Former First Lady Laura Bush inspects the monarch station at Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, a project of her nonprofit Texan by Nature. Photos courtesy of Texan by Nature.

May 25, 2018

Lady Bird Johnson was an advocate for conservation who inspired the Highway Beautification Act and founded the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Now a fellow First Lady from Texas is following in her footsteps. 

Laura Bush, who shares Johnson's love for the state's ecology, founded Texan by Nature in 2011. The nonprofit aims to activate and amplify Texan-led conservation by bringing nonprofits and businesses to work together.

Joni Carswell, executive director of Texan by Nature, asserts that TxN focuses on projects that are good for nature, people and the economy.  

“We don’t just look at one of these, we really work with partners who are good for all three,” said Carswell. “We believe that what is good for natural resources is also good for people and businesses in Texas.” 

Texan by Nature recently launched its certification program. Certification into the program offers Texas businesses, organizations and individuals a way to receive objective measurement and recognition for their innovative/transformative conservation projects.  

"A lot of times, corporations want to get involved and don't know where to start," said Jenny Burden, program manager for Texan by Nature. "Meanwhile there are people such as biologists who have these great projects who don't know how to get their message out. We bring those two together."

Eligibility for certification requires that conservation projects be Texan-led and financed, involve natural resource conservation, be good for natural resources and global economy, and where applicable, encourage community participation. Funding, volunteer time and donations must also be evaluated.  

Carswell says that through these program areas, much good is accomplished. The focus is on bringing business measurements to projects. For the conservation program, work is focused on nonprofits to understand and tell their stories by using their ideas. Through talking with leaders, businesses are paired with projects. 

“We do it through telling stories, data and metrics; we talk with business leaders who choose projects. We work with nonprofits to present their program in a way in which businesses are accustomed, enabling more businesses to get involved. Through the certification program, we hope to recognize work that Texans are doing by sharing, i.e. more individuals, conservation groups, and businesses will share similar projects.”

Monarch station at Klyde Warren ParkA good example of a TxN project is the monarch habitat at Klyde Warren Park in Dallas. Installed last fall, the monarch butterfly habitat features 350 milkweed plants for monarch butterflies and other pollinators as they migrate. More than 100 monarch habitats have been created in urban settings across the state - these habitats are all part of the Texan by Nature certification program. 

The Texan by Nature program also installed a monarch waystation at the Native Texas Park at the George Bush Presidential Library in Dallas. It complements the 15-acre prairie wildscape created in partnership with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center.

The Monarch waystation at Klyde Warren Park.

“We are also working with other conservation projects in Texas," said Carswell. "The Texas Trees Foundation Cool School project is interesting, in that they physically did a heat map of Dallas and found that the hottest spots in Dallas are elementary campuses. TxN is working with DISD in planting 80 to 100 trees. We are also working on a dark sky initiative with the McDonald Observatory in West Texas and what they are doing to reduce light pollution, so that they continue their work. It’s also good for the nocturnal animals. Another certification project is when businesses take on initiatives like not using paper towels, opting for hand dryers, which save money and is good for the environment.  Also, individuals who take care of land by perhaps using invasive initiatives to conserve. There are any number of projects that individuals use to conserve across Texas.”  

TxN is unique to other conservation organizations because they don’t start their own projects, but work to bring businesses and conservation together. 

“We have a platform and a trusted voice wherein we partner with these things to help conservation and businesses succeed,” said Carswell.  

The purpose of TxN is to recognize the incredible work that is being done across Texas and help replicate that work. 

“Our hope is that in recognizing these conservation-minded entities/people, they will do more great work that others will copy.”  

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