Cook's Branch Conservancy
In 1990, the Mitchell family began a major, long-term habitat preservation project at Cook’s Branch, the family's 6,000-acre preserve in the Piney Woods of East Texas (that was acquired by the Mitchells in 1964). The project was initiated and driven by George and Cynthia's daughter, Sheridan Mitchell Lorenz.
Today, Cook's Branch Conservancy operates as a program of the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.
The conservancy promotes conservation ethics and demonstrates the resilience of nature in perpetuity, offering a rare glimpse into what a century of regeneration looks like in the East Texas Piney Woods. The transformation of the once clear-cut, overgrazed working ranch into an award-winning nature conservancy exemplifies extraordinary habitat management and wildlife conservation on private land.
Heat and water stress associated with climate change is making forests more vulnerable throughout the world. Cook’s Branch acts as a field laboratory for the study of such things as carbon flux, drought, ecosystem transition, biodiversity, and the effects of fire.
The conservancy utilizes tools such as restoration timber harvests, prescribed burning, mechanical and chemical midstory control, invasive species eradication, and replanting in various combinations to meet specific habitat goals. Evidence of the immense progress is undeniable. Aggressive restoration initiatives have enabled the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Eastern Turkey populations to expand significantly. And, the restored native prairies are bustling with sparrows and Bobwhite quail.
Cook's Branch was recognized in 2012 as an exemplary model of sustainability in Texas. The conservancy was bestowed the Leopold Award, Texas's highest award for habitat management and wildlife conservation on private land.