By Steve Lang, News and Publications
   A $275,000 gift from Concho Resources Inc. (“Concho”), a Midland-based independent oil and natural gas company, will fund a West Texas native seeds greenhouse at Sul Ross State University.
   Construction of the greenhouse and related site improvements will be the first of a three-phase project to establish a West Texas Native Seeds Research Center at Sul Ross.  When completed, the nearly $2 million research center will help produce bulk quantities of native seeds for use in virtually any type of land restoration.
   West Texas Native Seeds is a joint initiative of the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) at Sul Ross and the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.  The West Texas Native Seeds Initiative has three major goals: first, the collection, evaluation and release of seed sources of native plants to commercial seed producers to make locally-adapted seeds readily available to consumers in large quantities; second, developing and disseminating restoration and reclamation strategies to be used to re-establish native plants in disturbed or degraded habitats; and, third, promoting the use of native plants in rangeland restoration, highway right-of-way restoration, oil and gas, and energy transmission right-of-way reclamation and horticultural plantings.
   “We’re thrilled with Concho’s early support for this ambitious project,” said Dr. Louis Harveson, professor of Natural Resource Management and the Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., BRI Endowed Director. “The West Texas Native Seeds project will help conserve the borderlands we love by providing native seeds for land and habitat restoration, including highway right-of-ways, oil and natural gas development reclamation, pipeline revegetation or replanting due to natural disasters.”
   Concho, established in 2004, is the largest pure-play Permian Basin operator with nearly one million gross acres. The company employs more than 1,100 people in the Permian Basin region and has annual sales of more than $1.6 billion.
   Harveson said that the native seeds initiative presently operates in the research and development stage. “For the past several years (since 2010), we have identified plants of interest and collected the seeds, in total more than 900 collections of 116 plant species.”
   “The greenhouse, which is the first phase of the project, will enable us to grow these seeds in controlled conditions, identify which species grow best, and then determine the priority plants for mass production,” he said.
   The first two native plants, silver bluestem and whiplash pappusgrass, will soon be available for release, Harveson said.
   The greenhouse, along with a shade structure, potting shed and new east entrance, will be located on the north side of Highways 90 and 67, across from the Turner Range Animal Science Center. Phase two of the project will include more site improvements, including landscaping and concrete sidewalks and parking area, a new accessible entrance, walking garden and outdoor classroom.  Phase three calls for additional site improvements and a metal building to house a shop, laboratory and additional work space.
   “This is a long-term restoration project and we are just now starting to see the fruits of our labor,” Harveson said.
   “This part of the world is changing. The oil and gas industry has the capacity to make their practices more compatible with good land stewardship and that is exactly what Concho is doing. They have truly embraced this project.”
   “Concho recognizes the impact that oil and gas development can have on the landscape.  As such, Concho is committed to the responsible development of our natural resources and is excited about contributing to a project that will have a lasting impact in West Texas.  We consider it our corporate responsibility to promote sustainable development and environmental stewardship,” said Scott Kidwell, Concho’s Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs.
   For more information, contact Harveson, (432) 837-8225 or