Wildlife Habitat Federation

Helping Texas Landowners Restore Native Habitat For Wildlife 

About Us

Wildlife Habitat Federation 

2006
Was the first Texas recipient of a
 Conservation Innovation Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Resources Conservation Service

2007-2008
Winner of Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's Lone Star Land Steward Award for a Wildlife Management Association

2009
Winner of the Texas Wildlife Association Foundation's Quail Cooperative Conservation Award

Staff & Leadership

Jim Willis
CEO and President of Wildlife Habitat Federation

As Co-founder, CEO and President of Wildlife Habitat Federation (WHF), Jim Willis works on consultation and outreach. Willis gives presentations to both public and private groups, organizations and landowners. Willis is also a boots-on-the-ground staff member who actively participates in restoration activities.

Willis founded WHF in 2004 after a career as an agricultural economist and rice analyst for the Foreign Agricultural Service of the USDA in Washington, D.C. He also served as a foreign service officer in three American Embassies, co-owned two farm equipment dealerships, was Director of Foreign Programs for the U.S.A. Rice Council, and President of International Programs for the U.S. Rice Producers Association.

Willis currently serves on the State Technical Committee for the Natural Resources Conservation Service for USDA., the Upland Game Bird Advisory Board for Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the Texas Quail Roundtable.

Conservation Awards:

2002-2003
Soil & Water Conservation District 333 - Wildlife Conservationist Award

2003
​Soil & Water Conservation Service, Region III - Wildlife Conservationist Award

2004-2005
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's Lone Star Land Steward Award -
Gulf Prairies and Marshes Ecological Region

2011
Coastal Prairie Partnership's - 
Dick Benoit Upper Texas Coast Prairie Conservation Award

August 9, 2012
Quail Coalition of Greater Houston's -
Fletcher Gibson III LIfetime Sportsman Award

Education:

B.S. in Agri-Business, Louisiana Tech University
M.S. in Agricultural Economics, Mississippi State University
Certificate in Latin American Studies, State Department's Foreign Service Institiute

Garry Stephens
Wildlife Biologist and Program Director of Wildlife Habitat Federation

Garry Stephens joined the WHF staff in 2016 as Program Director to oversee and participate in restoration activities performed by WHF Habitat Action Teams (HATs) and the Seed Ecotype Enhancement & Development Program (SEED).

Stephens works closely with landowners to develop and implement Habitat Restoration Plans consistent with the needs of the land and the goals and objectives of the landowner and is also a part of the education team; presenting to groups and organizations.  He has in-depth knowledge of government programs and how to optimize their benefits for landowners interested in the management or restoration of wildlife habitats.  

Stephens comes to WHF with 29 years of federal service working for NRCS/USDA as a District Conservationist responsible for all conservation programs in 4 south Texas counties, as well as having served as the Zone Wildlife Biologist for a 52 county work area also in south Texas. In the private industry, he has managed ranches in Texas and Arkansas for both wildlife and livestock interests.

Education:

B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M

Gretta Sleeper
Office Administrator for Wildlife Habitat Federation

Gretta Sleeper joined the WHF staff in 2013 to expand WHF’s capabilities in the areas of accounting, project planning, marketing, intellectual technology and communications. Sleeper oversees all office related activities, administers private, state and Federal grants and contracts for the organization, assists in the development of Native Habitat Management Plans, and coordinates the annual native prairie field days.

Sleeper comes from a background of 26 years in wildlife, horse and livestock ranch management, and 36 years of ranch bookkeeping and accounting.

Education:

B.S. in Chemistry, Fort Lewis College

Kenneth Blezinger
Field Manager for Wildlife Habitat Federation

Kenneth Blezinger joined the WHF workforce in 2011 and assisted Jim Willis with landowner outreach and implementation of native prairie restorations. Blezinger’s skills of maintaining, repairing and operating agricultural equipment; his knowledge of the different native prairie plant species and how to implement the restoration practices necessary to achieve conversion of exotic grasses to native prairie habitat; and his knowledge of the people and history of Austin County and adjoining counties helped establish the foundation that WHF has today.

Blezinger is a cattle rancher, as well as a ranch services and on-site sewer service provider. He currently serves as member of the Austin County Soil & Water Board and was a former member of the Austin County Appraisal District.

