This article is featured in the Summer 2022 issue of Texas LAND magazine. Click here to find out more.
Founded in 1985, the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) focuses on private landowners and their ethical relationship to the land.
“In Texas where 95 percent of the land is privately owned, the voluntary stewardship efforts of private landowners maintain the state’s ecological engine and provide our citizens with clean air, water, and wildlife habitat not to mention food and fiber,” said Justin Dreibelbis, TWA CEO. “Whether you’re a property owner, hunter, angler, wildlife watcher, conservationist or just someone who values our quality of life, it’s important to work cooperatively with private landowners for the future well-being of our natural resources.”
TWA has three main program areas: Conservation Legacy (youth and adult education), Hunting Heritage (Texas Youth Hunting Program and Texas Big Game Awards), and Issues and Advocacy. Regardless of an individual’s interest in the outdoors, there is a place for everyone under TWA’s expansive tent.
The membership includes legacy landowners and new landowners. People who own thousands of acres, others who own 10 acres, and others who own no land. A quick survey of the membership rolls identifies wildlife managers, research scientists, conservation agency personnel, entrepreneurs, attorneys, teachers, bankers, doctors, ranchers and business owners. Ages range from 20-somethings to retirees.
“At TWA, our members come from different places and have different experiences, but they stand on common ground,” Dreibelbis said. “They all want to leave Texas better for the next generation of Texans.”
Become a TWA Member
To join forces with other people who are committed to conservation, education and private land stewardship, visit TWA’s website (www.texas-wildlife.org/membership) or call (800) 839-9453.
Read on to meet a few of the members and learn why they invest their time and talent in TWA.
Life Member Since: 2016
Home: San Antonio and Sabinal, Texas in Uvalde County
Profession: Associate Director of Real Estate at Sonder, Inc., an alternative hospitality company and Rancher
Land Ownership: Legacy ranch, headquartered in Sabinal, with holdings throughout Texas
Reason for Joining: As a child, Sarah attended the annual TWA Convention each year with her parents, Richard and Kim Nunley, and her sister Caroline Nunley Jakobssen. As a youth member during those years, she developed a feeling of kinship with the other members who shared her passion for the land. After taking a break to complete college and start her career, she reconnected with the organization and the “the sheer joy that comes from associating with people who work tirelessly to promote private land stewardship and wildlife conservation.” She joined TWA as an adult member in 2006. Today, she serves as president.
The Connection: “TWA is a group of people who really prioritize private land stewardship and wildlife conservation across the state with an eye on the future. Joining gives you a chance to be part of an important mission that includes getting kids on the land and teaching them to appreciate the natural resources that provide the foundation of our lives. Without outreach like this, how will our future leaders and voters understand and care for our wild places and wild things?”
The Impact: “From its beginning 37 years ago, TWA has done so much on behalf of private landowners. There are so many things TWA has been instrumental in such as eminent domain reform and building a working relationship between landowners and agencies such as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that often get overlooked because the organization works behind the scenes as well as in the spotlight. TWA has earned a reputation in the halls of government that ensures private landowners have a seat at the table where important decisions are being made.”
Members Since: 2003
Home: Cistern, Texas in Fayette County
Profession: Retired (Financial Services and Energy Industries)
Land Ownership: Small acreage (Less than 100 acres)
Reason for Joining: The Harkers shared a dream of owning, and eventually retiring to a small acreage rural property, but realized they needed more information to actively manage its natural resources. They discovered TWA as they sought to become part of the state’s landowner network. Over time, they have become more involved in TWA than any other volunteer organization because, according to Jackie, “it speaks to us on so many levels.”
Their Introduction: “We went to a convention where we didn’t know a soul and were embraced. We met so many like-minded people and had so much fun that we couldn’t help but get involved. If we’d stayed at home and only read Texas Wildlife [the association’s monthly magazine] I’m afraid that we might’ve missed the chance to get plugged into such an incredible organization.” Jackie Harker
The Reach: "TWA's only boundaries are the state lines. It's for everyone in Texas. You don't have to own 10,000 acres or any land at all, you just have to be interested in the future of wildlife, invested in the power of conservation or engaged at the statehouse with the shared goal of making Texas better." Steven Harker
Life Member Since: 1988
Home: Cotulla, Texas in La Salle County
Profession: Ranch Real Estate Broker and Third-generation Rancher and Hunting Lease Operator
Land Ownership: Legacy ranch
Reason for Joining: Dan was invited to attend the organizational meeting of TWA at the YO Hilton in Kerrville. Initially, the group was formed to provide a forum and a voice for private landowners who were interested in managing white-tailed deer and other wildlife. Through the Kinsel family's long-term affiliation with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Dan knew first-hand the importance of industry associations and so he was compelled to join the fledgling organization that has since “grown into something bigger and more impactful than anything we imagined.”
The Connection: “We’ve all heard that you need to leave the land better than when we got ahold of it. Through TWA, you get to be around people who are doing that with the land, the wildlife and even with public policy for the future of Texas. And the organization is committed to getting yellow school buses full of kids out on the land, so they know where their food and water comes from. It’s important that young people know that private landowners are taking care of the natural resources that benefit us all, so we can keep doing it in the future.”
The Impact: “Once you get like-minded people working together doing the same thing, you can make a lot of positive changes—and that’s just what TWA is doing.”
Life Member Since: 2011
Home: Kerrville, Texas in Kerr County
Profession: Owner and Silversmith, Clint Orms Engravers & Silversmiths
Land Ownership: Small acreage (Less than 50 acres). Sold property in 2021.
Reason for Joining: As the owner of a specialty business, Clint was invited to participate in the trade show held in conjunction with TWA’s annual convention. At the convention, he was impressed by the myriad of educational activities directed at young people. His children were young, and Clint recognized family-friendly TWA as an ally to help him rear them as outdoors enthusiasts and conservationists. The children are now 22 and 21, and the organization “has been part of their lives forever.”
The Benefits: “For me, Texas Wildlife [the monthly magazine] has been a great resource, allowing me to read and follow up on things that I can do as a landowner to manage and conserve my own property. It’s also been helpful to attend the educational seminars at the convention where I can learn more and gain friendships with other landowners, both large and small. When it comes down to it, all landowners have the same interests, but may have to adopt different methods for caring for their land.
“You don’t have to be a big landowner to benefit from TWA’s philosophies because it’s all about embracing the core values of land stewardship in your daily life. When you’re around like-minded people you will learn more—and do more.”
The Impact: “Anything we can do to help people get outdoors and caring for the land is vitally important. Theodore Roosevelt pushed for national parks, so people could do just that. Here in Texas, we have the opportunity to buy acreage and have our own piece of paradise. When we manage our land properly, it contributes to the well-being of the state."