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Conservation & Financial Diversity

Field Sport Concepts’ expertise is in the development and implementation of plans which conserve open lands through environmentally sound recreational use.  We believe that land which sustains itself by producing income as open space today is land most likely to remain open space for generations to come.  This post is the first in a series is from Field Sport Concepts Affiliate Sonja Howle of Famous Barns.

Even though Don Collis’ roots were in Kansas farms and ranches, for decades his life had been spent in board rooms, banks and on Wall Street.  When it was time to look toward the future, that farm and ranch foundation would lead him to a ranch south of San Antonio.

The ranch had no name and no improvements.  It was 3,000 acres of diversity.  There was the rich riverbank of the Nueces River, the fertile north pasture and the classic south Texas brush country.

Don and Margaret built their home, lodging for visiting hunters and a barn to serve as the headquarters for the whitetail and exotic breeding operation that would complement the Santa Margarita Ranch’s hunting expeditions.

To build a ranch into the healthy, robust environment where the deer would thrive, the couple contacted fellow ranch owners, attended seminars and read from the advice of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Then, in 2009 the Images for Conservation Fund invited them to participate in a program that would combine the talents of 20 top wildlife photographers with 20 of Texas’ premier ranches.   Don was happy to be involved — his son, Chris Collis, is a professional photographer with a studio in San Antonio.   The end result of the four weeks that they and other ranch owners, hosted photographers was a magnificent partnership, rich in creativity, wildlife, geographical and historical highlights.  A book was published highlighting top images and the story of each ranch. It was sold to raise money for the Conservation Fund.

Don says that he didn’t realize the impact of the invitation until later, when his son Chris was confronted by a rattlesnake and instead of killing it, he ran back to get his camera and spent the next 2 hours photographing it.  The experience gave them a new appreciation for all the different wildlife and reptiles at the ranch, seeing them as essential members of the ranch’s ecosystem.  So they continued to research ways to maintain a healthy habitat for all species.

Now, in addition to the hunting operation at Santa Margarita, the ranch hosts nature and wildlife tours and photo shoot each season.  And, this fall they’ll host the Images in Conservation Funds’ 2014 Whitetail Pro-Am with Photographer Coach Michael Francis.

Don admits it takes commitment to create a more diversified operation but it can pay off by providing a new revenue streams. The investment in the wise uses of ranch resources has a long term payoff.

If you are interested in learning more contact Sonja Howle at Famous Barns and Robert McKee at Field Sport Concepts.

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