Exciting Progress!

The construction of the new Cactus Conservation Institute research center is moving ahead well. The pouring of the slab went great and we are already framing and putting up the walls. Here is a peek at this amazing resource-in-the-making.

Cactus Conservation Institute desert research station
The NEW Cactus Conservation Institute Desert Research Station
Cactus Conservation Institute research station
Cactus Conservation Institute research station
Cactus Conservation Institute research station
Cactus Conservation Institute research station
Cactus Conservation Institute research station

If this resource excites you or you simply recognize the immense value of such a facility for biologists engaged in desert research in West Texas, consider donating to help this project reach its goals.
Even a small donation is meaningful and appreciated. As a 501(c)3, all donations are tax deductible.

Say hello to our newest board member

We welcome Kevin Feeney to the CCI Board of Directors as our newest member. He brings not just legal knowledge but also a passion for peyote conservation that includes a well-informed familiarity with the world of peyote harvesting and commerce.

Kevin Feeney
Kevin Feeney

Kevin Feeney, PhD., JD., is educated and trained in the fields of law and cultural anthropology, areas of expertise he has combined in his study of the South Texas peyote trade and on religious peyote use by the Native American Church. 

Kevin is currently a Program Director and Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies – Social Sciences at Central Washington University. His research has been published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, Journal of Psychoactive DrugsHuman OrganizationCurare, and the Cactus & Succulent Journal.

To our friends and supporters

Blake taking a break from the hot South Texas sun during our regrowth study

Reflections and transitions

The end of the year — after the last cactus flower  has folded its petals inward (in West Texas that would have to be Ariocarpus fissuratus),  and many weeks before the first spring bloomers (like Echinocereus spp.)  will surprise us with their spring bursts of incredible colors —  we pause momentarily, at the “still point of the turning world”,  to contemplate where we have been and where we are going.

Blake Williams, our cactus brother-in-arms and Board Member of Cactus Conservation Institute since its inception, recently passed away after a long bout with cancer.  We especially miss Blake’s dry sense of humor.  Among the last things he said to Martin on the phone was,”You know, dying sure is boring.”

We were blessed and feel honored to have had the opportunity to work with Blake and have him in our lives as a true compadre. And we were especially privileged to have his participation not just as part of Cactus Conservation Institute but as one of the founders. It is a notable point that the three founders all met each other independently
and began discussing the pressing need for peyote conservation efforts. Once we discovered that all three of us knew each other and had been carrying out parallel conversations, the creation of Cactus Conservation Institute in 2004 was an inevitable outcome.
Blake was a retired attorney who took care of our paperwork and legal research but he also had a deep love of the Texas brush country and a real knack at finding wild peyote plants when the annual hunt began for our research group.

He was an important creative force for Cactus Conservation Institute in a myriad of ways. Among Blake’s many contributions were his skills as a jeweler. It was his idea to create molds from living peyote plants in order to create realistic peyote jewelry that caused no harm to the plant. He worked quite hard to develop a patina and wax coating on the bronze versions which looked realistic. These were never sold commercially and were included as incentives for significant level donors. Those are now unique collectables that are possessed by a fortunate few.
They will no longer be produced but, as a tribute to our friend the artist, we will maintain the pages showcasing them.
Blake will be greatly missed by us all — and by anyone else who had the good fortune to know him.

Blake in 2016

While no one can replace Blake in life, we have already found an excellent new board member. Watch for our forthcoming announcement.

Towards another year.

At the Cactus Conservation Institute, we are passionate about the
preservation of vulnerable cactus species and, toward that end, 
we perform original research to enable and guide much-needed 
cactus conservation efforts. 

As part of our educational mission, we perform critical botanical research and support the dissemination of accurate, science-based information about peyote, in the Peyote Gardens of South Texas and beyond. We the staff are all volunteers, and all of us freely contribute  our time and expertise to the CCI research effort. 
But our operation and conservation research largely depend on public support.