Education:

B.S. in Rangeland Management, Texas A&M University

Board of Trustees:

Robert L. Moore, Chairman and Treasurer, Head of Finance 

Eliot P. Tucker, Vice Chair and Secretary

Jason Walker, Vice Chair and Head of Legal Committee

James W. Willis, President and CEO

William Gammon, III, Head of Government Relations and Insurance

William B. Osborn, III, Head of South Texas Public Relations

James Loyd Fatheree, Jr., Head of Development & Public Ralations

​​​​​​​​​​​​
2016 Annual Activity Report


Wildlife Habitat Federation (WHF) is a Texas non-profit conservation organization dedicated to the preservation and re-establishment of crucial upland game habitat vitally needed to sustain healthy populations of quail and other upland wildlife species. WHF provides information, specialized equipment and on-the-ground physical assistance to landowners and lessees committed to re-establishing native grasses and forbs.

With its headquarters located in Cat Spring, WHF services landowners largely within the 10,000 square mile area west of Houston. As acreages are more fragmented in this part of the state, WHF seeks to increase connectivity between ranches.

As the first half of 2016 rolled in with rain and wet field conditions, limiting access to project areas, Wildlife Habitat Federation put the finishing touches on its new Equipment Shed. The specialized equipment used for WHF restorations and harvests is now safely protected from the elements. This project could not have been completed without the generosity of The George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation and Quail Coalition of Greater Houston. An enclosed shop area and small rustic conference room have proven to be a great asset when hosting our annual field days, meetings and other presentations.

In mid-March of 2016, Garry Stephens was added to WHF staff as our Program Director/ Wildlife Biologist. His years of experience working with NRCS and various other conservation organizations has enhanced WHF’s capabilities regarding outreach, consultation, applying for government funding for participating landowners and just plain getting it put on the ground.

The following is a summary of northern Bobwhite quail habitat restoration and related activities accomplished by WHF in 2016:

Public Outreach and Education:
  • Multiple communications via phone (10+ calls per day), website, social media and email with interested parties 
  • 195 site visits - more than one visit is required to help landowners plan and execute restoration and native prairie seed harvest practices
  • 22 site assessment reports created for landowners following a site visit
  • 14 management plans developed outlining the complete process, timeline and cost of restoration
  • 5 presentations to public and private entities reaching 450 people
  • 2016 WHF Native Prairie Discovery Tour for 69 participants who experienced hands-on native prairie plant and insect identification, soil health and milkweed propagation for Monarch Butterflies.

Restoration Activities Completed:
  • 43,255 feet of fireguards plowed for either prescribed burns and/or for planting wildflowers
  • 171 acres of prescribed burns to open up heavily thatched areas, set back invasives and boost the native prairie grasses
  • 291 acres of herbicide application to remove invasive plant species
  • 149 acres of cover crops planted as a soil-building step in the restoration process - cover crops also help to knock back invasive species
  • 113 acres of native prairie grass seed planted with WHF’s no-till drills
  • 37 acres of native prairie wildflowers planted
  • 6 acres of heavy brush cleared with a dozer or hydromulcher
  • 82 acres shredded as a solution to the rainy season issue of grasses greening up before a prescribed burn (preferred method) could be performed
  • 347 acres of prescribed grazing where either livestock was removed to allow natives to become established, or to graze down heavily thatched native prairie habitat, opening it up for easier passage of wildlife species

Native Seed Harvest Activities:
  • 153 acres harvested for native grass seed netting 909 pounds of pure live seed
  • 65 acres harvested for native wildflower seed (gaillardia, also known as “firewheel”) netting 1957 pounds of hammermill-cleaned seed

Summary:
  • 1404 total acres of restoration/harvest activity was performed
  • 21 Landowners and 525 acres of land were serviced
  • 12 Counties were in the service range
  • 8 Landowners received assistance from WHF in applying for government conservation programs (EQIP, GRIP, USFW Partners Program, Texas State Soil & Water Conservation Board)


WHF would like to express its appreciation to all the individuals, organizations and government agencies who have generously supported WHF and its cooperating landowners this year and in the past.


   
George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Greater Houston Quail Coalition, Inc
Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation
Gulf Coast Quail Forever #3066
Ann and Henry R. Hamman
The Cheryl and Mark Brown Foundation
​Texas Wildlife Association Foundation, Inc
The Henderson-Wessendorff Foundation
San Antonio Quail Coalition
Quail Forever Brazos River Prairie #3247
All members of the WHF Board of Trustees
    


WHF looks forward to all of the planned projects scheduled and to come for 2017!