Powderhorn Ranch Becomes Texas’ Newest Wildlife Management Area

Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation Transfers Acclaimed Conservation Land

Powderhorn Ranch
Photo: Courtesy Of Texas Parks And Wildlife Department

AUSTIN – Over 15,000 acres of the Powderhorn Ranch along the Texas coast in Calhoun County, prime unspoiled coastal prairie, is now a state wildlife management area. The newest crown jewel in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) system is the result of a unique conservation land acquisition coalition led by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF).

The just-completed transfer of the property to the department is the culmination of a multi-year, $37.7 million land acquisition deal. Safeguarding this natural treasure has been contemplated for more than 30 years by several conservation organizations and wildlife agencies including The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and TPWD.

These organizations played a critical role in the acquisition and long-term conservation of this property. TPWF spearheaded the fundraising for the $50 million project, which includes the purchase of the property, habitat restoration and management, as well as a long-term endowment.

A significant portion of the funding for the project has been provided by NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, which was created with dollars paid by BP and Transocean in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. NFWF has provided $34.5 million for the project, making this the biggest land acquisition in the nation so far using BP spill restoration dollars.

“The department is privileged to be the steward of this unique and ecologically significant piece of the Texas Coast that the conservation community has worked so hard to protect,” said Clayton Wolf, TPWD Wildlife Division Director. “We look forward to managing these valuable natural resources for current and future generations of Texans to enjoy.”

Management activities on the Powderhorn WMA are already under way with the first public deer hunt scheduled this week. Although public access to the property will be limited as operations and infrastructure gear up, the area is anticipating offering opportunities for low impact activities like guided group birding tours as early as spring 2019.

“Our primary management objectives right now focus on the restoration of native grassland and savannah, and for improving existing hydrology to enhance freshwater wetlands habitat for wildlife, particularly whooping cranes that have expanded onto the property,” said Dan Walker, area manager at Powderhorn WMA. “We’ve already made progress toward returning the land to grassland prairie, clearing dense brush on about 4,000 acres. This restoration effort will be very valuable for research and as a demonstration area for landowners in coastal counties from Matagorda to Willacy.”

The remaining acreage at Powderhorn Ranch is earmarked as the future site of a state park. Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation will complete additional infrastructure and habitat improvement projects for the transfer to the State Parks division within the next five years.

The larger acreage transfer marks a major milestone in the multimillion-dollar project. TPWF has now completed several of the goals it set out as part of this collaboration with multiple conservation partners, including completing initial work to restore thousands of acres of native coastal prairie, raising an endowment for continued habitat management, and placing a conservation easement on the property.

“With the transfer to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department of approximately 15,000 acres of Powderhorn Ranch, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is fulfilling a promise to our partners and to the people of Texas to restore, conserve and provide recreational access to one of the largest remaining tracts of undisturbed native habitat on the Texas coast,” said TPWF Executive Director Anne Brown.

2018-10-25

 

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

Powderhorn Ranch
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You Gotta Dance With the One Who Brung Ya

Below is an excerpt from an article recently published in Eye on Nature‘s Spring 2015 issue. Eye on Nature is a  Texas Parks and Wildlife publication.

You Gotta Dance With the One Who Brung Ya

By Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers

aransas wood buffalo population Whooping Crane in Texas
Whooping Crane from Aransas Wood Buffalo Population. Photo © Sue Kersey

Known as the Aransas-Wood Buffalo (AWBP) population because of the winter and summer habitats they use, this self-sustaining population nests and rear their chicks in Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP). A few weeks after the chicks fledge, they migrate with their parents 2500 miles to ANWR on the Texas coast where they spend the winter months.

The most significant cause of decline in the Whooping Crane population came as a result of habitat loss. Millions of acres of wetlands were drained for agricultural interests destroying virtually all of their nesting habitats except those in WBNP.

Private conservation organizations and government officials finally recognized the plight of the Whooping Cranes in the 1940s and initiated efforts to protect and manage the birds. As a result, the population of the remaining wild flock increased over the following 60 years. Today there are approximately 300 birds in this population.

With this increase in numbers, the Whooping Cranes are running out of secure wintering habitats along the Texas coast and secure stop-over-points along the migration route. Presently, only about half of the occupied wintering habitat is within the safeguarded areas of the ANWR complex. Land development and increased land use intensity along the migration route is reducing even more wetland habitats.

Click on the link to read the entire article, You Gotta Dance With the One Who Brung Ya.

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***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****
Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

 

 

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Mustang Island State Park Grows by 690 Acres

News Release
Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov

May 21, 2015

Mustang Island State Park Grows by 690 Acres, Benefits from 100-Acre Adjacent Protected Land

Land Acquisition, Conservation Easement Result from Pollution Settlement

AUSTIN — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has approved a 690-acre, (279 hectares) land acquisition that increases the size of Mustang Island State Park near Corpus Christi to 4,783 acres, (1,935 hectares). In addition, the commission agreed to accept a 100-acre conservation easement donation adjacent to the park.

Both land actions result from the settlement of a pollution mitigation case brought in 2005 against Asarco and Encycle, which operated smelting and waste management facilities that discharged pollutants into upper Corpus Christi Bay for more than 60 years. The Texas Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) trustees awarded a portion of the settlement funds to buy the two tracts. Besides TPWD, the other trustees are the Texas General Land Office and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The TPW Commission authorized the purchase of the 690-acre tract in August 2014 and the transaction was finalized in October.

The 100-acre tract adjacent to Mustang Island State Park is being purchased by the Nature Conservancy-Texas Chapter and the terms of the acquisition require that a conservation easement be held by TPWD to assure the land is managed in perpetuity for conservation of coastal habitats and natural resources. With this acquisition, the state park is now connected to the 300-acre Francine Cohn Preserve, owned and managed by the conservancy. Both parties have long wanted to connect the park and the preserve with a conservation corridor.

Mustang Island State Park opened to the public in 1979. The park straddles Mustang Island, with more than five miles of beach fronting on the Gulf of Mexico, and the back side of the park extending to the shores of Corpus Christi Bay. Mustang Island has developed rapidly in recent years, and few opportunities remain to enlarge the popular state park for visitors and wildlife. The largest opportunity was the 690-acre property known as the Facey Tract on the north end of the park running from Highway 361 to Corpus Christi Bay, with a half mile of boundary in common with the park. The coastal conservation community worked for more than a decade seeking the means to acquire this tract for addition to the state park.

Information about Mustang Island State Park can be found online at http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/mustang-island .

 

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***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****
Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

 

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Whooping Cranes, On the Right Track.

“Follow along as biologists track Whooping Cranes at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Using satellite GPS technology the team hopes to help protect this endangered species.”

This is an excellent informative video, recently released by Texas Parks and Wildlife. It lets the public learn something about what is being accomplished to learn more about the endangered whooping cranes. Friends of the Wild Whoopers is so glad that this research is being done on the Aransas/Wood Buffalo flock because there is such a large need to better understand this last remaining self-sustaining population.

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat
. *****

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