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Conservancy Marks Four Decades of Partnership With TPWD
AUSTIN, Texas — The Nature Conservancy of Texas this year commemorates its 40th anniversary, marking four decades of partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to save important lands and waters in the Lone Star State.
During the years, the nonprofit conservation group has purchased or brokered the acquisition of important land tracts that later became state parks or wildlife management areas. Today, the Conservancy manages preserves next to state parks or WMAs, thus working cooperatively to incorporate best practices for land management across larger areas. Finally, the group works with TPWD and others to help and encourage private landowners to manage property in ways that benefit wildlife and people.
"The Nature Conservancy has been an outstanding conservation partner in Texas," said Robert L. Cook, TPWD executive director. "They have the ability to raise money and work intelligently and quietly and this has made them extremely effective. Plus, they have become increasingly adept at working with private landowners, understanding property rights and local community concerns, and that’s particularly important and appreciated where our agency and commission are concerned."
"From the Davis Mountains in Far West Texas to Caddo Lake in East Texas, at Mad Island Marsh on the gulf coast and in the heart of the Hill Country at Enchanted Rock, the natural partnership between Texas Parks and Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy of Texas has helped preserve a legacy of wildlife habitat and recreation areas for future generations," said Carter Smith, Texas State Director for The Nature Conservancy.
Smith said the two organizations have maintained a tradition of sharing scientific data and conservation planning strategies, as in current work to restore native prairie grasslands on private lands along the Texas coast.
"Additionally, because the Conservancy is a private non-profit able to work with a great deal of flexibility and speed, we have been able to acquire potential parkland when it became available, and convey it later to TPWD," Smith explained.
An acquisition by the Conservancy of 1,640 acres at Enchanted Rock in 1978 marked the first time the non-profit facilitated the creation of state parklands. Other state parks, wildlife management areas and state natural areas created by or contributed to by Conservancy acquisitions include:
- Honey Creek State Natural Area
- Mad Island Marsh Wildlife Management Area
- World Birding Center
- Caddo Lake Wildlife Management Area
- San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site
- Boca Chica State Park
Smith noted that while early efforts of The Nature Conservancy of Texas often focused on creating parklands, in more recent years the non-profit organization has concentrated on private land conservation, frequently resulting in complementary collaboration between the Conservancy, TPWD and private landowners to conserve and protect lands within the same ecosystems.
For example, land management at Davis Mountains State Park is enhanced by conservation work at the Conservancy’s Davis Mountains Preserve, as well as at multiple private lands that the Conservancy manages for conservation. On the Devils River, where the Conservancy owns Dolan Falls Preserve and owns or manages multiple additional conservation properties, the organizations share scientific information and land management techniques to best conserve TPWD’s Devils River State Natural Area and the entire river system.
The Conservancy’s nature preserves and conservation-management lands also serve as living laboratories for a wide variety of TPWD scientists and researchers, and often are provided as outdoor classrooms for TPWD public education programs such as Project WILD and Monarch Watch.
Both organizations have shared key staff members and volunteers through the years. Smith, who recently was named as the Conservancy’s Texas state director, worked in TPWD’s private lands program in 1993 and 1994 and helped to establish the Texas Land Trust Council in partnership with TPWD. Andrew "Andy" Sansom, executive director for TPWD from 1990 to 2001, served as the Conservancy’s Texas state director from 1982-87. Members of the Conservancy’s volunteer Texas Board of Trustees who also served as Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission members include Tim Hixon, Carol Dinkins and Mickey Burleson.
Smith said the two organizations continue to work today in partnership on many conservation issues throughout Texas, including private lands conservation, protection of rare animals and plants, freshwater conservation, promotion of nature tourism, scientific research, conservation assessment and local land trust development.
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