PBS SHOW – Natural Connection, Room to Roam, Pocket Prairies, #2705

PBS SHOW – Natural Connection, Room to Roam, Pocket Prairies, #2705


– NARRATOR: The Texas Parks &
Wildlife television series
is funded in part by
a grant from the
Wildlife and Sport Fish
Restoration Program.
Through your purchases of
hunting and fishing equipment,
and motorboat fuels,
over 50 million dollars
in conservation efforts are
funded in Texas each year.
Additional support
provided by Ram Trucks.
Built to serve.Coming up on
Texas Parks & Wildlife… – If you just take those
first five steps, you’re not going to be
able to stop stepping because it’s just
so beautiful. – The variety of grasses,
it’s beautiful, it’s in really good shape,
you know, really good example of the Chihuahuan desert
grassland out here. – I like to refer to it as
the original classroom. The human mind is wired
to be attentive to this. [theme music] ♪ ♪– NARRATOR:Texas Parks &
Wildlife, a television series
for all outdoors. [serene music]
[crickets chirp] [footsteps] – I’m Adrian Sabom and I’m a
mother of two children. I grew up down here on
a South Texas ranch. Had wide open spaces
to pretty much do whatever we wanted
to outside. Usually during quail season,
every weekend we would be quail hunting. Quail hunting and nature go
kind of hand in hand. You’re outside all day long. You see quail, you see dove,
you see deer, just spending quality time with
your family, your friends, enjoying just being
in the wilderness. – I’m Xochitl Rodriguez. I’m a mother and
I’m from El Paso. I was born and raised here. [traffic rushes by] We share a border with
Ciudad Juarez. [busy music, horns honk] A crossroads of cultures,
a crossroads of peoples, in the vastness of the desert. It’s a really special place
where lots of things come together. And sometimes they collide. Sometimes they mesh. [laughs] We live right in the
center of the city. Calista and I are
a bit of a team. We all three love adventures. I don’t have to convince
Calista to go on a hike. I don’t have to convince
her to dig in the dirt. I grew up romping here. These are good sticks. Where did you find them? – Over there. – It’s never hard for kids
to connect to nature. I believe that we have built
things that have gotten in the way, and they are
not given the opportunities that they need to connect. [acoustic music] – CALISTA: You have to see this. – XOCHITL: This mountain just
booms from this vast, flat landscape. It’s visually beautiful,
but it’s also such an incredible space to
crack open and explore. We are lucky to have the
largest urban state park in North America,
here in El Paso. Tens of thousands of
acres of wild space, preserved by the
State of Texas. [uplifting music] We’re fortunate to have a
state park in our back yard, and we’re fortunate to
have a mountain as the artery of
our community. [indistinct chatter] Adrian and I met at a Texas Parks and Wildlife
Foundation event. – They’re so awesome! I met Xochitl at the “We Will
Not Be Tamed” campaign launch party, and we
were talking about, well she has never shot a gun,
she couldn’t fathom that, and I had never hiked the
Franklin Mountains, and so it kind of evolved into, well, maybe we should each
do each other’s thing. [serene music]
[crickets chirp] – XOCHITL: Got to the ranch
and it’s just more than I ever dreamed it could be. It’s incredibly green,
which is refreshing. I don’t live in a green place. There she is. – Hi, how are you?
