Texas Marks 10 Years, $30 Million in State Wildlife Grants Federal Funding

Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov

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Funding Is Key to Aid Species, Habitats in Texas Conservation Action Plan

Note: This item is more than 12 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references.

AUSTIN — Texas will celebrate Teaming With Wildlife Week Sep. 4-12 to mark the 10th anniversary of the federal State Wildlife Grants (SWG) program. Since 2000, this funding source has provided more than $30 million for Texas to help fish and wildlife and their habitats, including species that are not hunted or fished.

Nationwide, the program has provided federal funding for conservation projects totaling more than $573 million to state agencies such as Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which has received about $3 million per year for Texas conservation in the past decade. Since TPWD has had to match federal grant dollars by at least 35 percent, total on-the-ground conservation funding for Texas is actually more than $40 million since 2000.

In Texas, SWG has made possible diverse conservation efforts involving almost every conceivable creature in every type of habitat — birds, mammals, fish, prairies, forests, rivers, bays (see complete project list online). Examples include the lesser prairie chicken on West Texas prairies, black bear in East Texas forests, ocelot on South Texas plains, and freshwater mussels signaling water quality in rivers across the state.

“We’re talking about dollars here, but this is really about touching the lives of people  and the power to make a difference for the wildlife of Texas,” said David Braun, CEO of Plateau Land and Wildlife Management company and leader of the Teaming with Wildlife Texas coalition. “Most people probably don’t know where the money comes from for wildlife conservation in Texas. But we want them to know our broad grass-roots coalition of diverse interests works very hard to support this federal funding, which is critical for all Texans alive today and for generations to come.”

“Texas is blessed with an extraordinary diversity of native plants and animals that encompass our state’s natural heritage,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director and national Teaming With Wildlife committee chair for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “I take great pride in the fact that our many non-profit conservation organization and private landowner partners involved with the Teaming with Wildlife Coalition are working so diligently and effectively to ensure that these special wildlife resources continue to flourish.”

For many decades, North American game animal conservation has been paid for through hunting and fishing license sales and federal excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment. In 1938, Congress created the Pittman-Robertson/Wildlife Restoration federal aid program. In 1950, federal lawmakers followed up with the similar Dingell-Johnson/Sport Fish Restoration program. This highly successful effort has made possible the restoration of deer, turkey, game fish and a host of other game species, many of which have since come back from severe depletion to record abundance.

In 2000, Congress recognized a need to support states’ actions to prevent federal threatened and endangered listings under the Endangered Species Act. The SWG program helps support conservation and recovery of non-game wildlife before they become more costly to protect.

In 2005, Congress required states and territories to create conservation action plans to strategically guide the use of SWG funding. These plans focus state efforts to conserve wildlife and the lands and waters where they live for future generations of Americans. By working with stakeholders and communities, wildlife agencies translate pressing conservation needs into practical actions and on the ground results. The Texas plan is currently being revised and will be renamed the Texas Conservation Action Plan. More information about these plans is online.

A nationwide grassroots coalition of more than 6,300 organizations and businesses known as Teaming with Wildlife has helped champion the value of SWG funding each year. The coalition’s Texas chapter is made up of more than 100 nonprofit groups and businesses, comprising a who’s who of wildlife conservation and environmental organizations in the state.

The Texas Teaming with Wildlife coalition is hosting a series of four briefings and tours for elected officials and news media in early September to showcase how SWG funds have been used in various Texas regions. These will take place Sep. 2 for Dallas-Fort Worth at White Rock Lake, Sep. 8 for San Antonio at Mitchell Lake Audubon Center, Sep. 8 for South Texas in Kingsville and Sep. 9 for Northeast Texas in Clarksville.

Among other projects, SWG funds have supported TPWD urban wildlife biologists stationed in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley. These unique experts have one foot in the Texas rural wildlife tradition and the other in fast-growing urban zones where most people now live. Their work focuses on “nongame” wildlife species that are not hunted or fished, and it connects with conserving open green space and water quality for people and wildlife. From 2001-2008, SWG provided $3.6 million for urban wildlife work in Texas cities.

Through the urban wildlife biologists, SWG funds have also provided essential support for the Texas Master Naturalists program, which has more than 4,500 highly trained volunteers in 38 chapters statewide. In 2007, the value of their service was estimated at more than $10 million. Their work has stretched across more than 80,000 acres of land and reached more than 100,000 youth, adults and private landowners each year.

SWG funds also sustain the TPWD Wildlife Diversity program, which focuses on “species of concern” in Texas and recommends strategies to reverse declines before animals become threatened or endangered, such as the lesser prairie chicken in the Panhandle, and freshwater turtles and mussels in East Texas. Since 2001, SWG has provided $4.1 million for wildlife diversity science in Texas.

SWG funds have made possible TPWD’s Landowner Incentive Program, providing grants for private ranchers and others to restore and protect habitat for rare species. Such efforts are critical, since more than 95 percent of the Texas landscape is privately owned.

SWG dollars support a wide array of Texas research projects, including ways to detect and respond to toxic golden alga that has killed millions of fish, plus research and monitoring for pronghorn antelope, black bear, ocelots, alligator gar, striped bass and many other species and habitats. Since 2003, SWG has funneled close to $2.4 million for Texas harmful alga research alone, and close to $1 million for wildlife research.

On the Texas coast, SWG funds have helped conserve five species of sea turtles and establish a secondary nesting colony of Kemp’s ridley sea turtles at Padre Island National Seashore, plus projects to protect and restore seagrasses.

All dollar amounts listed above represent the federal share of SWG grants. The value of these dollars is leveraged to greater benefit by required state matching funds.

A list detailing Texas conservation projects funded by SWG in the past decade is on the TPWD website News Roundups page.