Conservation & Animal Welfare

A Second Life for the Fort Worth Prairie Park

Written by Laura Wood

Community Leaders, Youth Join to Create Largest Public Prairie in North Texas 

This week, through Saturday April 3, 2021, formerly incarcerated youth ages 17 & 16 from the Tarrant County Advocate Program join the non-profit Great Plains Restoration Council (GPRC) and Jumbo Property Management, a local Black-owned property management service, to begin prairie restoration on the new Fort Worth Prairie Park that is emerging in southwest Fort Worth through a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Fort Worth Prairie ecosystem is one of the rarest ecosystems in North America. 

Congressman Marc Veasey will take the group birding on Thursday afternoon April 1 at 4 p.m. and speak with the youth about taking care of the Earth as part of taking care of our own lives. 

Youth will be paid $10 an hour under GPRC’s Restoration Not Incarceration™ program. Woody vegetation in the form of tree and brush overgrowth that has grown up in the absence of bison and fire will be removed to open the prairie back to 1800s conditions, providing habitat for rapidly declining grassland nesting birds, Monarch butterflies and other prairie-dependent native wildlife, and the front will be reseeded with a native prairie seed mix. More than a year of restoration work is planned. 

Youth will learn practices and principles of Tier 1 – Knowledge and Retention of Ecological Health certification, Great Plains Restoration Council’s award-winning work model, featured at Yale University on March 18, in which participants learn to take better care of their own mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health through taking care of the Earth. 

When the Texas General Land Office in 2014 sold over 1,700 acres of pristine 10,000-year-old public prairie in southwest Fort Worth, known as the Fort Worth Prairie Park, to The Walton Group foreign developers, it was as devastating to local people and wildlife as if developers had bulldozed 1700+ acres of public redwood forest outside San Francisco. 

But a new Fort Worth Prairie Park is emerging at time when the last of the Fort Worth Prairie is being lost to development. 

In late 2019, Great Plains Restoration Council and the Fort Worth Prairie Park Preservation Committee, comprised of local business leaders, conservationists, and educators, signed an MOU with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Benbrook Lake to help preserve endangered native Fort Worth Prairie and provide community engagement and education. 

With a current base of nearly 1,000 acres east of Lake Benbrook and Rock Creek, the goal is to create the largest protected public prairie in North Texas that ensures critical ecological function into the future. Due to the geography and diversity of the unique Fort Worth Prairie ecosystem, key upland tabletop prairie habitats are still missing from the preservation area. 

“We are asking any landowners who still hold native prairie near Lake Benbrook to work with us, the City, and local business leaders and conservationists to save this critical prairie habitat before selling to development,” said Jarid Manos, founder of Great Plains Restoration Council. “The City of Fort Worth’s new Open Space Conservation Program, along with the public, can help ensure the Fort Worth Prairie Park is completed large enough to provide refuge for people and wildlife long-term.” 

Native wildlife includes scissor-tailed flycatchers, dickcissels, grasshopper sparrows, bobwhite quail, American woodcocks, yellow-billed cuckoos, painted buntings, northern harrier hawks, crested caracaras, wild turkeys, bobcats, beaver, coyotes, Texas brown tarantulas, giant swallowtail butterflies, white and largemouth bass, slough darters, longnose gars, box turtles, narrowmouth toads, white-tailed deer, Monarch butterflies and more on a wild prairie landscape of big bluestem, little bluestem, yellow Indian grass, prairie bishop, Missouri foxtail cactus, snow-on-the-prairie and much more. Future reintroduction of extirpated Texas horned lizards is a goal. 

Tarrant County Advocate Program’s mission is to provide individuals who are, have been or may be subject to compulsory care with the opportunity to develop, contribute and be valued as assets so that communities have safe, proven effective and economical alternatives to institutional placement. 

Contact:

Great Plains Restoration Council office (817) 595-6505 www.GPRC.org

Janine Cavasar, Business Manager (817) 455-8539 cell 

Tarrant County Advocate Program, Inc. / Johnny Muhammad Cook or Alex Alvear (817) 801-1612 

http://www.yapinc.org

Restoration Not Incarceration™: Removing woody vegetation overgrowth so the native Fort Worth Prairie can flourish. 

A weathered and tired Monarch butterfly couple getting ready to have babies on the Fort Worth Prairie Park after just arriving from a long journey up from Mexico. The endangered and disappearing Fort Worth Prairie is their final destination and they will pass soon. Their offspring, hatched from eggs on native milkweed, will continue the journey north.

About the author

Laura Wood