff are not only dedicated to being great land stewards inside the MT7 fences but have been excellent ambassadors for wildlife habitat conservation to other landowners, as well as great partners to TPWD over the years."

Watch the video about Mike and Mary Terry’s tireless work to restore and revive their MT7 Ranch.


  Story #2: The Leopold Conservation Award, a 20-year Texas Tradition  

The Leopold Conservation Award, a 20-year Texas Tradition

Almost 60 years ago, the late Reed Coleman, a prominent businessman and conservationist, founded Sand County Foundation with a mission to inspire and empower landowners and managers to ethically care for the land to sustain water resources, build healthy soil, enhance wildlife habitat, and support outdoor recreation. Deeply inspired and influenced by the words and philosophy of Aldo Leopold, Coleman named the foundation after Leopold’s classic book, A Sand County Almanac.

Sand County Foundation introduced the Leopold Conservation Award in 2003, a best-in-state award that has since been likened to the Nobel prize, but for private land conservation. Colorado was the first state to implement the award, and in 2005, at the suggestion of lifelong conservationists and philanthropists Lee and Ramona Bass, TPWD partnered with the Sand County Foundation as the second state to offer the Leopold Conservation Award—an esteemed Texas tradition now 20 years strong.

Since 2003, the Leopold Conservation Award has been incorporated in over 30 states across the country, with over 200 honorees. The Leopold Conservation Award for each participating state is presented annually by the Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust. The Leopold Conservation Award in Texas is made possible by the longtime generous support of Lee and Ramona Bass and The Dixon Water Foundation.

Lee and Ramona Bass have supported the Lone Star Land Steward Awards since their inception, and it is fitting that they helped bring the Leopold Conservation Award to Texas and encouraged its expansion across the country,” said Carter Smith, former TPWD executive director, who now serves on the board of trustees for Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. “They have long championed and practiced the land ethic Aldo Leopold espoused and are undoubtedly very proud of the conservation legacy of the Texas Leopold Conservation Award winners like Mike and Mary Terry and their team at the MT7 Ranch."

  Story #3: Keeping It Wild with TPWF Ambassador Ben Masters  

Keeping It Wild with TPWF Ambassador Ben Masters

Texas filmmaker Ben Masters’ back story couldn’t be more Texan. Born and raised in Amarillo, with his family’s ranch in McLean and the rugged expanses of the Panhandle as his playground, Texas’ longstanding traditions of hunting, fishing, farming, and ranching weren’t just pastimes, but a way of life for Ben. Here he developed an early appreciation and lifelong curiosity for the natural world around him.

This deep-rooted connection led Ben to study wildlife biology at Texas A&M. Upon graduating in 2012, he had an epiphany. “I recognized that there was a lot of wildlife research being done, but not a lot being done with the research,” said Ben. “So, instead of choosing a more traditional career path, I went into filmmaking.” He founded Fin & Fur Films that same year, and he embarked on an adventure of a lifetime that also launched his filmmaking career.

Unbranded follows Ben, three friends, and 16 mustangs on an epic 3,000-mile journey from Mexico to Canada to tell the tale of the more than 50,000 wild horses and burros in government captivity. The film won numerous awards, and Ben’s path as a filmmaker was cemented. Fin & Fur Films has since produced multiple short films and two feature-length films, and Ben’s work has been featured on Netflix, AppleTV, and PBS Nature, with wide theatrical releases and international television broadcasts.

“I had the good fortune to meet some talented folks along the way who guided my path and taught me everything they knew,” said Ben. “I’ve had the amazing experience of making movies now for ten years."

Ben’s growing portfolio has brought him face-to-face with mountain lions, ocelots, black bears, bats, and more. With every film, Ben’s goal is to advocate for wildlife and inspire boots-on-the-ground conservation that directly benefits the wild things and wild places we all hold dear. As Ben continues down his filmmaking path, he also continues to delight in the natural world around him.

“What I love about filming wildlife are the little discoveries you make along the way. When we storyboard out a sequence in a film, we always have an idea of what we think we’re going to see, but nature is unscripted. You don’t really know until you set out to get the footage and see it with your own eyes. We get to see how the natural world works."

Ben is proud to serve as a Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation ambassador. He encourages all Texans to appreciate the wildness of Texas, the vastness of our Texas spirit, and why we should be inspired to conserve it.

Read more about Ben and how he is helping to keep Texas wild.


Texans like Ben Masters inspire TPWF’s efforts each and every day. Will you join Ben and thousands of Texans to help ensure an enduring future for our wild things and wild places by becoming a member of TPWF today? 

When you join TPWF, you become an important partner in our efforts to keep Texas wild.

  Join and Keep Texas Wild  

And if you join TPWF at the $100 level or more, you can receive TPWF's exclusive NEW Keeping It Wild gear to show off your support of the outdoors.

Become a member of TPWF today and keep Texas wild!


  Story #4: TPWF.org Gets a Wild Makeover  

TPWF.org Gets a Wild Makeover

Up for a little site seeing? You’re in luck! TPWF.org has a refreshing new look. With a little design help from our friends at Texas Monthly, we combined the best components of our existing website with streamlined navigation, fresh new visuals and features, and up-to-date content on our latest programs and projects.

Check out TPWF.org and learn more about our work in the wild!


  Story #5: TPWF 2023 Annual Report Out Now  

TPWF 2023 Annual Report Out Now

2023 was a year filled with tremendous milestones, from celebrating the centennial anniversary of Texas State Parks to TPWF surpassing the 200,000-acre mark of vital wildlife habitat conserved and hitting the $250 million mark in funds raised and invested to date. In our 2023 Annual Report, we highlight our collective wins on behalf of our wild things and wild places. We also introduce you to a few friends we’ve met along the way who, like thousands of conservation-minded Texans, are doing their part to keep Texas wild.

Thank you for being a vital part of this effortEnjoy our 2023 Annual Report.



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