Our Land

The ranchlands held by the East Foundation were acquired by the East Family across a period of almost 100 years. Tom T. East, Sr. registered his diamond-bar brand in 1912, and then began acquiring ranchland. After the 1915 marriage of Tom East and Alice Kleberg, the new couple moved to the San Antonio Viejo, where they ranched and raised a family. Through the years, the East family ranched mainly on lands across the Wild Horse Desert, a region known also as the South Texas Sand Sheet and the Coastal Sand Plains. This area is the legendary Llanos Mesteños, where the last of the wild Spanish mustangs and free-ranging longhorns remained up through the first of the 20th Century.

With over 215,000 acres of native rangeland, the East Foundation has one of the largest ranch holdings in Texas and is ranked by The Land Report as the 44th largest landowner in the nation. The Foundation’s lands are in six separate ranches in parts of Jim Hogg, Starr, Willacy and Kenedy counties. The headquarters ranch is the historic San Antonio Viejo, situated across southern Jim Hogg and northern Starr counties.

When Robert C. East passed the East Family’s ranchland to the Foundation, he wanted it to be used for both wildlife conservation and raising cattle. He directed that the lands be used as a working laboratory to include cattle ranching as an integral part of the overall operations of the Foundation.

The Foundation’s ranches represent a full range of conditions for South Texas.

  • Habitat represents the 4 distinct ecological regions of South Texas: Coastal Sand Plain (119,559 acres), Tamaulipan Thornscrub (84,989 acres), Laguna Madre Barrier Islands & Coastal Marshes (6,004), and Rio Grande Valley (5,176 acres).
  • Soils represent the diversity of the region, being mainly sandy and drought-prone. The dominant soil complexes include the Sarita (41%), Hebbronville (15%), Randado (13%), and Delmita (8%).
  • Elevations, from east to west, range from 0 to 728 feet, and average annual precipitation ranges from 24 to 18 inches.
  • About 60% drains to the Nueces River Basin and 40% to the Rio Grande.

Traditionally maintained as native rangeland and as working cattle ranches, the lands operated by the Foundation are now managed as a field laboratory for discovery and problem solving. These native rangelands support a cattle herd of over 5,000 head. By continuing to operate a working cattle ranch, the Foundation is managing its native rangelands under many of the same constraints faced by most working ranches. In this way, we are able to more directly understand the challenges faced by ranchers, making our research programs more relevant to land managers.