Fly High, Free Bird

Houston District Comes to the Aid of Texas Wildlife Advocates

There are no grand displays of their altruism around Magnolia, Texas, no college scholarships bearing their name or parties where needy children celebrate a joyous holiday that might not have been. No, reporters don’t always come calling when their projects are done – returning things to their natural order doesn’t usually make the headlines. But the people at Friends of Texas Wildlife know they’re making a difference.

For these volunteers, hooves clopping freely into the distance or wild wings flapping toward the horizon provide all the necessary fanfare.

When Houston District Sales Manager Steve Ware and others at Martin Marietta learned the nonprofit could use a hand, they were more than happy to oblige.

“They were building a flight cage and recognized they would need a gravel floor,” Ware says. “They had limited funds and wanted to know if we could help. I took the idea to (Vice President-General Manager) George Burger and, after talking about it for a little while, we realized we could.”

Each year, about 90 Friends of Texas Wildlife volunteers care for more than 5,000 injured, orphaned and abandoned native Texas wildlife, rehabilitating opossum, squirrels, fawns, raptors and other native species until they can be returned to the wild.

While the word “cage” often implies a small space, Marcia Bartos, the nonprofit’s president, says the 100-foot long, 24-foot wide flight cage is quite the opposite.

“We’ve been raising funds for it for about five years. It’s 16-feet high and meets all of the regulations set forth by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” she says. “We’re a small organization, so raising the money for the cage while continuing to care for our animals was difficult. That’s why, for us, companies like Martin Marietta have truly been a blessing.”

The new cage is important to the state, says Bartos, adding that it is just one of four flight cages across Texas sizable enough to rehabilitate large birds of prey like bald eagles, hawks, owls and falcons.

Included at the cage’s base are 50 tons of Martin Marietta gravel from the Garwood Sand & Gravel operation.

While the donation of material and shipping costs were fairly minor expenses, Ware says the project was rewarding because it allowed for the partnership of two organizations that quietly work for substantial change to the local community.

“This was all for a good cause. I think everyone can agree on that,” he says. “It’s often the littlest efforts that go the longest way. It didn’t take much for us to help, but we and the community received a huge return. It’s a true example of value.”

Since opening the flight cage in the late summer, Friends of Texas Wildlife has rehabilitated several raptors.

Beyond that goal, however, Bartos says Martin Marietta and its employees are having another impact.

“Part of our mission is education. People come across an injured animal and want to help, but they don’t know how dangerous that can be, so we want them to know we’re here as a resource,” she says. “Working with corporate sponsors like Martin Marietta can really help us spread that word. It’s a vital form of support and we thank you for it.”

For more information about Friends of Texas Wildlife and its mission, visit www.ftwl.org.

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