The Foundation began as a shared dream between Robert Claude East and his sister, Lica. Robert, Lica and their mother were an extremely close-knit and private family. They loved their land and its diverse wildlife and habitat and protected it as fiercely as they protected their privacy. The death of his mother and sister left a void in Robert's life that was never quite filled. His hope was that this Foundation would serve to honor their memory. The Foundation, a nonprofit tax exempt organization, was created through the generosity of Robert C. East who died on June 18, 2007. His vision of compatibility between livestock and wildlife can now be studied and carried on in perpetuity. In carrying out its mission to provide the opportunity (either through its operations or funding) to research South Texas wildlife and their habitats, the Foundation will help to preserve and protect for the public the ranching and wildlife heritage so dear to Robert East and his family. The knowledge gained from these studies will have habitat management implications and will encourage South Texas ranchers and landowners to be wise stewards of this great habitat, resulting in lasting benefits to the South Texas landscape and all the people of the State of Texas.
The habitat owned by the Foundation, which is dedicated to the Foundation’s scientific and educational purposes, covers more than 215,000 acres in South Texas, spread over six different ranches.
The trustees of the Robert C. East Management Trust created the Foundation as specified in the Trust and served as its founding board of directors during the initial years of the Foundation.
Fiercely private, independent, self-reliant and extremely frugal, the East family had a deep and abiding respect, pride and love for the land.
Alice Kleberg East, was born Alice Gertrudis Kleberg – one of five children of Alice Gertrudis King and Robert Justus Kleberg. Alice Gertrudis King was the granddaughter of Captain Richard and Henrietta King, founders of the King Ranch. It was Alice K. East who was tied up by bandits that raided the San Antonio Viejo ranch. Alice made sure she tucked her boots under her skirt so the bandits wouldn't steal her silver spurs. Alice married Tom Timmons East, Sr., and they had three children, Tom Timmons East, Jr., Alice Hattie (Lica) East, and Robert Claude East. A century after the creation of the King Ranch, Alice Gertrudis Kleberg East withdrew from the King Ranch and received both the Santa Fe and San Antonio de Viejo ranches. After a further division, the San Antonio de Viejo ranch and other properties were operated by herself, her daughter Lica and her son Robert East. Lica passed away in 1993, Alice Kleberg East in 1997 and Robert a decade later in 2007, the last East to run the ranch.
The East Wildlife Foundation was founded in 2007 as a result of the generosity of Robert Claude East to promote wildlife conservation, livestock management, and private land stewardship. His intent was that the EWF support research, education and outreach for sustaining rangeland habitats for both native wildlife conservation and livestock production.