Our 35-Year Conservation Legacy Continues To Expand

Tye Chandler :
Posted April 9, 2020

Fossil Rim is known not only locally, but internationally, for our outstanding animal conservation programs over the past 35 years.

To mention a few could be the breeding and reintroduction of the scimitar-horned oryx, still classified as “Extinct In The Wild,” back to the Sahara Desert in Chad, Africa; the breeding and annual reintroduction of the Texas native grouse, the Attwater’s prairie chicken; and the continual success of our cheetah breeding program can’t be overlooked either. In 2019, Fossil Rim surpassed 200 cheetah cubs, further cementing our standing as one of the top cheetah breeding facilities nationwide. These three programs don’t encompass the entirety of the meaningful work Fossil Rim is committed to, but are certainly highlights.

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center was founded with both land and animal conservation in mind. When our original owner Tom Mantzel fell on hard times in the early 1980s, his financial advisors told him the smart thing to do would be to portion off and sell ranchettes, but he knew he needed to preserve as much contiguous green space as possible for the future with Fossil Rim in mind. This commitment to being stewards of this land continues today via efforts from the staff.

Original Fossil Rim Owner Tom Mantzel acquires southern black rhinos in 1984.

In 2019, Fossil Rim was able to acquire a 50-acre plot of “native space” that we had previously shared a border with, thus preserving that space from commercialization. Of our 1,800-plus acres of land, large portions of it are reserved as native space for our Texas native flora and fauna species. We have conducted BioBlitz events where volunteers ranging from novice to expert create catalogs of the abundance, presence, and absence of both native and invasive plant and animal species.

There is another sector of conservation that Fossil Rim has been ramping up over the past few years, and that is natural resources conservation. It is within Fossil Rim’s mission to conserve our natural resources, but what does that entail? Natural resources conservation is definitively the use and skillful management and preservation of the natural environment with all of its natural resources: air, soil, water, minerals, plants, and wildlife.

Looking at Fossil Rim’s history over the past 35-plus years, we have always practiced natural resources conservation, but there was room to expand our efforts. In 2017, Fossil Rim was able reactivate the previously vacant department that is responsible for managing our impact on the natural world. Over the past three years, we have only continued to expand and improve on that movement.

As of 2020, the natural resources department has started to make a name for Fossil Rim in professional circles of the natural resources management and conservation fields. To share a few of these successes:

  • Expanded our practice of diverting waste from the landfill through reducing material waste, finding “greener” alternatives, reusing/upcycling, recycling, composting, replacing disposable with reusable, and spreading the concept that landfills are a limited resource.
  • Improved the knowledge and practice of turning food waste into usable compost in the local schools and within our facility.
  • Expanded into nontraditional recycling programs such as batteries, latex gloves, and markers.
  • Improved the facilities and implementation of technology for our public water system and our wastewater treatment plant to improve water conservation goals and water quality standards.

The natural resources team members include Caitlin Pyle, natural resources manager, and Vanessa Hays, natural resources management specialist. Both Pyle and Hays have been sharing Fossil Rim’s story and mission in professional circles not previously reached, such as the water and wastewater field, the recycling and composting industry, as well as with those involved in land management programs.

During the STAR webinar, Vanessa Hays explained how Fossil Rim keeps paper animal feed bags out of the landfill. Fossil Rim has adopted a number of strategies, and currently shredding is the method if the bags are not utilized for crafting, gardening, or other upcycling methods. Each clear bag will hold approximately 60 shredded feed bags.

As of 2020, Fossil Rim became “Proud Partners with Take Care of Texas,” a statewide campaign through TCEQ (Texas Commission of Environmental Quality). Their mission is to share information on conserving water and energy, keeping our air and water clean, and reducing waste. Fossil Rim also joined as a nonprofit Representative of STAR (State of Texas Alliance for Recycling), whose mission is to advance recycling through partnerships, education, and advocacy for the benefit of Texas.

During the STAR webinar, Caitlin Pyle (left) discussed how Fossil Rim is finding multiple methods to reduce landfill use. The Overlook Cafe offers fountain drinks and coffee in reusable souvenir cups to focus on reusing instead of one-time-use products.

When STAR Executive Director Jordan Fengel reached out to Pyle about participating in a webinar focusing on how a rural conservation facility in Texas practices the “Three R’s” (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), she was elated to have this opportunity. Pyle and Hays were joined by Andrew Bullard, reserved programs supervisor of the education department, because education is vital to the success of any conservation program.

The webinar was called “Rethinking and Repackaging the Three R’s – Creating a Culture of Composters and Recyclers at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in 2020.” This webinar was hosted by STAR, also a nonprofit organization, on March 31. It was part of STAR’s ongoing webinar series addressing topics such as the economic impact of recycling in Texas, reuse in the entertainment industry, and landfill capacity.

Composting at Fossil Rim was a key part of the STAR webinar that Caitlin Pyle (left) and Vanessa Hays participated in.

It hasn’t just been a time for growth in the natural resources department, but also in the Fossil Rim Education Department. The whole department has been restructured and redesigned for a more immersive and unique educational experience to complement all that Fossil Rim has to offer.

During the one-hour webinar, Bullard discussed how his department is approaching “Environmental Education With A Texas T.W.A.N.G.” T.W.A.N.G. is an acronym for Teaching What Affects Nature Globally.

Fossil Rim Reserved Programs Supervisor Andrew Bullard has been working alongside the natural resources department since 2017. He has seen an increased interest in the topics of green practices and natural resources. In the STAR webinar, he detailed one of the education department’s new programs entitled “Keeping Up With The Conservationists.”

“One recurring theme that we have received more requests for over the past two years is our green practices programming,” Bullard said. “We love that we are able to offer these immersive and relatable programs as part of the Fossil Rim experience.”

As Fossil Rim continues to be a leader in animal species conservation, every effort will be made to ensure that its upward trends in natural resources conservation and environmental education remain on the incline, as well.

-Caitlin Pyle, Natural Resources Manager 

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