“The Mitchell Foundation’s commitment to restore and enhance the land, water, and wildlife in their care demonstrates that Aldo Leopold’s philosophy of land management is still vibrant in Texas. Cook’s Branch Conservancy’s determined, innovative approach to private lands conservation is exemplary.”

-Brent Haglund, Ph.D., President, Sand County Foundation

Cook’s Branch Conservancy (CBC) aims to be a demonstration of exceptional conservation and land stewardship through the tradition of research, restoration, and education. In 2015, we continued our fundamental restoration activities of prescribed fire, invasive species control, replanting, reseeding, and ecological monitoring.  

For the first time, in 2015 CBC operated two MAPS stations and file findings with the Institute for Bird Populations in California. Spring and winter surveys of bird populations revealed 24 different species, with 373 birds captured and banded. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker population was strong and stable at 25 groups, 72 adults, and a 2.88 mean group size.

CBC also completed a plant community analysis and mapping. In addition, we initiated an annual, systematic herpetological community assessment, including a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department scientific research-collecting permit.

In 2015, the foundation completed the most thorough stream water quality analysis and ecological function study to date for Lake Creek and Cook's Branch. CBC also conducted tallow tree and non-native invasive species eradication, as well as a restoration of one area to native prairie. Cook’s Branch conducted prescribed burns on a total of 950 acres during the calendar year.

Rice University continued its partnership with the foundation, with Cook’s Branch hosting its annual insect field lab class for Rice students and faculty in September.

In late 2015, we began a carbon credit creation project across Cook’s Branch that is scheduled to be finished with verification in February 2016. This included the establishment of 143 permanent plots to perpetually monitor carbon sequestration for the carbon credit program.

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