The Nature Conservancy

When speaking of the Davis Mountains, and of many of the larger isolated mountain ranges of the American Southwest, you often hear the words "sky island". What is a "sky island" and why are they important? The Nature Conservancy defines them as "true ecological islands, isolated from similar mountain ranges by vast distances, preserving living remnants that occur nowhere else". The Davis Mountains of Texas are a true sky island and harbor a unique biota unlike anything else to be found in Texas, to protect this rare and fragile enviroment The Nature Conservancy created the Davis Mountains Preserve.

Carved out of the historic U Up U Down Ranch, the Davis Mountains Preserve constitutes some 32,000 acres, an additional 70,000 of protected acres from the surrounding ranchlands have created a buffer zone extending around the preserve. The preserve reaches from the Mount Livermore highlands north to encompass a large, spectacular section of Madera Canyon.

Mt. Livermore was the local of a major find of projectile points and arrowheads buried in a pit at the summit of Baldy Peak. Other locations in the Davis Mountains Preserve show how spiritually significant this region was to Native Americans, these sites include a spectacular collection of pictographs in Madera Canyon and a sacred cave site located in Wolf's Den canyon near Mt. Livermore.

The variety of plant life in the preserve is considerable and many rare species have been identified including the Livermore sandwort. To the north, the wetter, shaded slopes of the mountains support an extensive montane forest including ponderosa pine and, in sheltered valleys, the rare Texas Madrone tree. To the south, the mountain slopes are thick with piñon pine, alligator juniper, gray oak and mountain mahogany. Unique in the Davis Mountains, there is a thick stand of quaking aspens sheltered below the summit of Mount Livermore. The aspens are a relic of a wetter climate now vanished in the Trans-Pecos, the only other know stands of aspens in Texas are found in the Chisos and Guadalupe Mountains. Animal life in the preserve is varied as well including black bear and mountain lion; some of the birds found in the higher elevations, including the Common Black-hawk, Golden Eagle, Dusky-capped Flycather, and Montezuma Quail to name a few, are found here in the preserve and almost nowhere else in Texas.

To increase public participation in the preserve, The Nature Conservancy has created The Trans-Pecos Conservation Education Program. The mission of this program is threefold and in the words of the Conservancy, "to increase the public's understanding of the importance of biological diversity, to heighten the public's awarness of natural systems and the human community's place with the ecosystem, and to nuture the developement of a conservation ethic in Texas to help protect our state's unique landscapes, habitats, and native wildlife". To this end the Davis Mountains Preserve is open to the public for scheduled field trips and volunteer workdays. For more information, contact the West Texas Program Office, PO Box 2078, Fort Davis, TX 79734, phone: (432) 426-2390, or e-mail office manager Crawford Marginot at

Tobe Gap on Mount Livermore
Claret Cup cactus in bloom
Old Pinon pines and rhyolite boulders
View of Blue and Twin Mountains from the edge of the Preserve

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