Creation, Power and Light, and a Book

Some of you may have heard of the Interfaith Power and Light campaign through your religious affiliation. The campaign is being conducted by the passionate folks at The Regeneration Project, an organization dedicated to improving our relationship to Creation. It is heartening to know that people from all faiths are wakening to the need for a wiser and more just relationship with our living planet. Here is their mission:
The mission of The Regeneration Project is to deepen the connection between ecology and faith. Our Interfaith Power and Light campaign is mobilizing a religious response to global warming in congregations through the promotion of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and conservation.
A book published in February of this year was written by the creator of the Interfaith Power and Light and founder of the Regeneration Project Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham. It is titled Love God Heal Earth. E.O. Wilson had some thoughts about the book as noted on the Interfaith Power and Light Website:
"Love God, Heal Earth" is a historically important contribution. Its authors of diverse faiths recognize that protecting the planet and all of life is a transcendent responsibility - for both the scientists who study it and those of religious faith who are able to express its spiritual importance. --E.O. Wilson, Harvard biologist and naturalist, author of The Creation: an Appeal to Save Life on Earth

Drought Deciduous or Dead?

One of the most difficult dry weather consequences to witness in the San Marcos ecology is the browning and leaf loss of trees. Some trees seem to have all their leaves suddenly turn brown and then drop, others seem to yellow and fall as they would normally in October or November. Are the trees dead or just drought deciduous -will they come to life next spring?

"Well that depends," says Kelly Eby, the urban forester with the city of New Braunfels, "each species and each situation can vary quite a lot." The drought stress causes a fungi known as hypoxylon, which is ever present on almost every healthy tree, to begin killing some species and varieties more than ohters. Spanish oaks and hackberries are particulaly vulnerable. Trees taken over by hypoxylon will have leaves turn brown rather quickly and perhaps unevenly before they fall. (as seen in photo of a red oak) The bark is the place to look to determine what is happening. The hypoxylon will create a distinct mottled look on the bark and
even eat away the bark to the woody interior of the tree. Images are available from the Texas Forest Service website noted below.

Most of the trees are accustomed to surviving dry weather so a judicious amount of water applied under the drip line of the tree may fend off severe stress. But some trees are not well suited to their site to begin with and water is in short supply. It may be better to replace some trees with a species that is better adapted to the area, and to mulch and develop the soils around the tree to preserve moisture.

What to do? Like Eby says, it depends. But she is certain of one thing, if you have a tree you are concerned about get a free consultation from a certified arborist before you take any drastic measures.
Here is a link to the Texas Forest Service website to learn more about the disease:

Save the Date: September 4th

Naturescapes Awards Reception & SMGA Silent Auction

Friday, September 4
San Marcos Activity Center, 5:00-7:30 PM

Don't forget to join us at the 5th Annual Naturescapes reception and the SMGA Silent Auction. Enjoy refreshments, listen to the Crystal Creek Boys play, honor the award recipients, and then bid away at the 1st SMGA Silent Auction.

We have some great items up for auction, including a 1/2 page ad in the Campus Guide, a one-year supply of bread from Phoenix Bakery, jewelry from Cypress Sun Jewelry and Skot Phrea Art & Jewelry, Garden Ville Get Started Gardening Kit, and so much more. Bring your checkbook and/or cash and be ready to spend it for a great cause.

Be sure to visit our auction site at

CORRECTION: The name of the band was incorrect in the original post. The Crystal Creek Boys are playing at the Naturescapes Reception.

We Couldn't Do It Without You

It takes lots of time, energy, and money to make a contest come to life. SMGA, The Hill Country Photography Club and the Arts Council have managed to do it with help from many groups, individuals, and especially sponsors. The Naturescapes Photo Contest would not be possible without financial assistance from the sponsors.
  • Scott Gregson, Gregson Investments
  • Derkacz Family, especially Mike Derkacz (Note Mike Derkacz happens to be father of SMGA president Todd Derkacz.)

Also, thanks so much to the following for donating to the SMGA silent auction.

Healing Hands Therapeutic Massage
Anna & Mark Boling
Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance
Carol Serur
Root Cellar Cafe & Gallery
Phoenix Rising Bakery
Campus Guide of San Marcos
Cypress Sun Jewelry
Garden Ville
Herb Smith
BookLab II

Whole Earth Provision Co.
TG Canoes & Kayaks
Andrew Samson
Skot Phrea Art & Jewelry
Ann Jensen
Conley Carwash
Crystal Creek Boys
Kurt Johnson
Jo on the Go
San Marcos Nature Center

For a list of donated items visit

If you have something that you would like to donate, please contact us at

Do You Estivate?

Catchy headline?

But estivate? (Even spell check is choking on this one) It is a word worth knowing considering our current weather pattern. has this for its definitions:
Es-ti-vate: es-tuh-veyt - verb (used without object), --vat-ed, --vat-ing

1. to spend the summer, as at a specific place or in a certain activity.

2. Zoology, to spend a hot, dry season in an inactive, dormant state, as certain reptiles, snails, insects aand small mammals.
We may all be known to estivate now and then, especially during summers like this. We hope that you've enjoyed your time estivating and that cooler fall temperatures (with some rain) are just around the corner.

