Reader Profile: Michael Mecke

July 9, 2015

Mike Mecke, a native of San Antonio, TX, has devoted his professional life to improving agricultural management, land stewardship, and water resources conservation. He retired to the Texas hill country outside of Kerrville in 2008 but maintains an active professional life teaching and serving on the boards of directors of nonprofit organizations he cofounded.

Mecke graduated from Texas A&M earning biology and agriculture degrees. He discovered rangeland ecology in his senior year and went on to earn a Master of Science degree in rangeland ecology and watershed management at the University of Wyoming.

Mecke started with the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in 1965, and in 1978 he became Rangeland Manager of the Tohono O’odham Reservation on the Arizona Mexico border for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). He later moved to the Northern Pueblos in Santa Fe, NM in a similar position where he planned and directed rangeland, recreation lands, and wildlife programs. He left the BIA in 1993 after serving as Soil & Water Conservation Manager on the Wind River Reservation in northwest Wyoming.

He soon joined the San Antonio Water System as Water Resources Planner where he worked for 10 years, eventually becoming the Agricultural Conservation Coordinator assisting irrigators to become more water efficient. During this period, he and a colleague formed the Texas Riparian Association to assist with education and improvement of Texas’s creeks and rivers.

Mecke left SAWS in 2002 to become a Water Specialist with the Texas Water Resources Institute and Texas A&M’s Extension Service where he taught water planning, water conservation, water quality, and rainwater harvesting.

After retiring in 2008, Mecke has continued to advise on water resources planning and conservation.

What He Does Day to Day
Mecke says he is semi-busy these days on his half-acre home in Kerrville, TX, where he keeps a couple of sheep who serve as his lawnmowers, and 20 chickens that provide him with fresh free-range eggs.

When we talked, he was preparing for a water symposium he’d organized that night for Kerrville residents. Kerrville is a retirement community, he explained, and the people who move to the country want to drill their own wells. They’ve come from areas with a lot of water and don’t understand the need to preserve local aquifers that feed the springs in the area.

Mecke says with the growing Kerrville population, there is great concern about keeping the water levels up. The Guadalupe River Environmental Flows State Committee, which Mecke serves on along with utility and town staffs, sets river flows to keep them alive and healthy as well as the gulf itself, he says. The committee produces a report every five years, and they just finished their first report, based on 2012 data. In preparation for the 2017 report, the committee members will start meeting once a month in January 2015.

What Led Him to This Line of Work
Mecke grew up close to farm families and his mother was a real nature lover. “From the time I could read, she took me to the library every week and I read books about birds and other wildlife.” Since he liked being on farms, but didn’t inherit one, he instead became an agriculturalist working with farmers. “As I got more mature, the basic resource was water and without that the rest didn’t matter,” says Mecke.

What He Likes Best About His Job
Mecke says money was never a priority. “I enjoy working in the outdoors, being with people, and managing and conserving resources. I also liked living in interesting, more isolated environments, including Indian reservations and small towns.”

His Greatest Challenge “Getting to understand how to work with Indian people was almost like being in a foreign country,” says Mecke. “We lived in the middle of the Tohono O’odham Reservation. We were the only [non-native] family there” beginning in 1978, he says. “It was a real culture shock and I had no idea how to manage men. It didn’t go too smoothly, but I learned. I always liked and admired them and looking at the reservation I saw the land needed managing.” says Mecke. The Indians never intended to become ranchers and farmers, he explained, and lots of time it was fitting a square head (his) into a round hole. “Luckily I have a good sense of humor and was willing to change,” he concludes. 
About the Author

Lyn Corum

Lyn Corum is a technical writer specializing in water and energy topics.

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