On that note, we invite you to participate in CCI’s research efforts
by making a fully tax-deductible 2018 year-end contribution to the Cactus Conservation Institute, Inc. The Cactus Conservation Institute has been an established 501(c)3 charitable organization since 2004., There is still a small window of time for a donation to be made before the end of 2018 that will be 100% deductible from your federal income tax for the year 2018.

Peyote sales reported 1986–2016

This is the total of legal peyote sales that were reported to
the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) during 1986–2016

The values below do not include any private harvests by individual NAC members or those of NAC peyote harvesters who do not report their activities to the DPS.

As a graphical display

Reported peyote sales 1986—2016
Reported peyote sales 1986—2016


Same values in a tabular chart

Reported peyote sales 1986—2016
Reported peyote sales 1986—2016


The wall materials have been delivered!

The material shown for the exterior walls is essentially a white-painted sheet of steel on the exterior and interior surfaces, with 4 inches of styrofoam sandwiched in between, to provide both security and effective insulation from the maximum heat of early summer weather (often above 100 degrees Fahrenheit/40 degrees Celsius).   The choice of expanded styrene foam is due to it retaining its R-value over time due to not absorbing moisture and having a lower environmental footprint than comparable alternative materials.

building material delivery
Building material delivery on 16 September 2018

Photograph by Bill Elliot



Tayassu tajacu AKA javelina

Not the best images but I felt fortunate to get these.

Tayassu tajacu AKA javelina in Hudspeth County
Tayassu tajacu AKA javelina in Hudspeth County

Tayassu tajacu AKA javelina in Hudspeth County
Tayassu tajacu AKA javelina

Tayassu tajacu AKA javelina in Hudspeth County
One of these appears to have survived an encounter with a vehicle.

Tayassu tajacu AKA javelina or the collared-peccary seen in Hudspeth County earlier this year.

An exciting development

Site of the Cactus Conservation Institute Research Station

Conducting and publishing good scientific research on the cactus species which are experiencing human pressure is our passion. To perform field work involving those cacti commonly requires the willingness to brave thorny vegetation and the ability to tolerate intense sun, high heat, and wind-blown dust that can be extreme enough to interfere with the functioning of cameras, computers and other electronics. These working conditions frequently impose some challenges for botanists, not simply from those discomforts, but also due to the sometimes lengthy road travel that is required to get to and from a research site.

Imagine the benefits of a research station that was located in typical Chihuahuan Desert cactus habitat. With the area immediately around the site being capable of and suitable for providing long-term and short-term study opportunities for many types of cacti and desert plants. AND with an added advantage of bringing the researcher closer to many other sites in the area containing threatened or endangered species — adding hours of productive time to their days. We are envisioning the CCI Research Station to be that resource in Presidio County, Texas.

We are creating a space that can accommodate a very small number of botanists at one time. Not in luxurious conditions but someplace providing shelter from the sun and elements, with basic camp facilities for preparing a simple meal, a composting toilet and a pad for a bedroll.  This can be accomplished off-the-grid using rainwater collection for water, with solar panels and possibly a small wind turbine for electricity.  Finding a suitable spot for such a research station and then acquiring the property could be a daunting task but fate has provided us with a one-acre donation of land to use as the permanent site for this facility. We have already broken ground by clearing the site — with the pouring of a concrete slab scheduled for later this month (i.e. September 2018 — construction delays have pushed this into January 2019).

We will be posting updates of our progress throughout the process of its construction.

Site of the Cactus Conservation Institute Research Station
Site of the Cactus Conservation Institute Research Station

Cactus Conservation Institute will be funding the majority of the costs involved in creating this valuable resource, but additional help from the public is welcomed.  Cactus Conservation Institute is a 501(c)3 educational organization, so all donations are tax-deductible. Substantial donors of $5000 or more should contact us directly; we are quite happy to discuss the plans in more detail. For all other levels of interest, there is a PayPal donation button conveniently located on this page. No amount of support is too small. A thousand dollars is only fifty $20 donations. Thank you for your interest and for your support of this exciting project.

