From the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post, May 27, 2015: Garet von Netzer, who operates the family ranch in the Luckenbach community in southeastern Gillespie County, recently received a first-place award for wildlife conservation from the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board.

Von Netzer's ranch was presented the same award March 25 by the Gillespie County Soil and Water Conservation District in Fredericksburg.

The entry then was submitted in the competition for Area II, composed of 44 Texas counties and was judged the top entry in that competition.

"Conservation always has been near and dear to my heart, so receiving some recognition for trying to make the land better is especially meaningful to me," von Netzer said.

Von Netzer Ranch is the proud recipient of the 2015 Wildlife Conservationist Award from the Gillespie County Soil and Water Conservation District. This award reflects our dedication to conserving and furthering the natural resources we've been entrusted with. Below is a presentation from the Natural Resource Conservation Service supporting our nomination for the award.

The Gillespie County Soil and Water Conservation District would like to recognize the von Netzer Ranch, operated by Garet and Mardi von Netzer, as their 2015 Wildlife Conservationist.

Garet von Netzer's father, George von Netzer, emigrated from Germany in 1923 and purchased the 600 acre ranch in 1949. Garet and Mardi currently reside on the ranch. The von Netzer Ranch houses an unique diversity of flora and fauna that include both native and exotic species. Exemplary wildlife management practices such as installing numerous watering facilities, planting food plots, range seeding of both native and improved grasses, pond management, and intense tree seedling silviculture, has made the von Netzer Ranch and outstanding ecosystem for wildlife.

The von Netzer Ranch has multiple wildlife watering facilities that are both man-made and earthen. One of the main objectives has been to develop water sources for livestock and wildlife. These initiatives included building or enlarging seven ponds and installing solar systems on two wells that feed multiple water troughs. Water catchment ponds will continue to be a priority on the ranch. These ponds may not hold a permanent water source but will slow down runoff and allow water to percolate down into soil thus improving the rangeland hydrologic cycle.

Small grain food plots are planted annually to sustain wildlife and various sheep herds. Also planted are Turnips which are a cool-season annual that are extremely high in protein and are highly digestible to deer. Protein content can range from 15 to 20 percent in both the leaves and the roots. A well managed food plot of turnips can yield more than 8 tons of forage per acre as well as improve soil health. This high production makes turnips excellent for planting in small food plots.

Tree planting has been a passion of the von Netzer's for over 30 years. They have planted approximately 4,500 various tree species in the past three decades. These trees have been planted from bare root stock, potted trees, cuttings, and acorns. Bur Oak, Chinquapin Oak, Lacey Oak, Red Oak, Lacebark Elms, Siberian Elms, Chinese Pistachio, Desert Willows, Catalpa, Hackberry, Pines, Eastern Red Cedar, Osage Orange, Silver Maple, Western Soapberry, Dogwood, Texas Red Bud, Blackhaw, Possum Haw, Arizona Ash, and Sumac are just some of the species of trees that have been planted. These areas were once high-fenced to allow the seedlings to grow. As the trees matured the fencing has been removed. These areas have now become an enriched habitat to a variety of wildlife species.

The von Netzer Ranch acquired its first purebred Mouflons in the early 1980's. Mr. von Netzer has always been fascinated by the majestic nature and wildness of these animals. The von Netzer Ranch is now the home to one of the premier herds of pureblood Mouflon sheep in the United States. In 2013 the ranch received an award from Trophy Game Records of the World for producing the fifth largest Mouflon ram in the world. These sheep are so highly prized that there is a four year waiting list for hunters to shoot a ram.

Aside from the Mouflon herd, the von Netzer ranch also has other exotic rams such as Texas Dalls, Black Hawaiians, and Corsicans. These four breeds together make up the Texas Slam of exotic sheep hunting. The von Netzer Ranch offers a family-style hunting experience which is fair-chase. Hunting at feeders or out of vehicles is prohibited.

The Netzer Ranch also participates in a breeding program for registered Dorper and Royal White sheep. These two breeds are becoming some of the fastest growing hair breeds of meat sheep in the United States.

The von Netzer ranch provides a unique ecosystem to a large diversity of wildlife species. The abundance of mid to tall grasses offer cover from predators. The numerous ponds and watering facilities located on the ranch provide ample water sources. The diversity of forbs and shrubs as well as food plots provide wildlife with a copious food supply.

Grass, grass, and more grass! The von Netzer ranch demonstrates excellent land stewardship through impressive conservation initiatives. The high level of grass production, both native and improved, offer both food and cover for wildlife. Properly managed fields provide nesting, protective cover, undisturbed nesting sites, insect populations for food, and open travel under a tall grass canopy. Native grasses provide quality habitat for grassland nesting birds including bobwhite quail, turkey, and many other birds. The bobwhite quail is an example of a species that will use a grass mixture habitat for shelter from predators, especially when nesting and raising young.

The von Netzer Ranch focuses on ways to continually improve wildlife habitat. The von Netzer's have demonstrated excellent wildlife conservation skills by installing multiple water sources, planting food plots, managing tree motts, and establishing excellent range grasses. For this reason, the Gillespie County SWCD is proud to recognize the von Netzer Ranch as their 2015 Wildlife Conservationist.
Questions or comments? Email us or call 830-997-3210