– We arrived… – ADRIAN: Awesome! – XOCHITL: …hugged Adrian… – ADRIAN: Are you so tired? – XOCHITL: And we got to
go straight over to the horse stalls. And then got ready
to ride horses. That will be my transport. – Xochitl, of course, from
the get-go was excited about doing something new. [leather creaking] – XOCHITL: Today, Calista rode
a horse for the first time ever, with Henrietta, cowgirl. – ADRIAN: She was scared at
first, but once she got on the horse, she grew
much more comfortable. – XOCHITL: I can’t believe
how emotional I was, seeing her be on that horse. Good, Baby! – ADRIAN: You’re doing
amazing, Calista. – XOCHITL: In my life at this
moment, most of my mountaintops involve Calista doing new things
and doing big girl things and overcoming fears. – ADRIAN: After horseback
riding, we went to the big event… – The moment we’ve all
been waiting for. – Xochitl shooting
a gun for the first time. Then, your finger’s
never on the trigger, until you’re ready to fire. So, you go right there. Safety is on and then you
kind of get in position. – XOCHITL: This is the
craziest thing I’ve ever done. I was really really scared. I’m a hot mess with this thing. Okay. I feel like it’s
going to go off. – ADRIAN: I know, I do too. And it could be this pad if you
want to take the vest off? She was super nervous
in the beginning. You could tell her hands were
shaking, she was sweating. – XOCHITL: In here? Holy! I learned… a lot. – ADRIAN: Safety is on, so don’t put your finger on the
trigger until you’re ready. [shot] Oh! [laughs] – I shook after every clay. But then I finally got
into the groove and felt a little bit better. – ADRIAN: Pull. [shot] Pull. [shot] Again. [shot] Oh, almost! [shots] – Dang. Oh! – ADRIAN: Once she did it
a couple of times, she really relaxed. – XOCHITL: Did I hit that one? – ADRIAN: Uh huh! – I hit one! – ADRIAN: By the end, she was
having a great time. [shot] [cheers] [laughs] Good job! – I learned to shoot, alongside
Adrian and her family. I could not have been with
more amazing people. Wow. [whistle] I was not raised around
guns or hunting. To see that there’s a whole
other way of life laced with respect for guns
and respect for hunting, I really have learned a
different perspective on things that I’d never
had contact with. [crickets chirping] [plane engine roars by] – XOCHITL: My friend, Adrian,
is in El Paso, Texas! [knocking] – I’m out here visiting
Xochitl and Calista. Hi! [laughs] – XOCHITL: How are you? – ADRIAN: Good. Hi, Calista. – XOCHITL: Say hi. – ADRIAN: Look at all your fish! – XOCHITL: We’re going to
hang out with Calista and just do our thing. [doors closing] You cannot come to El Paso
without taking a look at our border and
gazing over into Mexico and letting that sort of
rock your soul a little bit. And, of course, we’re going to
eat some really good food. [laughs] And we’re going to try on
some insane West Texas boots. [uptempo music] – ADRIAN: I like it. – XOCHITL: Oh yeah. That is gorgeous. [uptempo music] Here’s our mountain. I also firmly believe that you
cannot come to El Paso without hiking the
Franklin Mountains. We’re going to summit. We’re not just going
to do a little hike, I think we’re going
to do a big one. – ADRIAN: Intimidating! I have been hiking before
but I’ve never hiked in this environment,
the arid, rocky terrain. I’m concerned about
the hydration. How much water do you take? – We usually take three liters
plus a bottle of water. Now that it’s summertime,
I’ll probably carry six liters of water
with us tomorrow. – ADRIAN: Golly. [settling music] I think we’re ready. – XOCHITL: Let’s do it. It’s just before 7:00. – ADRIAN: I’m excited! – And we’re going to take Adrian
to the top of the mountain. [laughs] There she goes. If you just take those
first five steps, you’re not going to be
able to stop stepping, because it’s just so beautiful. – ADRIAN: Anybody can do it. You can go for a
short amount of time, you can go on a flat surface, you can find whatever
works for you. – XOCHITL: See him? A tiny little guy? Black and brown. – CALISTA: Oh yeah. – XOCHITL: Look at that tail. – ADRIAN: That’s the great
thing about hiking. You see so much more than
you do from a distance. – XOCHITL: There’s a couple
of pretty steep inclines, but they’re beautiful because
you’re surrounded in yucca and ocotillo and the
ground is red, and I think it’s a great
way to just sort of crack right into the mountain. [surreal music] You get a sense of how
