Texas Gulf Coast Habitat Becomes State Park

A multi-partner coalition including the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) Foundation has announced the purchase of the 17,351-acre Powderhorn Ranch along the Texas Gulf Coast in Calhoun County.

Wetland Marsh Waterways at Powderhorn Lake
Wetland Marsh Waterways at Powderhorn Lake (Credit: Jerod Foster)

The acquisition will conserve a spectacular piece of property that is one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled coastal prairie in the state. At $37.7 million it is the largest dollar amount ever raised for a conservation land purchase in the state and represents a new partnership model of achieving conservation goals in an era of rapidly rising land prices.

In years to come, Powderhorn Ranch is expected to become a state park and wildlife management area.

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, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). Along with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), these organizations are playing a critical role in the acquisition and long-term conservation of this property.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is spearheading 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.

Aerial Photo of Fringe Marshes Along Powderhorn Lake
Aerial Photo of Fringe Marshes Along Powderhorn Lake (Credit: Earl Nottingham/TPWD)

The real estate transaction has been more than two years in the making. Powderhorn Ranch was previously owned by Cumberland & Western Resources, LLC, whose primary investors are conservation-minded citizens who sold the property below its market value to ensure its permanent safekeeping.

A significant portion of the funding for the project is being 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 committed $34.5 million over the next three years, making this the biggest land acquisition in the nation so far using BP spill restoration dollars.

The acquisition will protect in perpetuity unspoiled coastal land with forests of coastal live oak and intact wetlands. This range of habitats is perfect for public hunting, fishing, hiking, paddling, and bird watching. These nature tourism activities currently bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the Texas coast.

Cactus and Wetlands Along Powderhorn Lake
Cactus and Wetlands Along Powderhorn Lake (Credit: Jerod Foster)

The property also includes thousands of acres of freshwater wetlands and salt marshes that offer vital fish and wildlife habitat, provide natural filtering to improve water quality, and shield people and property from storm surges and sea level rise. The ranch includes more than eleven miles of tidal bay front on Matagorda Bay and provides habitat for hundreds of species of birds and animals, including the endangered whooping crane.


Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation

Founded in 1991, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is the non-profit funding partner of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Website: www.tpwf.org

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF)

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores our nation’s wildlife and habitats. Chartered by Congress in 1984, the Foundation directs public conservation dollars to pressing environmental needs and matches those investments with private contributions.

Website: www.nfwf.org

The Conservation Fund

For nearly 30 years, The Conservation Fund has been saving special places across America. They have protected more than seven million acres nationwide including more than 193,000 acres of natural lands across Texas, including the Big Thicket National Preserve, Fort Davis National Historic Site, San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, and along the Neches River and the Gulf Coast.

Website: www.conservationfund.org

The Nature Conservancy 

Powderhorn Ranch Regional Context Map
Powderhorn Ranch Regional Context Map (Credit: Earl Nottingham/TPWD)

The Nature Conservancy has been responsible for the protection of more than 119 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide and the operation of more than 100 marine projects globally. In the Lone Star State, The Nature Conservancy owns more than 30 nature preserves and conservation properties across Texas.

Website: www.nature.org/texas

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD)

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) operates 95 Texas state parks, natural areas and historic sites, 46 wildlife management areas, three saltwater fish hatcheries, and five freshwater hatcheries.

Website: www.tpwd.state.tx.us

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

What Texans can dream, Texans can do.

—George W. Bush

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6 New National Wildlife Refuges Established

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announces the establishment of six new national wildlife refuge units during the past year and the renaming of a seventh in honor of a late Fish and Wildlife Service director by laying commemorative planks on a walkway at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s first refuge.

Commemorative planks on a walkway at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the nation's first refuge. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Commemorative planks on a walkway at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s first refuge. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Each time we establish a new national wildlife refuge, we set aside a treasured landscape, conserving our priceless fish and wildlife and their habitat not only for this generation but for future generations,” said Salazar.

“We also provide a place for people to connect with nature through fishing, hunting, hiking and other outdoor recreation. This not only restores the spirit and refreshes the mind but also supports economic growth and jobs in local communities.”

Last year, more than 47 million people visited the nation’s 561 national wildlife refuges, Salazar noted. These visits generated over $2.6 billion in economic activity and supported more than 36,000 jobs.

During the Pelican Island ceremony, Salazar added planks to the walkway that now commemorates all 561 national wildlife refuges. The new planks include:

Valle del Oro National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico
This urban refuge in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was established through the acquisition of 390 acres of Valley Gold Farms, a former dairy and hay farm. It is within a 30-minute drive of half of New Mexico’s population, providing ample outdoor recreation and education opportunities. With its outstanding birding and outdoor recreational opportunities, Valle del Oro will also be an economic engine for local communities.

Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, New Mexico

Planks on the walkway at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge now commemorates all 561 national wildlife refuges. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Planks on the walkway at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge now commemorates all 561 national wildlife refuges. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This refuge near Mora, New Mexico, will ultimately protect and manage up to 300,000 acres of one of the most significant grassland landscapes of North America. The refuge is possible because of a generous donation by the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust of 4,200 acres. The Thaw’s donation of the ranch and their support for ongoing environmental education, research, and habitat management in north central New Mexico will provide endless opportunities for the local community to connect or reconnect with the great outdoors.

Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, Wisconsin & Illinois
This refuge, located in southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois, will restore wetlands, prairie, and oak savanna as well as provide new and expanded recreational opportunities for environmental education, interpretation and other wildlife-dependent recreation for the estimated 3.5 million people within 30 miles of the project area.

Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area, Colorado & New Mexico
This refuge, made possible by the donation of easements by Louis Bacon on his Blanca and Trinchera ranches, will conserve a wildlife corridor in the Southern Rockies in south-central Colorado and far northern New Mexico that spans some 170,000 acres. When completed, the two easements will represent the largest donation ever to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Swan Valley Conservation Area, Idaho & Wyoming
The Montana refuge helps connect the Canadian Rockies with the central Rockies of Idaho and Wyoming. The Fish and Wildlife Service established the refuge in partnership with landowners who voluntarily entered their lands into easements. It will protect one of the last low-elevation, coniferous forest ecosystems in western Montana that remains undeveloped and provide habitat for species such as grizzly bears, gray wolves, wolverines, and Canada lynx.

Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, Florida
The Fish and Wildlife Service worked in voluntary partnership with ranchers and other stakeholders to create this refuge that combines traditional public land acquisition strategies with conservation strategies for private working lands. The refuge and conservation area ultimately will include a 50,000- acre publicly owned national wildlife refuge and 100,000 acres of land that will remain in private ownership under conservation easements. It will connect existing conservation lands; create wildlife corridors; enhance water quality, quantity and storage; protect rare species; and provide opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation.

Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi

The colorful green jay is usually seen in brushy areas and dense woods in the lower Rio Grande Valley.. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The colorful green jay is usually seen in brushy areas and dense woods in the national wildlife refuges of the lower Rio Grande Valley.. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In February 2012, Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, located just south of Starkville, Mississippi, was renamed the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee Wildlife Refuge to memorialize one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s greatest leaders. The late Sam Hamilton was the Service’s 15th Director from September 2009 to February 2010. Under his leadership, vision, and guidance, both as Director and the Southeast Regional Director for 12 years, the service began moving away from opportunistic conservation in favor of landscape-level conservation to protect entire ecosystems.

Worth Pondering…

Take time to listen to the voices of the earth and what they mean…the majestic voice of thunder, the winds, the sound of flowing streams. And the voices of living things: the dawn chorus of the birds, the insects that play little fiddles in the grass.

—Rachel Carson

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Outdoor Recreation Participation Increases

More than 90 million U.S. residents age 16 and older participated in some form of wildlife-related recreation in 2011, up three percent from five years earlier, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released last week.

Combining Birding and Photography with our life on the road is like enjoying pecan pie with Blue Bell ice cream for dessert following a turkey feast on Thanksgiving Day! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
In addition to nearly 30 bird species found nowhere else in the US, the Lower Rio Grande Valley is home to an astonishing concentration of more widespread birds. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In total, wildlife recreationists spent $144.7 billion in 2011 on their activities, accounting for about one percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

These findings come from the final national report with results from the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation released by the Census Bureau on behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, according to a news release from the Census Bureau.

Conducted since 1955, the survey is one of the oldest continuing and most comprehensive recreation surveys in the U.S., collecting information on the number of anglers, hunters, and wildlife watchers, as well as how often they participate in wildlife-related recreation and how much they spend on these activities.

According to the survey, wildlife recreationists spent $70.4 billion on equipment, $49.5 billion on travel, and $24.8 billion on other items, such as licenses and land leasing and ownership.

The number of people fishing, hunting, or both rose from 33.9 million in 2006 to 37.4 million in 2011, with 33.1 million people fishing and 13.7 million hunting.

The Roseate Spoonbill uses its long, flat, spoon-shaped bill to strain small food items out of the water. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Roseate Spoonbill uses its long, flat, spoon-shaped bill to strain small food items out of the water. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The survey showed that 71.8 million people participated in at least one type of wildlife-watching activity, such as observing, feeding, and photographing wildlife.

Wildlife Watching Highlights
About 71.8 million U.S. residents observed, fed, and/or photographed birds and other wildlife in 2011. Almost 68.6 million people watched wildlife around their homes, and 22.5 million people took trips of at least one mile from home to primarily watch wildlife.

Of the 46.7 million people who observed wild birds, 88 percent did so around their homes and 38 percent on trips of a mile or more from home.

People spent $54.9 billion on their wildlife-watching trips, equipment, and other items in 2011 — an average of $981 per spender.

Fishing and Hunting Highlights
Of the 33.1 million people who fished, 27.5 million fished in freshwater and 8.9 million in saltwater.

