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Landowner Recognized for Efforts To Conserve Rare Toad
AUSTIN, Texas — Government wildlife agencies and nonprofit conservation groups recently recognized Robert K. Long, Sr. and his family for their dedication to conserving a rare amphibian species that resides in central Texas.
The Long family has partnered with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Environmental Defense to create, enhance, and restore habitat on the family’s 540-acre ranch to benefit the endangered Houston toad (Bufo houstonensis). A ceremony recognizing the partnership was held March 10 at the Long family’s property, the L & L Ranch, in Bastrop County.
Environmental Defense has worked closely with the Long Family and other partners during the past year to develop a Safe Harbor Agreement that outlines specific management actions designed to benefit the Houston toad. Safe Harbor Agreements are voluntary arrangements designed to benefit endangered species while providing landowners assurances that they will not incur additional restrictions on their property if they act to help the species.
Conservation measures outlined in the agreement include activities to facilitate the Houston toad’s reproductive success, improve the quality of foraging and other habitat areas, and enhance movement between foraging and breeding areas for the toad on the ranch. These management actions and the partnerships involved with this effort represent a great effort to conserve this species.
The Houston toad was listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act on Oct. 13, 1970. An endangered species is one that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
The Houston toad varies in color from light brown to reddish to gray. The underside is usually pale with small, dark spots. It was historically known to occur in 12 Texas counties, but is now believed to only reside in about nine counties.
The most robust of the remaining Houston toad populations occurs in Bastrop County, where it is associated with the "Lost Pines" ecosystem that is characterized by pine and/or oak woodlands and deep sandy soils. The presence of water is another important habitat component for the Houston toad. Breeding occurs in shallow, rain-fed puddles and pools that persist long enough for the eggs laid to hatch into tadpoles and metamorphose into toadlets. Houston toads are known to burrow into sand or hide under rocks, logs, and leaf litter during harsh weather conditions, which makes determining the distribution of this species outside the breeding season extremely difficult.
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