Mary Pearl Meuth’s commitment to nature conservancy extends beyond her work life.
Meuth, Texas Master Naturalist assistant state coordinator, was recently honored by the Texas Wildlife Association as a 2021 Volunteer of the Year for their Conservation Legacy Program for her leadership and efforts to produce a strategic plan for a $2 million donation to the organization. She said volunteering for the association allows her to invest in her passion for natural resource stewardship and education outside of her professional role.
Volunteering beyond Master Naturalist duties
Meuth was hired by AgriLife Extension in 2014 and now coordinates the activities of more than 8,000 statewide Master Naturalist volunteers. She co-produces the Texas Master Naturalist statewide curriculum, which contains 24 units, including subjects such as geology, ornithology and wetland ecology. She also organizes the state Master Naturalist conference each fall as part of training 600-plus naturalists and naturalists-to-be.
Meuth joined the Texas Wildlife Association in 2011 as the first Learning Across New Dimensions in Science educator prior to working with the Master Naturalist program. She was instrumental in developing Wildlife by Design programs, the Bird is the Word Discovery Trunk and single-day teacher workshops.
Staying dedicated to the Texas Wildlife Association’s mission, Meuth led the Conservation Legacy Advisory Committee alongside co-chair Tamara Trail, a landowner and conservation advocate. The 30-plus member committee of partners, educators and landowners was charged with creating a strategic plan for adult and youth natural resource education and stewardship programming.
Meuth and Trail were recognized for their leadership and volunteer efforts on that committee.
“It’s exciting to be recognized as a volunteer and to see the association’s focus on educating new generations of Texans about natural resources and the ecosystems around them,” she said. “I am happy to be part of that movement and to have the opportunity to strengthen established relationships and build new partnerships.”
Planning for future education, outreach
The Texas Wildlife Association’s Conservation Legacy strategic plan was developed to manage a recent $2 million private donation to the association that will help expand outreach and education programs related to natural resource conservation.
The donation is helping the association expand programming and strengthen partnerships with those who share the goals to conserve Texas’ natural resources and native ecosystems, Meuth said.
“TWA is one of the most comprehensive and connected natural resource organizations in the state,” she said. “They partner with everyone from state agencies like Texas A&M AgriLife and Texas Parks and Wildlife to nonprofit groups, city nature centers and school districts large and small across the state. They’re the hub in the wheel when it comes to outreach.”
A philosophy of stewardship
Texas is 95% privately owned, and Meuth said connecting all Texans with the land is important. Private landowners in Texas have a stake in stewarding the shared resources provided by their property, such as water that recharges through their land, moves into the system of Texas aquifers and reservoirs and, ultimately, the faucets of fellow Texans.
Education and outreach are critical for reaching new generations of conservation-minded Texans, whether youth in schools or adults who want to learn more about land stewardship and what they can do to protect and promote native flora and fauna, Meuth said.
COVID-19 has increased interest in the natural world as people choose to explore the outdoors, whether city parks, larger outdoor spaces or national parks, she said. As a result, Texans realize they want to know more about the ecosystems that surround them.
“It’s exciting. I want to share the relevancy of stewardship with all Texans, whether they are living on a few rural acres or in a downtown apartment,” Meuth said. “The native flora and fauna around the state are worth protecting and exploring. Everything that walks, crawls, swims or flies across Texas is important to me, and I want it to be important to them.”
Meuth was honored earlier this year with a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Superior Service award for her leadership, flexibility and the drive that embodies the heart and culture of the Master Naturalist program.