The Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Council today approved land trust funding totaling $1.4 million for a wide array of conservation easements to help bring more than 14,300 acres of the state’s high-value working farm and ranch lands under long term protection.
The Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program (TFRLCP) received 12 funding applications for projects in 10 counties ranging in scope from working cattle ranches to rice production and crayfish farming. Habitats considered for conservation easements were equally diverse, covering high desert grasslands, Hill Country springs, and tidal wetlands.
Criteria used to rank and score each project include: threat of development or other conversion of productive working lands, value (cost effectiveness), watershed value, fish and wildlife value, contribution to a conservation landscape, and terms of the conservation easement.
“The Council is committed to providing Texas landowners a viable option for protecting the state’s high conservation value working farm and ranch lands,” said Council Chairman S. Reed Morian. “We believe these projects are prime examples of that commitment.”
The following projects have been approved for conservation easement funding. All projects are perpetual in term:
- West Bay Corridor (Hitchcock Prairie) — 3,100 acres in Galveston County near the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge and other conservation properties. Habitat consists of coastal tallgrass prairie, wet prairie, pothole wetlands and tidal wetlands. $500,000. Submitted by Scenic Galveston Inc.
- Puryear Ranch — 425 acres in Travis County along Rocky Creek, a major tributary of Barton Creek and adjacent to the Shield Ranch where 6,700 acres are already protected by conservation easement. Habitat consists of oak-Juniper woodlands and savannahs. $131,850. Project submitted by Hill Country Conservancy.
- Albritton Ranch — 650 acres in Bandera County near Lost Maples State Park and Love Creek Preserve in the Bandera Canyonlands with oak-juniper forest, bigtooth maple stands and numerous springs. Habitats support golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo. $325,000. Project submitted by The Nature Conservancy.
- Pietila Ranch — 9,992 acres in Culberson County sharing six miles of common boundary with Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Habitat consists of high desert grasslands; springs and headwaters for McKittrick Creek. $375,000. Project submitted by The Nature Conservancy.
- Lazy Bend Ranch — 144 acres in Hays County near the 3,950-acre Storm Ranch conservation easement and subject to intense development pressure. Habitat consists of Edwards Plateau savannah and oak-juniper woodlands, including occupied golden-cheeked warbler habitat. $75,925. Project submitted by Hill Country Conservancy.
A second round of the TFRLCP grant application cycle is currently open for consideration of the remaining $470,000 available in this year’s funding. The deadline to apply for consideration by the Council at its April 25 meeting is April 8. Applicants who Project submitted during the first cycle will automatically be considered and may amend their applications and resubmit before the deadline. New applicants are also welcome to submit applications. More information about the TFRLCP is available online at http://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/land/private/farm-and-ranch/ or contact TPWD by email at TexasFarmandRanch@tpwd.texas.gov.
The goal of the TFRLCP is conservation of working lands with high values for water, fish and wildlife, and agricultural production, especially lands at risk of development. The program is administered by, and supports the mission of, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to encourage stewardship of private working lands for conservation of natural resources. TPWD objectives within this program include generating interest and awareness among land trusts and landowners, attracting significant numbers of qualified applicants, and leveraging the available money to fund as many high quality projects as possible.
Texas leads the nation in the loss and conversion of working farm and ranch lands. TFRLCP hopes to stem the tide by providing grant funds to purchase long term conservation easements on high value working lands. To date, Texas land trusts, which serve as the brokers for conservation easements, have brought more than 1.6 million acres of working lands into long term protection from development.