Our Prairie People: Rory & Virginia

Published by Kirsti Harms on

Rory and Virginia are shown here enjoying the fruit of their labors: Eastern gamagrass to the left and switchgrass to the right. Photos by Robert Stern.

In 2016, after relocating from Houston to Fayette County, Rory Johnston and Virginia Doyle faced a decision regarding their newly acquired property’s valuation. They chose the 1-D-1 Open Space Wildlife Management Valuation, common among landowners switching from Agricultural valuation. This decision led them to the wonderful world of native prairie restoration! They have been NPAT Members since 2019.

Rory and Virginia had the good fortune to be introduced to Tim Siegmund and Bobby Eichler, of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, by Mark Brown. Tim and Bobby got the two prairie enthusiasts signed up in the TPWD’s “Pastures for Upland Birds (PUB) Program”, and the journey began.  When Rory and Virginia first learned about the PUB program they quickly realized how little they knew about prairie restoration, so joining NPAT was the logical and fortuitous thing to do.

Over time, the two discovered that their property fell within the disappearing Blackland Fayette Prairie region, which needs urgent and ongoing conservation. Joining forces with other landowners, including Mark and Cheryl Brown, and Gary and Diana Kocurek, they applied to NPAT to establish the Fayette Prairie Chapter. Their request was granted, and an active chapter was formed.

Recognizing the trend of fragmented land parcels within the Fayette Prairie, they were instrumental in funding the Smaller Acreage Restoration Program (SARP) as a grant initiative to help landowners restore and conserve their grasslands. Rory and Virginia are also familiar with the work and dedication it takes to restore these prairies, particularly controlling invasive species. Rory states, “It is not for the faint-hearted”.

According to Fayette Chapter officer Mark Brown, “Rory and Virginia have had the most impact in fundraising.  Both are the organizers of all the presentations we host in setting up meals and refreshments. They are very instrumental in spreading the word about prairies and restoration. Without them fund raising there would be no SARP.”

In addition to their educational efforts in the Fayette Prairie Chapter, they also participate in the South Central Texas Prescribed Burn Association.

Thank you, Rory and Virginia, for bringing your support, talent and enthusiasm for native prairies to Texas!

We are grateful to you and all of our members. If you are not yet an NPAT member, learn more about it HERE.

Colleen Marks (left) with Rory and Virginia at a 6th Annual Barnraiser. Photo is by Daniel Ortiz.
The South Central Texas Prescribed Burn Association are shown working on the burn plan.

1 Comment

Niall · August 4, 2023 at 1:14 am

Well done. Proud of what you guys have achieved in a relatively short space of time.

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