Federal Act Signed in March

Some members may not be aware of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act that the president signed into law in March. It is a comprehensive act that includes 160 bills in support of public lands, parks, sites, wilderness areas, national trails and other matters related to our natural and human heritage. This act, along with the extension of the Conservation Easement Incentive Act, the combined efforts of state, county and municipal governments, and the support of a host of non-profits at all levels will mean real progress can be made toward combining living natural areas with the places we live.

You play a key role in bringing some of those resources to San Marcos. When ever and where ever the opportunity arises, voice your support for keeping our watersheds clean and our habitats healthy, and for growing the opportunities for all ages to get out and get into nature.

SMGA will keep you informed of important times and places when voicing the vision will have the most impact on our local policy decisions.

Dry As Toast, Ready to Roast

A neighbor near the entrance to Prospect Park smelled smoke in the early morning hours of Thursday, last week. When you live next to a park that has plenty of juniper and when it has been feeling like Death Valley for the last few months, the smell of smoke starts the adrenaline. There was indeed a fire that apparently started along a wooded edge in the first meadow. The picture at right was taken from the ephemeral ponds. The light morning breeze, higher humidity, and withered grasses helped keep the flames from spreading too quickly; the fire department made quick work of it.
An SMGA investigation found a likely location for the origin that included an overflowing ash tray and some books on astronomy and mathematics along with what may be the remains of a lawn chair. A small one-person tent had been there a few weeks earlier and reported to the Parks Department. Lucky this time but maybe not the next - do be careful out there. Report potential problems to the Parks and Recreation Department as soon as you observe them, 393-8400. Emergencies should go straight to 911...t.o.d.

SMGA in the Activity Guide

SMGA is thrilled to have a full page spread in the 2009/2010 Fall/Winter SM Parks & Recreation Activity Guide. Pick up a copy at many places around town or see it online. Be sure to share it with your friends and neighbors.

While you're perusing this great guide, check out the other programs that your Parks & Recreation Department offers, including some excellent Nature Center programs.

Topsoil and Our River

A recent coffee shop conversation included some words about the river. "It's gotten clogged with silt ever since they put the flood control dams in. I remember when I couldn't stand up anywhere along most the parts of Sewell because it was 9 feet deep." You can say just about anything in coffee talk. But it got me thinking again about all the silt that has come down Sessom Creek as we constructed a village and a university. I drifted back farther still in time to the early 1800's when we began to scratch, plow, graze or bull doze as much as we could of the San Marcos River watershed. It reminded me of a chapter opening on erosion control from a book first published in 1975 titled The Earth Manual: How to Work On Wild Land Without Taming It by Malcolm Margolin:
... A visitor from outer space might have a good laugh at how we handle - or don't handle - erosion. Our homes have locks on the door, latches on the window, insurance policies in the dresser drawer, and we support a huge police and prison system - largely to protect a few cameras, watches and other gewgaws. Meanwhile, outside our windows, every rainstorm carries away thousands of tons of valuable topsoil upon which we depend for our very survival. Our scales of values are pathetically confused. With modern assembly-line methods, we could replace a stolen tape deck in minutes. Yet it takes nature almost a thousand years to rebuild one inch of topsoil.
I wonder how much of the already thin topsoil of our area has ended up downstream. Topsoil is key to supporting the vegetation, preferably grasses, that, with the soil, holds rain, prevents and even filters some runoff and allows it to soak in or find its way to open fissures leading to the aquifer.

I know, the question now is, will it ever rain again. Maybe one of these days we will truly understand the value of topsoil and manage the watershed with the respect of the valuable services it provides. Then, even if it doesn't rain, perhaps the water in the river will be a little deeper and a little clearer even in a drought...t.o.d.

Ups and Downs of Trails

Perhaps you saw an article in the Austin American Statesman recently that navigates through the sometimes contentious issue of renegade trails in natural areas. The article focuses on some mountain bikers who cut unauthorized trails using methods that harm the watershed and habitat. These activities are of most concern on the protected Balcones Canyonland Preserve (BCP). BCP was funded in part by Travis County voters, private conservation minded funders, and state and federal agencies for the specific purpose of providing endangered species habitat. Passive recreation was initially permitted in many areas as long as it was controlled to protect critical areas at critical times. Some visitors felt the trail opportunities weren't satisfactory, and took some saws into their own hands and routed renegade trails through some sensitive places.

The same sorts of activities are happening in the Barton Creek Greenbelt managed by the city of Austin. The greenbelt was preserved primarily for watershed protection. But lots of badly built trails can cause harm; from the Statesman article:
Without proper design, the paths erode, degrading water quality downstream. Loss of the overhead tree canopy creates swaths of sun-baked, compacted ground that draws such predators as rat snakes and fire ants. And when improperly done, cutting branches from oak trees can contribute to the spread of oak wilt.
Certainly recreation, and in particular hike and bike trails, will have to be a large component of the urban natural areas even as they serve other environmental purposes. But how do we manage misbehavior? Who will pay the costs? Who will create and build out the plans?

San Marcos has had a taste of these sames issues. Hikers and bikers may have noticed trails that seem lightly traveled leading off of Dante's Trail at Upper Purgatory. Visitors, unaware of the unauthorized status of such "renegade" trails, will use them to increase their experience with the area and inadvertantly hardening the trail. SMGA understands all sides of the issue and is working on a couple of fronts, including some recommendations for interim stewardship guidelines. We hope some of our recommendations will help us find our way through the formidable task of managing our natural areas so that critters, clean water and visitors can coexist sustainably. Feedback from our members is always encouraged...your thoughts? Email