giant the world is and how little you are and you can’t help
but be quiet. And just stop and be
humbled in that space. To just sort of be
silent and parallel in a place that’s much
bigger than you are. It’s a beautiful and a really
powerful thing to experience. [surreal music] [rocks clattering] I love the sound so much. Isn’t that amazing? Like glass. [rocks clattering] We’re about half way. [pack rustling] Vamos. Here we go. Climbing! Hiking the Franklins is
basically lunges. [laughs] All the way up the mountain. Thousands of lunges under
some pretty intense sun would be scary to most. Um, Adrian is approaching
this with some really fantastic enthusiasm. [footsteps] The ridgeline is in sight! [footsteps] – ADRIAN: Almost there. [footsteps] – XOCHITL: It’s breathtaking. – Doing this with Xochitl, it’s
a bond that you can create. – XOCHITL: This is the
ridgeline. – ADRIAN: The anticipation
is killing me! Doing something that you both
enjoy and being outdoors, you can really have quality
time where there’s no distractions. Oh my gosh–that is amazing! You can just see forever. – XOCHITL: Forever. – ADRIAN: You just have to
expose your children and then they have a love
of being in the outdoors, but the key is exposure. – XOCHITL: How do you feel? [laughing] Do you feel thirsty? – Now I’ve really seen
El Paso, yes. Aw, that was awesome. – I think Adrian and I share
a love of the outdoors, and some pretty deep respect for wild spaces and
wild places. And that these places
need to be protected, so that our kids can have a
healthy place to grow up in. [wind] – ADRIAN: This friendship is
something that will last a lifetime. [dramatic music] You just never know what
you’re going to find trying something new. You just never know
what door it’ll open. [calming music]
[wind] [upbeat music]– NARRATOR: In West Texas,
where it’s usually
dry and dusty, you’ll find
rolling hills
with plenty of prairie grasses.This pristine Chihuahuan
desert grassland is the
Billingsley Ranch.Stuart Sasser runs the place.He and his wife, and
father-in-law, Dan Hughes, Sr.,
bought the ranch in 2008.[cow moos]Not long after, a wildfire
set them back to square one.
– And it came up through here and burned about 70%
of this ranch. We were able then to start
completely over with a new set of fences, that were
antelope-friendly type fences. And build a new type
of water system. This is one of 50 water
troughs on the ranch, that we’ve put up here on a
higher elevation to try to get the cattle to come up into
this higher country and graze. [wind gently blows] When I come up here, it just
reminds me how blessed I am to be responsible
for this country. Antelope like a silhouette
it looks like. – MICHAEL SULLINS: Stuart’s
approach to management out here is not really all from a
cattle production perspective. He really has a holistic
view of the place, he wants to improve it for the
wildlife, the native wildlife. [Meadowlark calls] – STUART: We try to run this
country with about a cow to every 50 acres. I think you could probably
do it about one to 40 but I try to keep it about
one to 50 acres, and so you don’t want to
overly graze it. – But you know looking
at the place, the variety of grasses,
it’s beautiful, it’s in really good shape,
you know, real good example of the Chihuahuan desert
grassland out here. Another grass you’ll see that’s,
that you’ll find in swales and wet spots is
this stuff right here! It’s called Vine Mesquite, and
it’s one of the few grasses out here that really produces
a big enough seed that the quail and dove will use it. – STUART: It makes a good
little seed!– NARRATOR: Stuart’s ranch is
also a refuge for the
fragile pronghorn, which has
been struggling in the
Trans-Pecos as of late.With drought and dwindling
numbers, biologists worried
they would disappear
from this part of Texas.
[helicopter whirs]So, to boost numbers, they
captured and translocated
pronghorn here to West Texas,and his prime
grassland habitat
was just what biologists
needed.
– We’ve completed seven
translocations since 2011. The Hughes Sasser ranch
served as our release sight for pronghorn in 2016, and the results of
these translocations is an upturn in the population, and so we’ve actually doubled
our population size since 2012 to today.– NARRATOR: One prairie
management strategy that seems
to be helping the pronghorn is
a simple change in fencing.
– WHITNEY: There we go!– NARRATOR: Researchers
discovered that these
free-roaming foragers would
rather go under than over.
