Private lands conservation partnership celebrates 25 years

TPWP_sign_BEST_WRFor 25 years, private landowners in coastal Texas have been working with Ducks Unlimited and partners to restore wetlands and provide critical habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds. More than 80,000 acres have been enrolled in the Texas Prairie Wetlands Project (TPWP) since its inception in 1991.

"Habitat provided by the TPWP occurs along the entire Texas coast and provides up to 15 percent of all available waterfowl habitat in the Texas Mid-Coast, according to Gulf Coast Joint Venture research," said DU Manager of Conservation Programs for Texas Dr. Todd Merendino. "This is some of the most significant habitat for waterfowl in Texas because it's where they need it, when they need it." 

Originally developed to deliver the habitat goals of the Gulf Coast Joint Venture, the TPWP is a partnership of private landowners, Ducks Unlimited, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  

"It’s important to recognize the conservation investments of private landowners," said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Deputy Executive Director Ross Melinchuk. "They not only enroll their property in the program, but they also contribute at least 35 percent of the cost of the project, often more. Without their engagement, the program simply would not exist."

Other project costs are offset by TPWP cost-share, which comes from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Futch Foundation, Trull Foundation,ConocoPhillips, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants.  

"The TPWP is successful because of the unique blend of private, state, and federal partners sharing a vision for the conservation of privately owned wetlands and grasslands along the Texas Gulf Coast," said USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program Regional Coordinator Don Wilhelm. "We greatly appreciate that Ducks Unlimited has served as the consistent and unifying influence on this conservation partnership for this first 25 years." 

"Partnerships like the Texas Prairie Wetlands Project highlight the valuable outcomes realized when partners and landowners join together to share knowledge and expertise, funding opportunities and long range resource conservation goals," said Salvador Salinas, NRCS Texas state conservationist. "Wildlife habitats across Texas' vast coastal region face big challenges such as population growth. Through programs like TPWP, conservation planning and financial assistance, NRCS continues its legacy of helping private landowners help the land in these essential wetland ecosystems." 

"One of the most impressive aspects of this program is the scale," Merendino said. "We're providing waterfowl habitat across the Texas coast, which is one of the areas where waterfowl are facing dramatic habitat deficits. Research is revealing that certain species, such as northern pintails, are really struggling along the Texas coast. Programs like TPWP provide critical, reliable habitat in one of the most important and most threatened landscapes on the continent." 

Delivering habitat across a 30-county area, the cost-share program focuses on reconstructing wetlands and providing water and infrastructure for managing wetland units. 

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 13.8 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.