Site of the Cactus Conservation Institute Research Station
Site of the Cactus Conservation Institute Research Station

Spread the word!

Our friends at the Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative are seeking a conservation manager for their exciting project.

If you have the right skill set or know of someone who does please contact the IPCI about applying for the job.

Offer PDF: IPCI-CM-Position-Announcement


Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative (IPCI)

The IPCI is hiring a new Conservation Manager!

Are you committed to sustainability and health and the future of the Peyote Way of Life for the Indigenous people of the Americas? Are you experienced working with the plants and the earth? Are you able to be organized, coordinate others, and work in an inter-tribal context? Are you ready to move and live in the Sacred Peyote Gardens of South Texas?

IPCI is looking for an individual, couple, or small family to put their experience and commitment to work joining the Native American Churches, Azee’ Bee Nahagha of Dine Nation, the Wixratica Nation and their Allies in conserving the sacred Peyote Medicine.

POSITION TITLE: IPCI Conservation Manger

ORGANIZATION: Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative (IPCI)

LOCATION: IPCI Spiritual Homesite ‘the 605’, Thompsonville, Jim Hogg County, Texas

About IPCI:

The IPCI engages in diverse biocultural strategies for spiritual reconnection and restoration of Peyote, including land access and stewardship, youth education, the natural distribution of peyote, and a system of harvest and distribution that is spiritually and culturally sound. This is an international collaborative, supporting tribes and efforts focused on sustainability and indigenous sovereignty of peyote across the Native American Church, the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

Mission: Empowering indigenous communities to conserve, regenerate, and reconnect to their sacred Peyote medicine for spiritual use for generations to come.

Vision: We promote the health, wellbeing, and cultural revitalization of Native communities through reconnection to, sovereign use, and sustainability of the sacred Peyote and the lands on which it grows.

Purpose: IPCI an indigenous led, land-based initiative that directly supports the spiritual, ecological, cultural, economic, and sustainability issues related to the sacred plant medicine, Peyote and its ceremonial uses.


Conservation Manager Qualifications:

● A Bachelor’s Degree or higher in a related field; encouraged but not required

● Member of Native American Church/ABNDN or Indigenous Peyote Tribe; encouraged but not required

● Love for Nature, the environment, the land

● Able to participate in design and creation of new activities and enterprises in collaboration with a diverse team

● Demonstrated leadership ability and able to be a community model for youth

● Physical ability to walk, lift and drive in the South Texas desert

● Able to have good relationships with diverse groups of people

● Able to maintain flexible and positive attitude

● Cultural sensitivity and awareness

● Conservation awareness, biology training, nursery background, landscaping or other demonstrated experience working with plants and soil

● Sober and willing to have a background check


Roles & Responsibilities:

● Operations Manager for the IPCI spiritual home ranch, known as ‘the 605’

○ Help lead the site development of ‘the 605’

○ Ecological monitoring on the 605

○ Pilgrimage coordinator and Onsite program coordinator for IPCI youth events and other related programs

○ Conduct permaculture development activities and serve as Nursery (Vivero) manager

○ Help manage budget for spiritual homesite activities

● S. Texas Regional Conservation Coordination

○ Help to develop and manage regional harvesting and distribution activities

○ Maintain relationships and support coordination with Ranchers and others participating in IPCI regional conservation leases

○ Attend IPCI Conservation Committee meetings and carry out and coordinate agreed upon conservation strategy tasks


Communication and Workflow:

● Weekly meeting with IPCI Initiative Director and share weekly work plan with Initiative Director

● Use appropriate time and project tracking methods as agreed upon with Initiative Director

● Conduct appropriate reporting to the IPCI Board of Directors as agreed upon with Initiative Director



● $39,000 per year

● Free Lodging on ‘the 605’

● Relocation expenses covered

● Additional training as needed


Please send questions, resume, and a cover letter to

Miriam Volat, IPCI Director at  miriam@riverstyxfoundation.