– WHITNEY: This way, pronghorn,
when their ready to pass through the area, are able
to just simply move right under the fence, and so this
is an all hands-on deck effort, and it’s probably one of the
most successful parts of our restoration effort. That’s great –
it’s nice and tight! – It’s been about seven or
eight years project and we’ve just about opened all
the fences in the Marfa area, 300 to 400 thousand acres worth. The data shows that they use
those passes tremendously and I think that’s going to
alleviate some of the ups and downs of the population. – STUART: It’s all good
pronghorn country.– NARRATOR: While the road to
recovery looks promising
for the pronghorn.– STUART: It makes me feel good! I feel like we’re on the
right track to get them to come back!– NARRATOR: Stuart’s push to
improve this Chihuahuan
prairie continues.– STUART: It feels like it puts
a real responsibility on you to work it,
and maintain it, and keep it in a good state
and leave it better than the way you found it
for the next generation is what you want. – CAROLYN KLEIN: Let’s go out
to the prairie. It’ll be a nice cool day
today to do some work.– NARRATOR: These students are
heading outside to learn
a few things about the
world around them.
– CAROLYN: Spray your ankles. [spraying]– NARRATOR: Today their
classroom will be about the
size of a tennis court,
with grass, bugs,
and as much biodiversity as
they can shake a rake at.
– This is Wolf Prairie at
Westside High School. It was going to be a third
student parking lot, and fortunately for everyone,
HISD kind of ran out of money to fund the paving of
that parking lot and so it was just
left as is. [scraping] Let’s find spots for those
milkweeds and put them in the ground.– NARRATOR: Wolf Prairie
is a Pocket Prairie.
– Milkweed plant, it’s the
food that monarchs eat.– NARRATOR: A small replica
of the once wide open
coastal prairies of Texas.– CAROLYN: Our vision for this
prairie is that eventually we get back to what it was
250 years ago which would have been six to nine-foot-tall
grasses mixed with forbs and other wildflowers,
plus a few baseballs. [laughter] – Having a prairie here on
campus enables us to bring students out
during the school day. We don’t have to rent a bus. – CAROLYN: Anybody remember
what these plants are? – LAWRENCE: We just walk them
outside and we have access to wild spaces. – CAROLYN: Why burning the
prairie would have been helpful for its biodiversity? It’s going to kill off
invasives and then nutrients into the soil. – LAWRENCE: I like to refer to
it as the original classroom. The human mind is wired
to be attentive to this. – AKASH GHOSAL: This is called
Tickle Tongue or Ironwood. You get this weird tickling
or numbing sensation on your tongue.– NARRATOR: This small pocket
prairie has made a big impact
on students like Akash.– Even if I don’t get to use
this in my career, I plan on being active
in the community. – Oh! Hey you guys, there’s a black
swallowtail larvae here! – So this is a black
swallowtail caterpillar. And it’s just an example of how
these little prairie patches, even though they’re relatively
small from a landscape scale, can be really
great pollinators. (to the students) You feel
calmer, you said?– NARRATOR: Jaime Gonzalez
calls himself a
relationship counselor.– JAIME: I’m trying to fix a
broken relationship between people and nature. I think we’re working
in a hybrid world. Technology is cool, but that
nature which is very ancient and a part of us I think needs
to be a part of our lives too because it keeps us
grounded and healthy.– NARRATOR: That is the message
behind author of
Last Child in the Woodsand
co-founder of the
Children in Nature Network,
Richard Louv.
He explains the
Nature Deficit Disorder;
how a lack of exposure to
nature can dull the senses
and be harmful to one’s health.– RICHARD LOUV: Finally the
people who study child development began to pay
attention to the question of how does experiences in
nature shape childhood. – BOY: It’s going to be good. – Studies ongoing at the
University of Illinois for instance show that kids with
just a little bit of contact with nature, just a walk through
trees in an urban park and the symptoms of
Attention Deficit Disorder begin to go down. The kids in green schools did
far better on standardized test scores. If children have less and less
experience with nature, who will be the future
stewards of the earth? [bird sings]– NARRATOR: The Katy Prairie
near Houston has diminished
from 600,000 acres
to just 200,000.
