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Martha Fenstermaker

Helotes | Rancher

With her sisters, Bebe and Sissy, Ms Fenstermaker has worked to protect their family ranch in the Hill Country north of and increasingly close to San Antonio. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and known as the Maverick-Altgelt Ranch and Fenstermaker-Fromme Farm, it holds buildings and other artifacts dating back to the 1820s, and also has valuable habitat for endangered species and lands for the recharge of the Edwards Aquifer. However, as San Antonio has grown, the ranch has been threatened repeatedly with breakup by highways, transmission lines, an airport, and other projects that the sisters have successfully fought off through grassroots organizing and, at times, litigation. They have also been involved in restoring vegetation on the ranch and in surrounding areas, through the Native Plant Society’s Plant Rescue Committee (which collects native plants from sites slated for bulldozing and construction) and its Project NICE, a.k.a. Natives Instead of Common Exotics (which encourages nurseries to stock and promote natives). Some of their vegetation work has been quite focused. In collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they have worked to restore the dense low brush that the endangered black-capped vireo favors, while protecting the more mature juniper that the golden-cheeked warbler relies upon. They also have worked to monitor creatures as slight as Monarch butterflies which pours through their area during the spring, while also working to bring back the massive Texas Longhorn, the Spanish breed that has such a tie to the history of the Southwest and such a good fit to its harsh and droughty lands. Through many of these efforts, the sisters have worked to be stewards for a piece of history, family tradition, and nature that grows ever rarer.

Interview Information

February 18, 2006
Helotes, Texas
Reel 2349

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