Sul Ross State University will offer a new degree program in sustainable ranch management, thanks to a $1.2 million endowment from the Dixon Water Foundation of Marfa and Decatur.
The endowment establishes the Clint Josey Endowed Chair for Sustainable Ranch Management in the College of Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
Through $200,000 annual increments over a six-year period, the foundation’s gift will pay for the creation of both a B.S. degree and a certificate program in sustainable ranch management as well as a permanent endowment.
“Young, experienced ranch managers are in short supply,” said Robert J. Potts, president and CEO of the Dixon Water Foundation. “This program will help train young people how to manage economically and ecologically sustainable ranches that are so important to our state’s future.”
Bonnie Warnock, professor of Natural Resource Management, will be the endowed professor.
“This is an academic program that will study the ranch as an ecosystem, with people as an integral part of this system,” she said.
Warnock has conducted extensive ecological research on the Dixon Water Foundation’s Mimms Unit northwest of Marfa. Mimms Unit is one of four Dixon ranches in Marfa and northeast Texas, where the foundation demonstrates sustainable land management practices.
Under terms of the endowment, Warnock will begin developing a curriculum this year, with the first students to be enrolled in fall 2015.
She noted that a ranch is a rangeland ecosystem, and successful management of a ranching enterprise should involve an understanding of soils, water, energy, nutrients, vegetation, wildlife, livestock, in addition to economics and business. The curriculum will include classes in soils, range management, wildlife management, animal husbandry and agricultural business.
“We are looking at our ranching heritage with traditional range animal science classes, but we are really buying into the future,” Warnock said. “We will be learning how to incorporate a sustainability component.”
Rob Kinucan, dean of the College of Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, said the endowment was the result of a lengthy working arrangement with the foundation.
“Bonnie has worked with the Dixon Water Foundation at the Marfa ranch for a number of years, and they appreciated the research she was conducting,” he said. “This endowment grew from that working relationship. The foundation board is an excellent group of people, and we are really pleased with this turn of events.”
Founded in 1994 by Roger Dixon, the Dixon Water Foundation promotes healthy watersheds through sustainable land management. In addition to demonstration ranches, the foundation finances annual grants, sponsors research projects and offers educational programs for landowners, students and others interested in sustainably managing land, water and wildlife.
Clint Josey is vice president and chairman of the board. When Roger Dixon died in January 2005, Josey became executor of his estate and president and CEO of the foundation. The foundation later changed its name to The Dixon Water Foundation. In 2007, Robert Potts became president and CEO, and Josey became vice president and chairman.
Warnock, who received Sul Ross’ Outstanding Teaching Award for 2011-12, joined the faculty in 2001. She ranches with her husband, Seth, near Marathon. Her family has been active in ranching near Marathon and Sanderson since the 1890s.
At Sul Ross, she teaches undergraduate classes in soils, range ecology, fire ecology, watershed management, habitat management, range inventory and plant identification. Warnock also teaches graduate classes in restoration ecology and field ecology.
This is the second endowed position at Sul Ross, both in the College of Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. In 2012, a $1 million gift from Peggy and Dan Allen Hughes Jr. of San Antonio/Beeville established the Dan Allen Hughes Jr. Endowed Director for Borderlands Research. Hughes is a member of the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) Advisory Board of Directors.