AUSTIN – Texan by Nature (TxN), a Texas-based conservation non-profit founded by former First Lady Laura Bush, announced Monday the selection of the 2019 Conservation Wranglers – including a program by El Paso Water.
“Texan by Nature brings innovation in conservation to the forefront for the benefit of generations of Texans to come,” said former First Lady and Founder of Texan by Nature, Mrs. Laura Bush. “We are honored to showcase the brilliant minds within the conservation field and support their incredible work as official TxN Conservation Wranglers.”
Texan by Nature brings business and conservation together through initiatives that promote stewardship of Texan natural resources.
The organization’s Conservation Wrangler program recognizes innovative and transformative conservation projects across the state of Texas.
Each Conservation Wrangler project models “Return on Conservation” by positively impacting people, prosperity, and natural resources. The TxN team will be working with the projects for 12-18 months providing tailored aid, resources, and visibility.
“Conservation Wrangler applications increased by 100% this year,” said Joni Carswell, President and CEO of TxN. “We are proud of the community’s response and inspired by the continuous work being done across the Lone Star State. The 2019 Conservation Wranglers are posed to positively impact our land, natural resources and people and are prime examples of how we achieve BIG, BOLD, conservation in Texas.”
The six selected 2019 Conservation Wranglers include:
El Paso Water – Certified Water Partner Program
Located in the Chihuahuan Desert, which typically receives less than 9 inches of rain a year, El Paso is a city that has long grappled with water security.
In recent decades, municipal water planning has led to increased resource diversification, expanded water reclamation, passage of conservation ordinances, new plumbing codes for water efficiency in new homes, as well as rebate and incentive programs to cut water consumption.
With these measures in place, El Paso has successfully reduced per-person residential water use by 35%.
To continue their efforts and incentivize water conservation, the city created the Certified Water Partner program with the vision of engaging commercial and industrial customers by raising awareness of cost-reducing water conservation practices and giving positive recognition to businesses for implementing them.
The Certified Water Partner Program is seeking increased visibility to better reach El Paso businesses and spread the message of water conservation to other Texas communities.
Ducks Unlimited – Texas Prairie Wetlands Project
Established in 1991, the Texas Prairie Wetlands Project (TPWP) is a collaborative effort between Ducks Unlimited, Inc., Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gulf Coast Joint Venture, and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
The primary goal is to restore, enhance, and protect shallow, seasonally flooded wetland habitat on private lands along the Texas Gulf Coast. These ephemeral wetlands provide critical wintering and migration habitat for thousands of waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wetland-dependent species, in addition to water filtration and other ecosystem services. TPWP provides cost-share assistance to private landowners and technical advice from partners.
The project has delivered more than 83,000 wetland acres in the region and is seeking additional engagement with landowners, landowning businesses and corporations along the Texas Coast.
Galveston Bay Foundation – Oyster Shell Recycling
Oyster reefs are an important component of healthy estuarine ecosystems, filtering contaminants from the water, protecting shorelines, stabilizing sediment, and providing food and shelter for other species.
Despite their importance, oyster reefs are one of the most threatened marine habitats in the world, with documented losses of 85% globally due to extreme weather and unsustainable harvesting. The Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) reclaims shucked oyster shells from local seafood restaurants through their recycling program, which are used in restoration activities throughout the Galveston Bay estuary.
Since 2011, GBF has collected over 900 tons of oyster shells, of which over 60% have already been incorporated into reef restoration projects. GBF’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program aims to raise awareness about oyster reef restoration and recruit new restaurant partners in the Houston-Galveston area.
Friends of Rio Grande Valley Reef
Located 13-miles northeast of South Padre Island, the 1650-acre Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Reef is the largest artificial reef off the Texas coast.
Since 2014, Friends of RGV Reef is dedicated to the ongoing habitat restoration of this important fishery by implementing comprehensive science-based management of this Gulf ecosystem. Historically, this low-relief nursery reef was comprised of sandstone, clay, caliche, and associated soft coral cover.
