Austin’s Largest Selection of International Folk Art, Silver Jewelry and Textiles TES c rc>s FOLK ART & OTHER TREASURES FROM AROUND THE WORLD 209 CONGRESS AVE AUSTIN 512/479.8377; \\%,..OPEN DAILY 10-6 www.tesoros.com .0.1 the prolific ashe juniper, which consumed most of the rainwater, Bamberger planted native grasses with fibrous roots to hold topsoil in place and replenish the Trinity aquifer. After managing to get Selah’s springs flowing again, Bamberger and his handpicked team began maverick experiments in land restoration: introducing a successful endangered species breeding program for scimitar-horned oryx, and building the world’s largest man-made bat cave for Mexican free-tails, dubbed the “Chiroptorium.” Bamberger also sold the state 505 acres of land that became the cornerstone of Guadalupe River State Park. Bamberger garnered worldwide press for his efforts, from the New Yorker to National Geographic, and worked briefly with former Gov. Ann Richards on developing Texas nature tourism. Water From Stone is effective because it illustrates how a private citizen with no formal training in outdoor management can make a difference. Though Bamberger’s projects are on extremely large scales, his principles can be applied to any level of land ownership. As Greene writes, “Bamberger and Bromfield preached a similar message: the rewards ofand the ethical responsibility forgood land stewardship are the same whether one owns a 50,000acre ranch or a postage-stamp sized piece of lawn in the city.” With the proliferation of subdivisions and box stores, Bamberger believes the only way to protect endangered resources is for large tracts of land to remain essentially untouched. With small-scale farmers in constant financial peril and budget cuts crippling government parks, Bamberger contends that private ranch owners are in a unique position to take better care of the land than any government office, while making substantial profit from nature tourism. Explaining to Congress how protecting endangered species can be both good stewardship and profitable, Bamberger noted, “I am aware of a ranch right here in the Hill Country that brought two groups to their ranch and earned $14,000 just for the birdwatching. And the primary reason that these two groups came to the ranch was to see the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and the endangered blackcapped vireo:’ Through programs at Selah that have revitalized endangered birds, animals like the scimitar-horned oryx, and flowers like the Texas snowbell, Bamberger has achieved successful conservation while turning a profit with tourist groups. In a Wall Street Journal article on Selah, Ike C. Sugg, former executive director of the Exotic Wildlife Association, notes, “As Mr. Bamberger laments, Altruism will not save the species.’ … Those with an economic stake in a natural resource have every reason to maximize that which is valuable, which means increasing wildlife numbers. It means preserving the genetic purity of the species, from which its value is often derived. And it means taking care of the landa collateral ecological benefit.” Bamberger has lobbied lawmakers to increase incentives for conservationminded landowners. He was involved in passing 1995’s Proposition 11, a state constitutional amendment granting tax exemptions for land converted from livestock and crops to wildlife management. The widely used law has made land restoration more appealing for ranch owners. With baby boomers retiring from the cities to small, gated ranches throughout the Hill Country, Water From Stone is an ideal read for landowners fresh from the business world. Bamberger’s negotiation skillspracticed on suspicious landowners worried about ecotourists invading their property, and animal rights activists who attack his hunting programsreflect years of sales work and have proven the key to Selah’s success. “The first four years I was making contacts,” Bamberger notes. “That was all legwork. It was like going back to my Kirby [vacuum cleaner salesman] days. It was kind of door-to-door. I’d go to a ranch that was in that part of the world and introduce myself and show them magazine stories. Tell them, ‘I’m a private landowner, just like you. I think we should be proactive and do something that we can hang our hat on:” Though largely successful, Barn berger’s business mindset once threatened to overpower his environmental concerns. Soon after Selah’s purchase, a lignite mining controversy erupted in Austin, causing Bamberger to send his crew scouring the land for possible mines. As Greene notes, “The mining company might have wanted lignite closer to San Antonio, and David dreamed of securing mineral rights and making an easy million. Fortunately, for David’s environmental record, Charlie found only 6-foot veins, not worth rolling back the earth to strip-mine it out.” There are some inherent contradictions within Bamberger’s legacylike profiting from real estate ventures in the San Antonio area while calling for fewer subdivisions, and selling cholesterol-ridden Church’s Fried Chicken in America’s inner cities while taking innercity schoolchildren on educational tours through Selah, a practice he has dubbed “people ranching:’ Yet the scale of Bamberger’s environmental work would not have been possible without his business history. For idealistic boomers about to retire to small acreages across the state, Water From Stone, with its engaging stories and fine naturalist illustrations by Bamberger’s wife, provides an inspiring blueprint of how to cleanse one’s corporate soul with replenished waters. Stayton Bonner is a writer in Austin. JUNE 29, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25
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