Inspiring

Fried chicken tycoon spent 50 years restoring Texas wasteland and now it’s unrecognizable

June 7th, 2021

David Bamberger has been many things in his life. He’s been a door-to-door vacuum salesman, a fried chicken tycoon and now he’s a champion of land stewardship and habitat restoration.

Bamberger has converted 5,500 acres of overgrazed land into an area with tremendous biodiversity over the last 50 years.

His accomplishments are now a model of land stewardship and he’s seen as a visionary.

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National Geographic/YouTube Source: National Geographic/YouTube

David Bamberger makes his fortune.

Bamberger made his first fortune selling vacuums door-to-door. There was evidently a lot of money in the commission sales job and after a decade, he had half a million dollars in the bank.

Bamberger was then approached by a friend who needed financial backing for a fried chicken restaurant. The man’s name was Bill Church and his restaurant was Church’s Chicken. By the late 1960s, the business had made both men quite wealthy.

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National Geographic/YouTube Source: National Geographic/YouTube

No more noble cause than restoring land.

As a youngster, Bamberger was influenced by the book “Pleasant Valley” by Louis Bromfield. He decided there was no more noble a cause than restoring land to its natural beauty. Bamberger then set out to use his wealth to do exactly that.

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National Geographic/YouTube Source: National Geographic/YouTube

“Realtors were trying to show me places with landing strips and big fancy houses, and I says, ‘You got me all wrong. I’m not interested in this kind of stuff. I want something nobody else wants. I want something that has been so beat up, so neglected,’ ” Bamberger said to NPR.

The land he found was 5,500 acres near Johnson City, Texas.

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National Geographic/YouTube Source: National Geographic/YouTube

Changing the landscape Bamberger Ranch

Over the next half-century, Bamberger restored the land. He cleared away the juniper ash, scattered barrels of grass seed, and planted hundreds of trees. The restored land on Bamberger’s property has had positive impacts on the surrounding ecosystem as well.

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Bamberger Ranch Preserve/Facebook Source: Bamberger Ranch Preserve/Facebook

“What he does here affects the quality of the water running off the land, and in that respect, it affects everyone downstream,” said Chad Norris from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Bamberger was awarded Texas’ highest voluntary land stewardship award for his efforts.

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Bamberger Ranch Preserve/Facebook Source: Bamberger Ranch Preserve/Facebook

People flock to Bamberger Ranch

3000 people visit the ranch every year to witness Bamberger’s massive land restoration project. Many of those who visit the ranch are new landowners hoping to do the same with their property. Often these people have recently made their fortunes in nearby Austin, Texas in the high-tech industry.

“I come here to learn, in a very short period of time, what it has taken these people 40-plus years to learn,” said software engineer Mark Zuzanek whilst on his 4th tour of the ranch.

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Bamberger Ranch Preserve/Facebook Source: Bamberger Ranch Preserve/Facebook

Building a bat cave.

Much like another wealthy individual, Bruce Wayne, Bamberger decided to build a bat cave on his property. Only in Bamberger’s case, he did so literally. In 1998, he carved out a cave into one of his hillsides and lined it with gunite.

Bat populations are declining at an alarming rate and experts say that helping to build habitat for them is an excellent way to help.

Bamberger’s cave didn’t attract too many bats at first but now as many as 400,000 bats make their home on his property every year.

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Bamberger Ranch Preserve/Facebook Source: Bamberger Ranch Preserve/Facebook

You can also restore land in your area.

Perhaps you are just like David Bamberger and feel that restoring land to its natural beauty is the noblest cause there is. If that is the case, Bamberger has a message for you.

“You don’t need a bulldozer. You need a chainsaw, wheelbarrow, axes, hand tools, and a lot of friends coming out from time to time, and a little time,” Bamberger says. “You can buy used equipment — don’t waste your money on new — and you can accomplish on your property what I’ve done here.”

Learn more about the creation of Bamberger ranch in the video below.

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

Source: National Geographic/NPR

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