Taking a well-deserved break in the afternoon shade
| Nearly two decades ago, a lawyer and two
scientists independently became concerned about the dwindling numbers
of certain species of cacti in Texas and Mexico.
The published information on the conservation status
of cacti was fragmented and anecdotal. Even so, the information that
continued to be published over the years was remarkably consistent with
their individual observations. The inescapable conclusion was that, at
least in the Tamaulipan Thornscrub of South Texas and adjacent Mexico,
certain kinds of cacti were being hunted, root-plowed
and bulldozed in the direction of extinction.
One of these, the star cactus (Astrophytum asterias)
appeared to be on the brink of absolute extinction, and was accordingly
listed as "endangered" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in
Other species, such as peyote (Lophophora williamsii),
were not so close to extinction as to justify endangered status, but
the geographic range of peyote had clearly become reduced over the past
few decades, and, at the population level, peyote had become locally
extinct or endangered in many areas of its historical range.
These concerned observers continued to gather and
process information individually, until they synchronistically began to
encounter and correspond with each other beginning in the late 1990's.
It soon became obvious that it was the responsibility of people to do
something tangible about preserving South Texas cacti, and, in 2004, the essence
of that "something" acquired the name "Cactus Conservation Institute".
The members of the Cactus Conservation Institute:
Dr. Martin Terry, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of
Biology at Sul Ross University. Dr. Terry worked in the pharmaceutical
industry for decades before deciding to pursue his interest in
botanical research by re-entering academia. His growing concern over
the accelerating destruction of the habitat known as the Tamaulipecan
thornscrub in South Texas focused his interest on star cactus and
peyote. The plight of star cactus showed him what could happen when a
cactus is loved to the brink of extinction. A brief exercise in
projecting from known circumstances instilled a growing concern for
peyote and led him to seek others with the skills needed to take
Bennie Williams, an attorney, submitted the applications
for IRS and Texas tax exempt status.
Steve Van Heiden offered decades of experience in the study
Ted Herrera was born in
Mirando City, Texas in “the Coahuiltecan Sacred Land along the Rio
Grande where the Peyote grows”. Ted has been invaluable for his
help in locating an appropriate study population and for his assistance
with our field study. He is dedicated to protecting the future of
the peyote plant and actively promoting public education towards that end. With that
intention, Ted has also helped us perform our research in a way that has
been respectful to the peyote.
Ted is the only CCI board member who belongs to the Native American
Church. He is the founder and spiritual leader of the Rio Grande Native
Ted in the sacred garden
Part of the normal wear-and-tear when working near Lophophora