San Antonio Women Honored as Leaders in West Texas Conservation

Roxie Hayne and Ruthie Russell were honored as the West Texas Conservationists of the Year for their pioneering dedication to wildlife and habitat conservation in West Texas.

Two San Antonio women were honored on April 12 for their conservation contributions in West Texas. The Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) celebrated the second annual West Texas Conservationists of the Year award ceremony at the San Antonio Country Club on April 12, which was hosted by the Borderlands Research Foundation, the charitable arm of the Institute.

Guests at the event.

It was an evening inspired by amazing women in the field of natural resource conservation. Roxana (Roxie) Catto Hayne and Ruthie Bowman Russell are longtime leaders in West Texas conservation. The women were recognized for their leadership with a program that included highlights of their work in West Texas, and each honoree received a bronze statue of quail created by artist John Kobald.

BRI Advisory Board Chairman Dan Allen Hughes, Jr. and BRI Executive Director Dr. Louis A. Harveson presented Ruthie with a bronze statue of quail to honor her West Texas conservation work.

Hayne’s ranching heritage goes back to 1883 with the A.S. Gage Ranch located in Brewster and Presidio counties. The ranch flourished under the leadership of her grandfather Alfred S. Gage’s management. Roxie and her family have continued the ranching tradition on the Catto-Gage Ranch with an emphasis on conservation of natural resources. The Catto-Gage Ranch supports a diversity of wildlife, plants and habitats that thrive alongside well-managed cattle herds thanks to the family’s dedication. The ranch was honored with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s prestigious Lone Star Land Steward Award in 2007.

Roxie Hayne with her bronze statue of quail, in honor of her dedication to conservation in West Texas.

Russell inherited her conservation values and love of West Texas from her grandmother, Verna Hooks McLean, who preached about how important it was to respect nature and improve the land. Russell took the lessons to heart and devoted her life to land and wildlife conservation. She and husband Johnny manage multiple ranches in Texas, including the 101 Ranch in West Texas and the Sycamore Springs Ranch on the Devils River, which holds a conservation easement through the Texas Agricultural Land Trust and was honored with a Lone Star Land Steward Award from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 2014.

Landscape-scale conservation takes determination, passion and resources, something both honorees exemplify.

Ruthie with members of her family.

Lilly Morin, a BRI student who recently defended her master’s thesis and who has embarked upon her own conservation journey with her first professional job at the East Foundation in South Texas, spoke at the event, saying, “Thank you, Ruthie and Roxie, for what you do to conserve our beautiful state. You are very inspiring.”

Recent graduate of BRI studies, Lilly Morin, spoke at the event.

Other BRI students enrolled in Sul Ross State University graduate and undergraduate programs attended the event to share information about their research on West Texas wildlife, including quail, mule deer, black bears, aoudad, grassland birds and more.

BRI graduate assistant Elle Sutherland and BRI graduate Lilly Morin.

Support from land stewards is an essential component of that research, enabling access to the wilderness and wildlife upon which these studies depend.

Wildlife Filmmaker Ben Masters and BRI Researcher Dr. Ryan S. Luna.

Other notable attendees included U.S. Congressman Tony Gonzales; State Representative Eddie Morales; Former Speaker of the House Joe Straus; Regional Director for Senator Cornyn Andi Dooley; retired U.S. Congressman Henry Bonilla; Texas State University System Chancellor Dr. Brian McCall; and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director Dr. David Yoskowitz.

The annual event celebrates and supports West Texas wildlife and conservation research.

Roxie and family after the award ceremony.

“The Borderlands Research Institute advances our understanding and appreciation of the Chihuahuan Desert borderlands through scientific investigations, student training, and sharing information with stakeholders and land stewards,” said Allen W. Smith, a founding member of the BRI advisory board who also serves as President of the Borderlands Research Foundation. “We are proud to honor these two conservation leaders who are making a difference for the land and wildlife in West Texas.”

To see more photos from the evening, visit our Flickr account.

View tribute videos of each honoree on our YouTube site, linked here at Roxie’s video and Ruthie’s video.