Now, the Katy Prairie
Conservancy has partnered with
at least a dozen schools that
have put in pocket prairies.
– DR. CHELSE PRATHER:
This is exciting. We’re going to be letting
these different kinds of grasshoppers go.– NARRATOR: Across town at the
Kolter Elementary School’s
pocket prairie, these students
are getting a lesson
about the ecosystem.– BOY: It’s pretty cool
because it has red legs. – CHELSE: Those are kind of
like claws that help it grip on to stuff when it’s jumping. Grasshoppers do a lot of
things out on the prairie. They provide food for lots of
other organisms like birds and mammals and other insects. They recycle nutrients on the
prairie back for plant growth. [girl screams] But I try to emphasize the
good things that insects do. And I think bringing them out
and letting them touch bugs and showing them that when you
hold bugs, not all of them are going to bite, they
actually do good things. – I like to go out in the
prairie and garden to grow plants. Cause really nobody really wants
to just sit in the class and see the textbooks,
they want to interact with and see all of them up close,
in real life. – Yea, I love it. It’s actually kind cool because
Ms. Shong, she’s actually the one who did most of it and it’s
actually kind of impressive. – It used to look like this,
four years later, now it looks like this. Our idea was to let’s just take
a small amount and try to put back the plants and grasses and
flowers that used to be here before urbanization. These are all going to
be tall like up to here!– NARRATOR: After decades of
teaching, Ahlene Shong
got busy planting.– I’m the Kolter Pocket
Prairie Guardian. We call him Bison Bob,
named after my husband.– NARRATOR: And she’s
passionate about the prairie.
– AHLENE: You’ll have all these
tall yellow flowers, see these, these ones right here? All these and these? They’re going to be big tall,
with lots of yellow on them. And then these grasses! These are going to be tall. And this Indian grass is going
to be tall with these golden waving seed heads. Some of them are like over
my head and so it’s going to be great!– NARRATOR: And as much as she
loves the prairie,
it’s what prairies do for us
that gets her excited.
– AHLENE: Prairies actually do a
lot of good for the environment, you know. They sequester carbon dioxide. They hold water and all the
prairie wetlands filter the water so they help clean the
water so prairies really have a lot to offer to people and
people of course have a lot to offer the prairies –
especially saving them.– NARRATOR: Even businesses are
realizing the benefits
of a prairie.– Why do we even have gardens
at M.D. Anderson? And the underlying purpose no
matter what we do is to create a positive distraction from the
burdens of their care and treatment and to reduce
stress in stressed patients and that’s just what we do
with the parks and gardens. [acoustic music] – JAIME: Conservation groups
have got to start putting nature where people are. This is one of the most heavily
trafficked places in the whole Houston region, the
Texas Medical Center. And so in addition to saving
these big grand places like the Katy Prairie, we need to help
people in the community find places right where they live
and work to have nature. – Do you see him? You see him right
through the glass. – JAIME: We’re doing research
right now in terms of how big of a grassland do you have
to have to have an impact. But I will tell you this, for
that one monarch that was passing by, just having access
to a few flowers to fuel up on before it heads on, that’s
big enough for that monarch. Any time we can situate a
small patch of it anywhere I think is a victory. [birds chirping] [birds chirping] [rushing water] [rushing water] – Wooooo wooo wooo wooo! [rushing water] – Oh my god! [rushing water] [rushing water] [rushing water] [ducks quacking] [birds chirping] [birds chirping]– NARRATOR: This series is
funded in part by a grant
from the Wildlife and Sport
Fish Restoration Program.
Through your purchases of
hunting and fishing equipment,
and motorboat fuels,
over 50 million dollars
in conservation efforts are
funded in Texas each year.
Additional support
provided by Ram Trucks.
Built to serve.

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