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Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation

With each passing year, Mary Frances Cargile is ever more grateful for her family’s multi-generational ranching history in Texas. The family’s ranch in San Angelo is where she formed her values and work ethic,  and where she cultivated her passion for nature.

“I’m one of six kids, and we had free reign outside,” she said. “Being outdoors was our play place and our safe space. Hunting and fishing were also what we did growing up, and that has carried through to adulthood as well for all of us.”

But it wasn’t all fun and games.

“Outside chores were part of what we did pretty much every weekend. We helped round up livestock, and, from a young age, I spent a lot of weekends repairing fences, and a lot of summers spraying mesquite and addressing invasive species. One of my earliest memories is my grandfather handing each of us kids a feed stack, and he would give us a dollar per pound to pick up scrap metal or have us pull cockleburs in the creek bed all afternoon so they wouldn’t end up stuck on the wool of our sheep herd.”

Her family’s love of the land is rooted in a long history of stewarding the land through good times and bad.

“On my dad’s side of the family, both his dad’s and mom’s sides ranched, and both of those families ranched during the fifties when Texas had a massive drought,” she recalled. “My grandfather always talked about how he would never get to a point where he was having to burn cactus to feed cattle again, and how our overgrazing had kind of put us in a bad position. He witnessed firsthand what that looked like.”

Mary Frances has her own memories from drought years as well.

“I’ll never forget the 2011 drought. It was terrible. I think part of my respect for the land, and my understanding for what conservation means and why it’s important, was just that secondhand knowledge from my family’s experiences of having to sell huge amounts of livestock because the land couldn’t support it.”

Mary Frances is a Senior Associate Banker at J.P. Morgan Private Bank in Fort Worth, and when she’s not working, she spends as much time outdoors as she can. A friend introduced her to Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s (TPWF) Stewards of the Wild, a conservation leadership program aimed at young professionals. She liked what she experienced and raised her hand to serve. She is now co-chair of the Fort Worth Chapter.

“I think some young people have this perception that nonprofit foundations are things our parents get involved in. It’s a misconception that you have to be in a financial donor status before an organization is relevant to you. I think Stewards does a really good job of breaking it down and making TPWF’s mission more tangible and accessible.”

Since 1991, TPWF has raised and invested over $235 million to support Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and our many conservation partners to ensure that all Texans, today and in the future, can enjoy the wild things and wild places of Texas. In 2014, Stewards of the Wild was formed to reach a younger audience who will be the conservation leaders of the future.

“I think it brings awareness to the fact that it doesn’t just take financial resources to make an impact. It takes bodies and awareness, and not just the traditional white male hunter or fisher. We need to broaden our relevance and engagement to include females, and people of different ethnicities and backgrounds.”

As co-chair, Mary Frances is helping to organize more events to reach new members and engage with current members on a wider variety of topics.

“Not just hunting and fishing focused, but also including some events that are more conservation focused. And, maybe that means also incorporating something like an event focused on photography to tap into the population who may not hunt and fish, but who are still concerned with protecting our wild spaces,” she said. “My hope is that, going forward, we have a broader, more diverse demographic that will engage with us, and that the mission of Texas Parks and Wildlife and Stewards of the Wild will resonate with them throughout the year. The more Texans who understand, respect, and engage with our wild spaces, the better.”