Co-op People
A Toad’s Abode
Bluebonnet EC members work to save endangered species

David Moore

The distinctive, high-pitched and trill-sounding chirps of the Houston toad were once common sounds across the central coastal region of Texas. But today, the toad’s chorus is harder to come by, as habitat loss and other factors have pushed the species toward extinction in the wild.

Two members of the cooperative family are working to reverse that trend.

Last fall, Roxanne and Elvis Hernandez, Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative members and owners of Rancho Zunzun in Bastrop County, became the first private landowners to enroll in a conservation program through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to aid in the recovery of the endangered Houston toad.

Through brush management, invasive species control, prescribed burning and other conservation practices, the Hernandezes hope to revitalize their property with the native loblolly pines and sandy soils that the toad depends on—and in the process, help restore the Lost Pines ecosystem, which was ravaged by wildfires in 2011.

“What’s good for the toad is good for other wildlife,” says Roxanne, whose 53-acre ranch is part of the Alum Creek Wildlife Management Association. Though Rancho Zunzun is so far the only official participant in the Houston toad conservation program, Hernandez says every bit of the association’s acreage is being managed to some extent for the benefit of the toad. And other property owners have expressed interest in joining the program—a prospect Hernandez welcomes:

“It’s the collective that’s going to make the difference.”

Landowners who want to learn more about Houston toad recovery should contact Meredith Longoria with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (512) 389-4410 or meredith.longoria@tpwd.texas.gov.

 

Editor’s Note
Added June 19, 2018

Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative takes care of the toad, too. The cooperative’s 452-acre headquarters property in Bastrop is within the Houston toad’s sensitive habitat. In 2005, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted Bluebonnet a permit to build its headquarters facilities, as well as establish a nature preserve and toad habitat. Bluebonnet EC continues to follow the service’s guidelines for care and protection of the endangered amphibian.