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Texas water issues – developing a strategy for DU engagement

Ducks Unlimited volunteers and staff met in Austin to shape the future of DU’s engagement on water issues in Texas. 

Volunteer leaders Rogers Hoyt, Bill Ansell, Rob Gokey, Jim Rutta and Pat Arthur joined development, field operations and conservation staff on Oct. 24 to discuss strategies to ensure the needs of waterfowl and rice agriculture are fully considered by Texas water allocation decision makers.

Nearly 2 million waterfowl and millions of other migratory birds and wildlife depend on managed wetlands in the Texas mid-coast region for habitat and food resources. Water allocation decisions have dramatic impacts on the management of these wetlands, including those associated with rice agriculture. With the widespread loss of freshwater prairie wetlands and coastal marshes, flooded rice fields provide critical resting and feeding habitat for waterfowl along the Gulf Coast. In fact, ricelands account for 55 percent of the dietary demands and energy supply of wintering waterfowl on the entire Texas coast. 

Waterfowl were already facing habitat shortfalls along the Texas coast, and restricted rice water availability resulted in the loss of approximately 50,000 acres of rice agriculture in the Texas mid-coast region. For every 10,000-acre decline in rice agriculture on the Texas coast, we lose the ability to support 120,000 wintering waterfowl. 

DU has been elevating our engagement in water issues because of the impact water allocation decisions have on wetlands and waterfowl. As part of that increased engagement, Kirby Brown started with DU on Oct. 1 as a Conservation Outreach Biologist focusing solely on water issues in Texas. Brown has extensive experience working with a variety of conservation partners in Texas, including Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Texas Wildlife Association along with coalitions such as the Texas Outdoor Partners and Texas Ag Council. 

The Austin meeting presented development and field operations staff and volunteers a chance to sit down with Brown and other conservation staff to develop a plan for the most effective engagement in the Texas water arena.

DU staff also met with TPWD officials, including Executive Director Carter Smith and Deputy Executive Director Ross Melinchuck to determine how to most effectively collaborate with our conservation partners for the interests of waterfowl and wetlands across the Texas coast.

The LCRA board will meet Nov. 13-14 to discuss water allocation for 2013. Kirby Brown will present testimony to the board on Tuesday regarding the importance of rice agriculture to waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife and expressing DU’s support for off-channel reservoir development and any plan that provides water for both first and second crop rice.  


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