Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Meet Another Member of the JA Ranch Assessment Project Field Crew

Chad Ellis is a GLCI Rangeland Management Specialist at the Central National Technology Support Center (CNTSC) in Fort Worth, Texas.    In addition to sharing expertise with producers in the Central Region, Chad has been an important part of the Ranch Sustainability Assessment project at the JA Ranch.

Chad was raised in Lohn, Texas, a small farming and ranching community in Central Texas.  He graduated highschool as part of a class of 4 and then received his bachelors’ degree from Sul Ross State University in Natural Resource Management. After completing his Masters degree at Angelo State University in Range Management, Chad began his career with NRCS as a Rangeland Management Specialist in San Angelo, TX. 

Chad has worked in the Chihuahuan Desert as a District Conservationist in Alpine Texas and in Florida's Sub-Tropics as the State Rangeland Management Specialist before taking on his current position at CNTSC. Areas of background and interest: prescribed burning, plant and animal interaction, rangeland health, wildlife, invasive and poisonous plants, ecological dynamics , conservation planning and monitoring. But most importantly Chad enjoys hunting, fishing, the outdoors and spending time with his Family.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Meet Another Key Member of the JA Ranch Sustainability Assessment Team

As the skilled field crew from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with J.K. "Rooter" Brite, Jr. to collect data on the JA Ranch, Charles "Chuck" Stanley facilitates communication between state and regional staff members and coordinates data analysis with NRCS soil scientists.  Chuck is currently a Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI) Range Management Specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Central Technology Institute, located in Fort Worth, TX. 

Chuck was born in Lubbock, Texas and grew up in the big town of Notrees until age 7 before moving to Odessa where he graduated in 1983. After working in the oilfield and having an epiphany one evening, Chuck moved back to Lubbock to attend Texas Tech University. Chuck had several influential professors in the Range and Wildlife department at Tech, one who got him interested in prescribed burning; his calling for the next few years. 

After graduation in 1992, Chuck worked as a Scientist for EG&G environmental services at the Nevada Test Site on the Yucca Mountain Project. Here, Chuck spent performed impact mitigation surveys, vegetation sampling, and various other biological research projects. Towards the middle of 1993, another professor from Tech offered Chuck an opportunity to pursue a Masters Degree program studying the Effects of Summer Burning on Texas High Plains Vegetation.  Following completion of his Masters Degree in 1997, Chuck became the ranch manager of a 3000-acre cow-calf, stocker, and peanut operation in Girard, Texas.

Towards the end of 1999, Chuck became a NRCS Rangeland Management Specialist in Waurika, Oklahoma. In 2001, a move to Lawton, Oklahoma saw Chuck as an Area Rangeland Management Specialist covering 6 counties in SW Oklahoma.  Three years later, Chuck relocated to Woodward, Oklahoma as the Zone 1 Rangeland Resource Specialist. In 2005, Chuck was selected as one of the 3 GLCI Rangeland Management Specialists for the Central National Technology Support Center in Ft. Worth, Texas where he resides today.  Chuck is also a certified professional in rangeland management and certified grassland professional.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Meet the Field Crew for the JA Ranch Sustainability Assessment Pilot Project

Texas Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI) State Coordinator Jeff Goodwin provides rangeland management brainstormed the idea to incorporate the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable (SRR) Ranch Sustainability Assessment Process into the Texas GLCI 2011 program of work, noting compatibility with the GLCI focus on ranch economics.  Current Texas GLCI Chairman J.K. "Rooter" Brite, Jr. offered his JA Ranch as a demonstration site, and field crews began collecting data during June 2011.  Additional data will be collected next month when the field crews return to their plots and transects on the JA Ranch.  Jeff and Lem Creswell, both with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Texas, are shown below working with clipping plots to determine forage supply (photo courtesy NRCS).

In addition to working with Texas GLCI, Jeff provides training to NRCS field office personnel, technical assistance to landowners, and leadership for land management in the state of Texas through the GLCI. During the past 2 years, prior to becoming the state Coordinator for Texas GLCI, while serving as the Blackland Prairie Area GLCI Coordinator, Jeff was involved with providing grazing land technical assistance to 312 landowners and/or cooperating partners on their property. The assistance included the development of conservation plans, forage inventories and monitoring strategies for grazing management plans as well as grazing land management decision making tools. Additionally, 68 educational awareness and technical outreach presentations were hosted for 3,839 participants.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The JA Ranch - Bowie, TX

