By Shane Reynolds, Outdoor Recreation Director
Taking care of the natural resources within Cordillera Ranch, which face increasing pressures and demands from a growing community, is a task that requires everyone to lend a hand at whatever level they can. This topic came to mind when I recently received a phone call from a Cordillera Ranch property owner who proceeded to tell me there was a lot of broken glass at the park on the shores of the Guadalupe River where we launch kayaks. The location is also a great place for young kids to enjoy the banks of this beautiful waterway. When I arrived, I was shocked to see approximately 12 beer bottles shattered into hundreds of pieces on the edge of the river. As I proceeded to slowly pick up all the glass, my mind drifted to wonder who might be so compelled to trash such a pristine environment? I thought, yes, we were all teenagers at some point, but for some reason I never would have considered breaking glass next to a river.
One of the best places to begin to teach kids about conservation and stewardship is right where you live. Whether it’s a 2-acre lot or a 50-acre estate, your “backyard” is an important part of a larger natural community and ecosystem. The large expanse of neatly trimmed turf that’s pleasing to some is a very inhospitable environment for wildlife, and the practices necessary to maintain such a landscape often contribute to water quality and quantity problems. By making different landscaping choices, property owners can do their part to assure healthier habitat and cleaner creeks and lakes. One the great benefits of living in Cordillera Ranch is the fact that most of the property is required to remain in its natural state with native grasses that flourish in the hill country.
Teaching stewardship, conservation and environmental ethics to children can often be challenging. Can you teach someone how to act in the outdoors? Not really. However, you can make them aware of the consequences of their actions. You can also lead by example and show them what they can do to promote the conservation of our natural resources and the creatures that live there. Here are a few tips you may find helpful in passing on key messages of conservation and ethics to the next generation who call Cordillera Ranch home.
We’ll use fishing as an example. You might begin by engaging your kids in a discussion of ethical dilemmas they may face while fishing at Swede Creek Lake or the Guadalupe River. Some of these dilemmas will include catch and release, environmental responsibility, the use of barb-less hooks, etc. Consider presenting an issue and then give an ethical solution to that issue.
A good rule of thumb is to remember that ethics are caught, not taught. So set a good example when you take youngsters or guest fishing. Here’s a good role model activity: place a plastic bag in your pocket while at Swede Creek Lake or the Guadalupe River fishing. Without saying a word, begin to walk around and pick up trash. The children and guest hopefully should start to copy your actions and eventually start helping with the clean up. Another thing you can do is practice catch and release. Explain that wetting your hands when handling fish helps minimize the damage to the fish’s protective slime.
Passing on good conservation habits and ethics can be challenging. However, the benefits to fish and wildlife are extremely important. Discussing with children and guest the consequences of incorrect actions and how those actions can hurt wildlife is a starting point. As a resident of Cordillera Ranch, you have the opportunity, one by one, child by child, guest by guest, to set an example for future generations to follow as they begin to enjoy the wonderful environment of Cordillera Ranch and the great outdoor resources on the ranch.
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt