Wildlife watchers are wild about spring in Central Texas in general, and this spring in particular promises more excitement than in the past two drought-ridden years. Recent rains bode well for the Central Texas landscape, starting with a much-anticipated boom of wildflower blooms. The animals are happy, too, as are wildlife management experts like Beyrl Armstrong.
We caught up with Beyrl sipping wine with his wife, Georgia, at the new Dudley’s Wine Bar & Tap Room in Dripping Springs (so, when trapping a wildlife expert, use wine or beer for bait). When he’s not sampling Central Texas wines, Beyrl is out sampling soil and advising land owners who consult with his company, Plateau Land & Wildlife Management, to create wildlife plans for their private properties. In his own words, here are Beyrl’s insights into what to expect on the wild side this coming spring around Dripping Springs.
Beyrl K. Armstrong, 60, has been married Georgia, for 30 years
WHERE ARE YOU FROM, WHERE DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL, AND HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN DRIPPING SPRINGS?
I am Texas born, 5th generation. My parents were Methodist missionaries so I was raised in Texas, Hawaii, Singapore, and Indonesia. I graduated from McMurry University in Abilene, Texas in 1973. Georgia and I moved to Dripping Springs from the Leakey area in 1993 (we went from Leakey to Drippin’ – bad joke).
WHAT DOES YOUR COMPANY DO?
I am co-founder and an owner of Plateau Land& wildlife Management, a company that my partner and I incorporated in 1998. Plateau works with Texas landowners to protect and enhance their greatest asset, their land. Our locally based company has over thirty long-time employees who work with landowners to place their land under Wildlife Management Tax Valuation.
Plateau employees include skilled and experienced masters level wildlife biologists, who are also Registered Property Tax Consultants, and a skilled support staff and land management technicians who work with landowners to design qualifying wildlife management plans and help landowners implement their plans. I also consult in the areas of mitigation banking, long-term land conservation, and habitat management planning for non-game species, particularly rare and endangered birds. I have a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in French.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER THINGS YOU’VE DONE?
I have had a varied career which includes custom hat making, shrimping, heavy construction, boat building, and yacht skippering (I have crossed the Gulf of Mexico seven times in sailboats, one without an engine). I’ve also taugh sailing, managed large ranches and conservation properties, operated restaurants and lodges, and led nature tours (both in Texas and Mexico) and I’ve done real estate sales……so far.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT?
Stumbled, actually. I have always been interested in nature and had many opportunities to explore the world. As I developed my land management skills, I became increasingly aware of how important management of the whole property with its full suite of plants, animals, soils, weather, etc., was in the decision-making processes involved in owning and enhancing large properties. I was working for the Nature Conservancy when the current law came into effect allowing wildlife management to be considered an agricultural practice for favorable tax treatment of open space land. My partner, David Braun, and I saw a business opportunity and formed Plateau.
WHAT ALL’S GOING ON OUT IN THEM ‘THAR HILLS THIS SPRING?
Texas is one of the most biologically diverse areas of North America. The climate varies from the warm rain-soaked forests of the east to the arid mountains of the west; from the dry, flat high plains of the panhandle, to the semi-tropical Rio Grande Valley. Located just to the east of the natural barrier formed by the Rockies and lying along the Gulf, Texas is the bottom of the “funnel” of the migratory flyways birds and insects. The lush, wooded canyonlands formed by the rivers and creeks along the southern edge of the Edwards Plateau (aka the Hill Country) provides food and shelter to migrating and nesting songbirds who move through or to the Hill Country every year, from early March through the end of May. During this time the warm early spring days and usual rainy months of April and May provide excellent conditions for the world renowned explosion for Texas wildflowers.
WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON FOR OUR ANNUAL DISPLAY OF WILDFLOWERS?
We received the right kind of rain (light and general) during the right time of year (late fall eand winter) to stimulate the germination of our annual wildflowers this year. I have already seen bluebonnet plants in abundance throughout the area. I expect them and their cohorts to start blooming in March, and put on a great display through early April (provided we don’t get a really hard freeze between now and the middle of March).
WHEN DO YOU EXPECT THE SEASON TO START, PEAK, AND END?
It has already started with the blooming of the windflowers (anemone) and should peak the first week in April, with continuing spurts of the yellows and oranges (coreopsis and hymenoxys) that continue blooming into early June.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE WILDFLOWERS?
I love Damianita (a fragrant, almost pungent plant that grows in the rocky soils of the western hill country), Blackfoot Daisy, Prairie Paintbrush and Gayfeather the most, but I will stop and look at anything.
IS THIS YEAR’S POTENTIAL BLOOM BOOM A RESULT OF DROUGHT?
These annual plants have evolved in this area and are used to the cycle of drought and wet years, which is the norm rather than the exception in Texas. Their seeds can lay dormant on the soils for years until just the right conditions combine to cause them to germinate. They can be fooled occaisionally but by and large, they succeed in producing more seed and carrying on their species.
WHAT IS THE WORST IMPACT YOU’VE SEEN FROM TWO YEARS OF DROUGHT?
Trees are dying. Obviously, trees take decades to replace themselves even under the best of conditions. With the combination of drought, warming temperatures, and high deer populations, I don’t see any replacement trees in the woodlands of the Hill Country. We may be witnessing the collapse of the deciduous/juniper woodlands that are so important for many species of plants and animals.
DO YOU SEE BIG CHANGES COMING FOR LOCAL WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT?
A prudent land manager would be wise to take into account the changes predicted due to a warming climate. For whatever reason, it is happening and we have no analogy, no historical climate conditions in recent history ( the advent of western man to this hemisphere) to compare this to. Managing for drier, hotter conditions means that plant canopy becomes increasingly important. Shade will be our best friend. Thermal cover provided by drought resistant trees, brush, and grass species will help keep the sun from sucking moisture from exposed soils ( especially in the shallow soils of the Hill Country).
ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD ABOUT YOUR COMPANY?
Please visit our website and see what we have to offer. Our quarterly newsletter, Seasons, is available online and is an excellent guide to land management throughout Texas, but especially in the Hill Country.
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