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Posted Aug. 21, 2014 (Through Aug. 22, 2015)

Powderhorn Ranch

Below are interview transcripts with links to .mp3 audio files for the Powderhorn Ranch land acquisition story.

Carter Smith, Executive Director, Texas Parks and Wildlife

1. Carter Smith says various qualities make the Powderhorn Ranch special.

27—This is one of the most magical places along the entirety of the Gulf. It really is singularly unique, with its expansive coastline along Matagorda Bay, Powderhorn Lake. These amazing, wind-sculpted and sprawling live oaks and accompanying gallery forests, extensive native coastal prairie, undisturbed freshwater wetlands... It’s a sportsman’s paradise, and something that every outdoors enthusiast can enjoy. It’s literally one of those one-of-a-kind properties. [MP3 File]

2. Conservationists have had their eye on Powderhorn Ranch for a long time, said Smith.

39—You know, the Powderhorn Ranch has been the dream of the conservation community for almost a quarter of a century. And everybody has recognized its uniqueness, its scale, its incredible ecological integrity and biological uniqueness. And fish and wildlife biologists have thought of it as one of the last great places along the coast. And as we see more development, more activity, we’ve recognized the criticality of protecting places that scale like the Powderhorn. And this adds to a big network and complex of lands that are already protected for conservation as part of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and Matagorda Island, and various nature preserves and wildlife management areas. And it’s kind of the hole in the donut. [MP3 File]

3. Why should people who may never set foot on the Powderhorn Ranch care about its preservation?

28—We all want to know that there’s some wild things in wild places that are out there for us to enjoy, whether we see them or not. And this is absolutely one of them. Every single attitudinal survey shows that Texans care about their coast. They’re passionate about it, its conservation, they value the water that flows into it and is present there. And so, this is one of those places that are gonna be there for future generations. Whether we walk it or not, it’s gonna be there for their kids and grand-kids after that and there’s just a special comfort in knowing that. [MP3 File]

4. Carter Smith says if ever there was a sportsman’s paradise – the Powderhorn Ranch is it.

37—The place is literally teeming with fish and wildlife. And if you like to wade fish, or canoe or kayak to chase a tailing redfish, or catch a trout or a flounder, the bays and back bayous and marshes are going to be the place for you. If you like to hunt, the game there is just simply extraordinary — from deer to ducks to doves and bobwhite quail. And if you like to birdwatch there’s no place finer. The fallouts along this part of the coast during the spring and fall migrations, and these big, beautiful, sprawling live oaks where these birds come to rest during spring and fall storms — just simply magical. There’s no place like it. [MP3 File]

5. Why does Texas need to invest in acquiring more park land?

24 –We think of places like the Powderhorn in generational terms. These are the proverbial trees that we’re planting so that somebody else can enjoy their shade. And if we wouldn’t take these kind of actions, we wouldn’t have any more state parks for our growing public to enjoy. And so, Powderhorn is going to be one of those places that we look back on for generations to come. And we’re going to thank goodness that we had the courage and the foresight to acquire this place. [MP3 File]

Dan Hughes, Chairman, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission

1. Experiencing a natural environment well away from cities is valuable to one’s well-being.

15—Well, 94 percent of the land in TX is privately owned, so it’s really important that we do provide state parks so that the people of Texas can go out and enjoy, to fish and canoe, to hike and to camp and to bike, it’s extremely important that we provide these opportunities. [MP3 File]

Dan Friedkin, Chairman Emeritus, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission

1. To maintain conservation momentum, public engagement is the key.

13—We have something that no other state has, and I feel that we really need to do everything that we can now to build a platform for future generations, and the only way to accomplish that is through private-public partnerships and getting more people engaged in the outdoors. [MP3 File]

Andy Smith, Director, Texas Office of The Conservation Fund

What makes the Powderhorn Ranch important?

29—We’re two hours from 20 million people. So, it’s very important in that respect. And then as far as the Gulf of Mexico, it’s great to have this buffer for runoff from upstream areas, you know, to help for that reason. And then if you look at adaptation and climate change, this particular project is exactly where it’s predicted the whooping crane will end up as the coast changes in that area. So to help protect the endangered species and give it a place to continue to thrive. [MP3 File]

What excites you about the acquisition of this land?

19—It’s very significant that you’re adding land to an already kind of checkerboard preservation in the landscape. So, if you look at a map you’ll see the Aransas Wildlife refuge, you’ll see several big conservation easements. And so this is a great way to kind of continue to sew the fabric together into eco-system scale conservation effort in that part of the coast. [MP3 File]

Wendel Thuss

1. Wendel Denman Thuss is the great-grandson of Leroy G. Denman, Sr., who purchased the Powderhorn Ranch in 1936. Even as a child, Thuss says he knew it was a special place.

