By Camilla Price
TCA's annual meeting on September 29-30, 2023, reflected on the past year and looked ahead to 2024 and beyond. Thank you to River Legacy Living Science Center in Arlington for hosting us and to everyone who attended!
Board chair, Justin Lannen, kicked off the meeting with a look at TCA’s mission to preserve Texas landscapes for future generations. “It’s a noble passion, and I’m so glad to share it with all of you,” he said.
Justin named Ned Fritz, Mack Turner, and Janice Bezanson among his conservation heroes.
In December 2022, Mack Turner passed away at 80 years old after chairing the board from 2007-2022. Mack was known for his big heart and big contributions to TCA’s growth.
Read more: Honoring Mack Turner
Justin has served on the board for many years and has faith in the future of conservation, as TCA works to involve young people in caring about nature. “Planting that seed early can make a lifetime of difference,” he said.
This year, TCA also welcomed executive director John DeFillipo, who seeks to fulfill Ned’s vision through three pillars of stewardship, partnerships, and advocacy.
John began his career in conservation after quitting a tedious business job to become a park ranger. He later worked as a nature interpreter before becoming executive director of the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center in North Texas. He joined TCA full-time at the start of the year. “It’s an honor” to be in this position, he said.
John jumped in with both feet and has led TCA to a banner year of growing restoration projects and new connections with community groups, conservation partners, and donors.
“TCA has created a wonderful family of conservation throughout the state,” said John.
In its 51-year history, TCA has produced many conservation successes, including protecting 250,000 acres of wildlife habitat, saving 5 rivers from damming for unnecessary reservoirs, and stopping clearcutting in national forests.
Recently, TCA’s Larry Shelton helped save 1500 acres of critical longleaf pine habitat from destructive logging.
“TCA gets results,” Larry said.
In 2023, we expanded our programs to help wildlife and local communities across the state.
Conservation coordinators organized habitat restoration events to clean up Texas waterways, plant trees to reduce the urban heat island effect, and propagate and distribute native prairie plants.
Jose Lopez joined the team in 2022 as conservation coordinator for the Pineywoods area. “I’m proud to be in Lufkin. That’s kind of our roots with Ned Fritz,” he said. Jose has organized several events and works with our members in Big Thicket National Preserve to protect surrounding nature areas.
This year, TCA started Lights Out surveys in Fort Worth and College Station while continuing the program in Dallas. Volunteers brave the predawn hours to search for migratory birds that were drawn into urban areas because of light pollution and collided with windows.
Beyond surveys, TCA also works to support state Lights Out partners and provide education and outreach resources to cities, buildings, schools, and homeowners to encourage Texans to go “Lights Out For Wildlife.”
This summer, TCA was proud to participate in the first-ever Lights Out Texas symposium, where statewide partners gathered to share resources and stories. Conservation coordinator Mei Ling Liu said it was inspiring and impressive to see the different organizations come together.
Mei Ling and Jose also spearhead the TCA internship program. This year, interns have contributed to outreach, restoration, and Lights Out projects, as well as working in the Native Plant Propagation Center, where volunteers from TCA and the Dallas Zoo grow native plants to distribute in local communities and pocket prairies.
Carson Nick, TCA spring 2023 intern, shared his experience at the annual meeting and said he found Texas Conservation Alliance to be welcoming and inspiring. He shared a favorite conservation quote: “Conservation isn’t about changing the world, it’s about changing people’s behavior.”
Moving forward under the guidance of Janice and John, we will continue to work on the ground with local communities while expanding our advocacy platform to save Texas rivers from damming, protect Texas mountain lions, and continue defending national forests. TCA will also work with historically underrepresented communities to promote equity and inclusion in conservation.
John DeFillipo closed the meeting with a call to action: Stay engaged. “We are stewards,” said John, and as TCA grows its programs across the state, we will need your support.
How can you help?
Join TCA in the fight against the Marvin Nichols Reservoir on the Sulphur River! Sign the petition and register for updates at www.PreserveNortheastTexas.org.
Show your support:
Thank you to all the TCA board members, team, member organizations, interns, and volunteers for your contributions. We were so grateful to meet with you and share our vision for the next year. See you next time!