The JA Ranch serves as the site of a collaborative pilot project implementation for the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable (SRR) ranch sustainability assessment initiative.  SRR, the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation are  partnering with the 2010 regional Environmental Stewardship Award winning JA Ranch to integrate ecological, social and economic monitoring with business planning.  A guidebook that outlines this process is available for free download at

The JA Ranch is owned and operated by James K. “Rooter” Brite, Jr., a born-to-the-land Texas rancher. He was raised on the ranch his grandfather, J.A. Brite, purchased in 1929 near Bowie, Texas.  Rooter and his wife Lynda are pictured below.  Rooter took over his father’s cow herd in the mid-1960s and purchased the ranch in 1974, when he began full-time management of the ranch with his wife, Lynda, and eventually his son, J.K.  The JA Ranch consists of more than 3,200 acres.  It is a diversified operation consisting of a 225 Hereford cow/calf herd, 40 to 75 replacement heifers, and 400 to 500 stocker steers.  The operation is run primarily on native tallgrass rangeland, at a stocking rate of about one animal unit per 10 acres.  The ranch’s best range sites produce 5,000 to 6,000 pounds of forage during good years.

The Brite family invests in conservation every year on their ranch.  Weed control is used in pastures when needed to help increase grass growth at critical times.  Prescribed fire is another tool used in years when there is adequate moisture and fine fuel loads. Rooter also uses a high-density, short-duration grazing rotation to allow his cattle to graze highly nutritious grass.  Grazing schedules are adjusted as needed because of changing weather conditions, available forage, market conditions, and other factors.

Along with their attention to livestock production, wildlife habitat is also a major interest on the JA Ranch.  Management is designed to provide adequate cover and food for deer, turkey, and quail. Rooter aims to maintain 15 percent canopy cover of trees and shrubs in each pasture for wildlife. Several areas are managed primarily for wildlife, and human activity and grazing is restricted in these areas. Islands have also been constructed in the middle of several ponds to enhance waterfowl habitat. The JA Ranch continues to maintain abundant, productive, and nutritious grasses; quality cattle; and a profitable, sustainable ranching operation.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monitoring Site Selection at the JA Ranch

Earlier this summer, several Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI) Rangeland Management Specialists visited the JA Ranch near Bowie, TX to inspect the operation and select monitoring sites for incorporation into the Ranch Sustainability Assessment project.  Data collected from these sites will be used to inform the business plan that the Noble Foundation is assisting JA Ranch operators in developing.  Three sites were selected, and preliminary data was collected for comparison with a second sampling schedule for October 2011.  Soil samples were also collected at each of the three sites for analysis and classification.  These samples were shipped to a soil lab in Oregon for further testing. 

Monitoring site one (001) was set up on JA Ranch Field 16, which is a loamy prairie ecological site. Soils on this site run down to 36 inches, and roots were still present at this depth; high organic matter was also present.  The transect runs due north and 2 photos were taken at the 0 point looking down the line. Photos were also taken at the random points along the transect where production will be clipped by species in October 2011. There are 5 random points that will be used on all 3 transects for this monitoring project which are 7,21,44,66, and 90.

Monitoring site two (002) was established in field 4 north of the large lake. This is a sandy loam ecological site; however, the soil scientist has some concerns on this mapping. This site had been recently sprayed for weed control. Transect was established in the same manner as the site 001 transect.

Monitoring site three (003) was established in field 33, south of the JA Ranch headquarters. This is a tight sandy loam ecological site that contained high organic matter. The soil scientist had some concerns over this mapping as well. The sampling transect was established in the same manner as those on the other two sites.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Beginning

      During April 2011, members of the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable (SRR), the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff, a Noble Foundation consultant, and the owner of Texas' JA Ranch met to initiate the first ranch sustainability assessment pilot project.  A long day spent in boardroom discussions culiminated in agreement upon a framework for rangeland resource data to be collected on the JA Ranch.  The team also identified social and economic information needed to complement the ecological data. 
      Ranch monitoring and assessment will lay the foundation for creation of a formal business plan for the JA Ranch.  The Noble Foundation will provide technical ranch planning expertise to guide the JA Ranch family through the planning process, including identifiation of goals and objectives, discussion of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the ranch business.
      Preliminary information will come from a self-analysis generated through responses to a set of questions available on the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable website in the online Ranch Sustainability Assessment Guidebook at  As we work through the monitoring and business planning process, we'll update this blog to introduce readers to our team members and share the story of a second generation rancher putting the past and future of his operation on paper to enhance his ranch's sustainability.  Our goal is to identify lessons learned and inspire other ranchers to take on the challenge of ranch sustainability assessment to improve their operations.