27—As a child I spent many of my weekends and many summers and free time down here on Powderhorn, running around. Shooting dove – lots of fishing – a little bit of sailing, lots of exploring, which, in hindsight, was a true paradise for a child. Even at the time was obviously a paradise to me. It’s quite an amazing place, mainly in its natural diversity. It’s an entirely different place in a rainy year and in a dry year. [MP3 File]

2. The Powderhorn Ranch has a rich history and ties to the King Ranch, and the experiments they attempted on the ranches to improve the land.

23—One of the more notorious experiments that they undertook was to find an animal that would eat brush. And so they imported axis deer and nilgai and sambar deer and they put some on King Ranch, and they put some up here on the Powderhorn. And you see the remnants today. Nilgai did not do so well, the sambar deer seem to be doing better these days, and the axis just flourished. [MP3 File]

3, 4, 5 & 6. Wendel Thuss says throughout his life, his great-grandfather, Leroy Denman, Sr. always intended sell the ranch – but not to just anyone.

22—Through my whole lifetime, my grandfather, Leroy Denman, was always trying to sell the Powderhorn. And I use the term “sell” loosely. It was “on the market,” shall we say. And every now and then some group would come along and try and work a deal such that the ranch would end up with a conservation easement on it. And those were the only deals that my grandfather ever actually pursued. [MP3 File]

14—My grandfather spent decades trying to find a way to justify making the Powderhorn a natural preserve. And I think today he would be tickled to death to know that it is finally come to pass. [MP3 File]

17—I know it was a lifelong goal of my grandfather’s to create a circumstance in which the Powderhorn would be preserved in perpetuity. And to see it come to pass is just miraculous. It’s going to be a wonderful thing and it will bring a smile to my face and every member of my family’s faces still living. [MP3 File]

20—It was just sort of the secret of the family that Leroy couldn’t quite sell the Powderhorn unless he knew it was going to remain a natural preserve of some sort. I think the world works in mysterious ways, and as soon as he quit trying it seems to have happened. And I think regardless of how it came to pass, it’s a wonderful thing. [MP3 File]

7. Despite running cattle on the ranch, Wendel Thuss says it was clear nature and wildlife was the real value of the land.

28—The nature and the wildlife is far more than the ranching capacity here. It is a place of wetlands, and very flora and fauna, from reptiles to mammals, everything in-between. The ranching is… cattle were not made to live in an environment like this. And they always sort of did alright, but never did well. And I think it’s a wonderful thing that this will be returned to a natural habitat, for the natural flora and fauna. Because that’s really what the Powderhorn is about. [MP3 File]

Laura Huffman, State Director, The Nature Conservancy in Texas

1. Every coastal system of concern to conservationists exists on Powderhorn Ranch. And, Laura Huffman with the Nature Conservancy says conservationists are constantly thinking about freshwater inflows into the bays and estuaries along the Gulf of Mexico.

33—Those rivers and streams that feed into the Gulf of Mexico are part of keeping that system healthy. Powder Horn Ranch has that. The coastal prairies are part of what attracts all of the birds and animals that are native to this part of Texas, including, by the way, whooping cranes. And we recently saw two or three whooping cranes on this property, which is very exciting. And then, of course, there is the marine environment. You’ve got oyster reefs, you’ve got sea grasses. It’s going to be wonderful fishing for Texans and kayaking. And just a great way to enjoy the Gulf of Mexico. [MP3 File]

2,3 & 4. Laura Huffman says The Gulf of Mexico is one of the hardest working bodies of water in the world. [The three soundbites below address this topic.]

14—It’s the ninth largest body of water in the world. Over 50% of our domestically produced oil and gas comes out of the Gulf of Mexico. It is a huge economy when you add up the commercial fishing, the tourism and also the recreational fishing. [MP3 File]

14—Something people don’t know, is it functions as a drainage basin for the United States. Over 50% of the United States drains into the Gulf of Mexico. So, this is a body of water that’s trying to accomplish a lot of things, not just for Texans, but for the country. [MP3 File]

28—When we put money into restoration of the basic building blocks of the Gulf of Mexico: keeping the oyster reefs healthy, making sure that those seagrasses are in good shape and filtering that water, then what we’re essentially doing is looking after the health of the Gulf of Mexico. Powderhorn Ranch is central to those efforts for us here in Texas. It’s at scale; this is a ranch that is large enough to truly have an impact on Matagorda Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. [MP3 File]

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