- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

RAYMONDVILLE, Texas (AP) - Along miles of brushlands and sprawling meadows lies a Texas treasure steeped in the state’s hallowed ranching history.

The Valley Morning Star (https://bit.ly/1VQTTZ3) reports mesquite thickets hide the two-story frame home cattle baron Francisco Yturria built to serve as headquarters of his storied Punta del Monte ranch in 1858.

Today, brothers Danny and Richard Butler nurture a piece of their great-great grandfather’s legacy along 24,000 acres straddling Willacy and Kenedy counties.

The Butlers’ management of the land led the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to honor the H. Yturria Land & Cattle Co. with its Lone Star Steward award.

“Each year, Texas Parks and Wildlife honors individuals who preserve our state’s natural heritage - the land itself. Since most of the land in our state is privately owned, landowners are key to conservation efforts,” the agency said in a statement. “The Butler family has worked tirelessly to develop the habitat and distribute water for all game and nongame species across the ranch.”

On Oct. 24, the Butlers open their gates to visitors as part of Wild In Willacy, the annual nature festival showcasing the region’s ranching legacy.

For much of their lives, Danny and Richard Butler have worked to conserve the land once part of a 150,000-acre cattle empire stretching across five counties.

Part of a new generation of ranchers, Richard Butler’s daughters Quita Wittenbach and Tina Buford have brought their backgrounds in land management to the ranch to help preserve the land for their children.

The state’s award serves as recognition of his family’s devotion to the land, Danny Butler said as he toured the ranch last week.

“It was an amalgamation of many years of improving the ranch,” Butler said. “It came by accident, from improving the ranch every year.”

Retired state biologist Gary Homerstat suggested the Butlers go after the award.

“Whenever you make improvements, you get points toward the award,” Butler said. “Water conservation is a big thing.”

A network of watering holes nurtures wildlife in times of drought along swaths of brushland that is home to native species like turkey.

The Butlers’ efforts to restore the area’s turkey population helped the family land the award.

“The Butlers have restored Rio Grande wild turkey populations in the area by trapping and restocking,” the state said in a press release. “This effort has proven successful and allowed them to provide birds for translocation to several adjacent landowners.”

Corridors of pristine habitat offer food and shelter to endangered wildlife such as the ocelot.

While the Butlers have striven to preserve the land’s native habitat, the family has worked to diversify income derived from white-tail deer hunts.

Since 1985, the Butlers have helped pioneer the raising of exotic African species in South Texas, offering safaris with a local flair. Across the chaparral wanders one of the nation’s largest free-roaming herds of scimitar-horned oryx.

Butler describes the African safaris as a growing business that has helped the family hold on to its legendary ranch.


Information from: Valley Morning Star, https://www.valleystar.com

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