Wildlife Management Areas of the Texas Hill Country
The trend of overgrazing the land and suppressing fire has continued since the turn of the 20th century. Tallgrass prairies and savannahs occur no more in the Texas Hill Country. Concerns of continued rangeland abuse to a point where "recovery" is not feasible prompted various research projects designed to evaluate the effectiveness of management techniques for rangeland restoration. Four state-owned (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department) wildlife management areas in the Hill Country are under intensive management programs, where natural resource conservation is the focus. These wildlife management areas (Kerr WMA and Mason Mountain WMA) are used as demonstration sites, where the benefits of active management are witnessed, leaving a positive impact on a larger scale.
Results from research conducted on the wildlife management areas, particularly the Kerr and Walter Buck WMAs, overwhelmingly indicate that a holistic approach to wildlife management is exceedingly beneficial to the ecosystem. These areas implement rotational grazing systems, prescribed burning, selective cutting of Ashe juniper, and controlled hunting (included in Aldo Leopold's management tools - axe, cow, plow, fire, and gun) to develop and maintain healthy ecosystems. Increasing ecosystem health is indicated by increases in calf weights, fawn production and survival, plant biomass produced, white-tailed deer antler quality, and occurrences of endangered species such as the golden-cheeked warbler, black-capped vireo, and Tobusch fishhook cactus, that have been observed since first implementing these programs.
Following are the primary goals of Hill Country Management Areas:
- To develop and manage wildlife habitats and populations of indigenous wildlife species.
- To provide a site where research of wildlife populations and habitat can be conducted under controlled conditions.
- To provide areas to demonstrate habitat development and wildlife management practices to landowners and other interested groups.
- To provide natural environments for use by educational groups, naturalists, and other professional biological investigators.
- To protect populations of endangered, threatened, or migratory wildlife and protected plant species and related habitats.
- To provide public hunting and appreciative use of wildlife in a manner compatible with the resource.