The most popular fish sought by freshwater anglers, excluding Great Lakes fishing, were black bass (10.6 million anglers) and panfish (7.3 million anglers).

The most popular fish sought by Great Lakes anglers were walleye and sauger (584,000 anglers) and black bass (559,000 anglers).

About 1.9 million people ice-fished and 4.3 million fly-fished.

Anglers spent $41.8 billion on fishing trips, equipment, and other items in 2011— an average of $1,262 per angler.

Of the 13.7 million hunters that took to the field in 2011, 11.6 million hunted big game, 4.5 million hunted small game, 2.6 million hunted migratory birds, and 2.2 million hunted other animals.

Ninety-three percent of hunters used a shotgun, rifle, or other similar firearm; 33 percent used a bow and arrow; and 22 percent used a muzzleloader.

Nearly all hunters (approximately 94 percent) hunted in the state where they lived, while 14 percent hunted in other states.

Hunters spent $33.7 billion on hunting trips, equipment, and other items in 2011 — an average of $2,465 per hunter.

State reports with detailed information on participation and expenditures will be released on a flow basis beginning in January 2013, according to the release.

The great kiskadee has yellow on its crown that is often obscured by the black stripes that frames it. However, if you get a view of the top of its head as I did in this photo, the yellow brightly stands out on this Rio Grande Valley specialty. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The great kiskadee has yellow on its crown that is often obscured by the black stripes that frames it. However, if you get a view of the top of its head as I did in this photo, the yellow brightly stands out on this Rio Grande Valley specialty. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the initial data collection phase, the Census Bureau interviewed approximately 50,000 households nationwide to determine who in the household had fished, hunted, or watched wildlife in 2010 or 2011, and planned to do so again, states the release. In most cases, one adult household member provided information for all members.

In the second phase, a sample of individuals identified as likely anglers, hunters, and wildlife watchers were interviewed; each individual had to be at least 16 years old and provided information pertaining only to his or her activities and expenditures.

All comparisons made in this news release are tested at the 0.10 significance level.

Worth Pondering…
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is a rapture on the lonely shore,

There is a society, where none intrudes,

By the deep sea, and music in its roar:

I love not Man the less, but Nature more

—Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

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Volunteer Holidays: How You Can Make a Real Difference

Please note that the following post is written by guest author, Peter Smith.

Thailand building volunteers (Source: realgap.com/volunteering)

Deciding to take a volunteering holiday abroad or in home country is probably one of the most rewarding ways to spend time away. It can be a very life changing experience and can give a completely different perspective on the many different people and cultures across the world.

Choosing to volunteer

Volunteer holidays can take on many guises, from perhaps helping to rebuild communities that have been hit by hardship, to teaching in Africa or even helping disabled people in less affluent countries. There are also many opportunities to help with such things as wildlife conservation or matters of the environment.

Person centered and community volunteering

Costa Rica house building volunteers. (Source: realgap.com/volunteering)

There are many places to find volunteer work opportunities, whether it’s making a difference to the educational lives of children in Africa or helping to support care staff in schools, through to giving up some time to look after disabled children in Asia, or perhaps even gaining some valuable medical experience by going to one of the many clinics and hospitals in Africa that need support, expertise and assistance.

The former volunteer work opportunities are perfect for anyone who is studying to be a teacher or teaching assistant, someone who is learning to teach English as a foreign language, or is indeed simply wishing to learn more about other cultures. Very often, these communities sometimes have large numbers of orphaned or abandoned children who need extra care and support, taking on a volunteer role would mean helping the staff who are already there and making sure these children get the attention they so desperately need.

The latter placement is ideal for someone who is on the road to gaining medical qualifications but who would like to broaden their experiences with both travel and ideas on medicine. This is also an ideal way to find out about the challenges, hardships, and needs of communities who are less fortunate than our own.

Environmental and conservation centered projects

Taking on volunteer work that offers the chance to do some real conservation work can also be extremely rewarding. Opportunities can range from building new houses and experiencing life as it is lived in different communities across the world, but also activities like working to help conserve endangered species or working at animal rescue centers making sure that injured or sick animals get the best chance to recover.

Africa wildlife and community (Source: realgap.com/volunteering)

Countries like Africa and South America offer many such holidays. In Africa, places like Zambia are always in need of volunteers to help with rebuilding communities and providing people with housing, whilst in South America; places like Ecuador very often require willing helpers to care for sick or abused animals. This sort of holiday would be ideal for someone who is perhaps studying to be a Vet or wants to work with animals in another capacity.

Another excellent volunteering consideration might be travelling to somewhere like Australia to help with wildlife conservation, making a real difference to the environment there by helping out with the preserving and planting of many different types of plants, trees, and also caring for species that are becoming endangered.

Peter Smith is an experienced traveler and travel writer specializing in writing about cycling holidays in Europe for a range of different holiday themed websites and blogs.

Worth Pondering…

Life is short and the world is wide.
—Simon Raven

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