Herds for Birds: Audubon Certifies Dixon Water Foundation Ranches as Bird-Friendly Habitats

Audubon bird-friendly certifications cover 21,000 acres of Texas grassland habitat
A quail perches on a wooden post of a barbed wire fence, a clear blue sky in the background.
Scaled Quail. Photo: Evan Barrientos/Audubon Rockies

Decatur, Texas — Three Dixon Water Foundation ranch properties, totaling more than 21,000 acres, have been designated Audubon Certified bird-friendly habitats by the National Audubon Society through the bird nonprofit’s Conservation Ranching program. The land certification underscores the foundation’s commitment to grassland management, specifically through rotational cattle grazing as a means to create a mosaic of habitat for grassland birds.

Audubon Conservation Ranching is a wildlife habitat program working to stabilize declining grassland bird populations in Texas and across the U.S. As detailed in this year’s State of the Birds 2022, grassland birds are among the fastest-declining bird species in the United States, with a 34% loss since 1970. The Dixon Water Foundation’s north Texas ranch in Cooke County – the Leo and Pittman units – consists of 5,000 acres of tallgrass prairie, much of it native. Here, the Dickcissel, Eastern Meadowlark, and Northern Bobwhite are species of priority. At the foundation’s 16,000-acre Mimms Ranch northwest of Mara in Presidio County, the west Texas rangelands support many different bird species, including the Burrowing Owl, Cassin’s Sparrow, and Scaled Quail.

The Dixon Water Foundation, which exists to promote healthy watersheds and the sequestration of carbon through regenerative land management, views the Audubon certification as an evolutionary next step on the organization’s environmental path.

“We see the Audubon Conservation Ranching program and the Audubon certification as being in alignment with our mission to promote healthy watersheds through good land management,” said Casey Wade, Vice President of Ranching Operations for the Dixon Water Foundation. “By raising animals adapted to thriving on native grass, we are able to keep thousands of acres of rangeland in food production while also conserving habitat for the wildlife that utilize these grasslands. By keeping the grasslands intact, with good habitat for wildlife, good ground cover, and healthy soils, these grasslands will also be able to catch more rainfall, reduce runoff and erosion, and sequester more carbon.”

Thomas Schroeder, Conservation Ranching Manager for Audubon in Texas, says that partnerships like with the Dixon Water Foundation help illuminate the role of cattle as habitat helpers. “Diversity is the name of the game for grassland birds,” Schroeder said. “Managed rotational grazing allows for the simultaneous intense grazing of some pastures and select resting of others, essential for creating a desirable grassland mosaic for birds with differing habitat needs,” Schroeder said.

By meeting all Audubon Conservation Ranching program requirements – which are third-party verified – beef produced on the certified Dixon Water Foundation ranches can carry the Audubon Certified bird-friendly seal, a consumer package label that recognizes product origin as lands managed for birds and biodiversity. The supply line from the Dixon Water Foundation runs through the Grassfed Livestock Alliance, with product retailing at the fresh meat counter at Whole Foods Market locations in Texas, as well as Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.

For more information about Audubon Conservation Ranching in Texas, contact Thomas Schroeder.

About Audubon Conservation Ranching

A wildlife habitat initiative of the National Audubon Society with a unique market front, Audubon Conservation Ranching’s purpose is to stabilize declining grassland bird populations in partnership with ranchers – on whose land 95 percent of grassland birds live. Audubon Conservation Ranching’s enrollment includes more than 100 ranches, covering more than 3.5 million acres that have earned status as Audubon Certified Bird-friendly Land. Incentivizing this habitat work for birds and biodiversity are consumers with an appetite for conservation, who support it with the purchase of products grazed on these lands. Shoppers see a special package designation – the Audubon Certified bird-friendly seal – that sets these products apart. For more information, visit Audubon.org/ranching.

About Audubon

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.audubon.org and @audubonsociety.