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Prairie For Sale: There's A Buyer, And A Price

Update, Tuesday 4:47 PM: Jarid Manos says that his group, the Great Plains Restoration Council, would likely try to work with the prospective buyer on preserving even a portion of Rock Creek Ranch.

“If we do this right and there’s conservation, it makes [the buyer’s] project not just another [building], but sustainability for the landscape," Manos says. "There are very accomplished landscape architects. We can still use it in a way. [Rock Creek Ranch] is too priceless to lose. It expresses life like people don’t imagine, right in our own backyard."

Update, Tuesday 3:59 PM: The Texas School Land Board unanimously voted today to sell Rock Creek Ranch. There’s a buyer and a specific amount on the table, says Jim Suydam of the General Land Board, but details won't be released until the transaction is complete.  

Our original post:

There aren’t many patches of tallgrass prairie left in North Texas. But one that spans 2,000 acres just south of Fort Worth goes up for sale on Tuesday. 

Jarid Manos says stepping onto Rock Creek Ranch is like walking into a painting.

“Almost all the prairies in this country, in North America, have been damaged or destroyed," he says, "and to come across some place that is almost like biblically pristine, so effusive with life, you couldn’t imagine it.”

Manos is CEO and founder of the Great Plains Restoration Council. He’s fought for years to preserve one of the largest remaining tracts of native tallgrass in North Texas.

Jim Suydam, who works for the State’s General Land Office, says Manos's work was impressive, "but he doesn’t have $30 million.” That's how much the state hopes to raise from Tuesday’s sale.  

“Jarid Manos is a very articulate and very persuasive activist,” Suydam says, so persuasive that in 2006 he convinced Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson to give him access to the land that had been behind closed gates. Since then, he’s taken schoolkids, scientists and government officials on prairie hikes. He also convinced the Tarrant County Commissioners to make a $1 million commitment for seed money.

But that seed hasn’t grown enough.  The state's Suydam says the economy has picked up, and buyers are interested. Selling could mean big money for Texas schools.

“The school land board has a legal fiduciary responsibility to make as much money on their assets as they can," Sudyam says, "because that helps keep your local property taxes down. And nobody’s stepping up to say, 'Tax me more so we can buy that property out there.' ”

So the prairie, which is already cut in half by a highway being built, will probably be developed instead of preserved. And Jarid Manos's dream of a national park in North Texas could be gone.

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.