This created valuable habitat for juvenile Red Snapper and other reef fishes. However, this low-relief material had been severely degraded by trawl fishing in recent decades, drastically reducing juvenile snapper survivorship and recruitment. Friends of RGV Reef combat this loss by deploying artificial reefing materials of different concentrations and sizes, ranging from intentionally sunken vessels to concrete rail ties and cinder blocks.
Diverse, complex reef substrate can provide habitat for snapper of all ages and sizes, in addition to habitat for hundreds of other species of fish, invertebrates, and turtles that frequent the reef. Friends of RGV Reef is seeking to raise awareness of this ecologically and economically important reef, and to secure material, financial, and academic support for their restoration efforts.
Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture – Grassland Restoration Incentive Program
In the last century, grassland birds have experienced greater population losses than any other North American avian group, with some species declining more than 90%.
Though many factors contribute to population declines, the primary cause is the widespread loss of quality native grassland and shrub savanna habitat. Introduction of non-native grasses, fire suppression, overgrazing, and cropland conversion have reduced this important habitat to less than 3% of its pre-settlement land area.
Since 2012, in response to these threats, the Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture (OPJV) flagship Grassland Restoration Incentive Program (GRIP) has engaged partners and landowners to restore privately-owned grasslands across the state. GRIP provides financial incentives to landowners for implementing grassland bird habitat practices on their lands, in addition to technical support from partner organizations.
OPJV is seeking to raise awareness of their successful restoration efforts and reach other Texas communities with their message of grassland conservation for bobwhites, songbirds, pollinators, other wildlife, and the Texas citizens who live in and enjoy our natural environment.
Trinity Nature Conservancy – Trinity River Paddling Trail
The Trinity River is the longest fully-contained river in the state of Texas, flowing through 18,000 square miles of watershed and through five major eco-regions. With the support of local municipalities, the Trinity Nature Conservancy (TNC) launched their Trinity River Paddling Trail project in 2018 that will establish a 127-mile paddling trail along the Trinity River.
The trail will provide 7.4 million residents of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex with recreation, conservation, and education opportunities. This project will create paddling trail connectivity and increase river accessibility, resulting in increased public education and awareness of the importance of the Trinity River and its surrounding ecosystems.
TNC hopes the increased awareness will result in efforts to enhance water quality, in addition to increase conservation efforts along the river. TNC hopes to gain National Recreation Trail designation from the National Park Service. Long-term goals include an extension of the paddling path to reach the river’s terminus into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
TNC is seeking partners, volunteers, and funding for the project.
Texan by Nature 2019 Conservation Wranglers were selected, in part, based on the following criteria:
• Texan-led conservation initiative
• Benefits community by providing tangible returns for people, prosperity, and natural resources
• Reaches new and diverse audiences
• Measurable process and conservation outcomes
• Partnership between community, business, individuals, and conservation organizations
All will receive 12-18 months of tailored support and resources including:
• Connections to technical expertise and industry support
• Recognition and participation in annual Conservation Wrangler Summit and Celebration
• TxN seal of partnership
• Op-Ed piece promoting individual initiative
• Letter of support from TxN leadership
• Content and collateral cross promotion via TxN channels including social media, newsletters, and website
Texan by Nature’s work spans multiple conservation initiatives, including the Conservation Wrangler program, the TxN Certification program, and the Symposia series, which features pollinator initiatives, health and nature research, and the TxN Leadership Roundtables.
TxN officials add, “These programs aim to deliver measurable results by building collaborative, science-based initiatives between individuals, communities, conservation organizations, and businesses.”
Texan by Nature will recognize the 2019 Conservation Wranglers on November 13, 2019, in Dallas, TX at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. This diverse set of projects impacts land, water, habitat, and more, spanning 64 counties and 7 ecological regions.