The economics of the prairie and prairie restoration will be the focus of the 4th Annual State of the Prairie Conference set for Dec. 6-9 in Kingsville, Texas. Private landowners, natural resource professionals, representatives of government, educators, landscape architects, naturalists, livestock producers, farmers, wildlife officials, researchers and volunteers will gather for four days of workshops, lecturers and field projects.

According to officials at the Native Prairie Association of Texas (NPAT), only about one percent of the original 20 million acres of Texas tallgrass prairie remains. Once considered a prairie state with more than three-fourths of its land area comprised of native grasslands or savannas, the organization’s primary mission involves the restoration of Texas grasslands and to provide practical methods to conserve, manage, enjoy, and educate about the vulnerability of the prairie system.

The Coastal Prairie Partnership (CPP) and the Native Prairies Association of Texas present the conference, now in its fourth year. This year’s conference will be staged at multiple locations, including Texas A&M University-Kingsville, the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Center, the King Ranch and various prairie restoration sites across South Texas. Events and activities include workshops, lectures and field trips designed for a diverse group of professionals and volunteers committed to prairie conservation.

Jaime Gonzalez, President of CPP, and Pat Merkord, Board President for NPAT, say they have partnered to present the annual conference to increase awareness of the importance of Texas’ prairie system and to explore ways that agriculture, landowners, wildlife officials and conservationists can work together to rebuild prairies for all vested interests.

Conservationists say suburban sprawl, plowing for row-crop agriculture, and improper overgrazing during the last 150 years have caused serious decline in the Texas prairie system and they warn that the endangered prairie is critical for the sustainability of the land as a source of farming and grazing.