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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Conserving Texas Prairie Wetlands

DU and its partners are working to reverse habitat declines in this important wintering area
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Since its inception, the TPWP has restored approximately 35,000 acres of wetland habitat in cooperation with more than 450 private landowners. Landowners receive technical and financial assistance in return for signing a minimum 10-year wetland development agreement to manage their conservation project for the benefit of waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wetland-dependent species. DU biologists and engineers offer technical assistance to landowners by writing management plans, conducting topographic surveys, designing wetland units, and acting as construction   managers. Cost-share assistance to landowners includes funds for levee construction and installation of water-control structures.

Once a project is approved, the landowner works with a contractor to complete wetland improvements. In most instances, landowners contribute about 35 percent of the total project cost and agree to provide a guaranteed source of water (pumped from wells or purchased from local river authorities) to flood wetland units to appropriate water depths throughout the winter.

A typical project consists of a minimum of five acres of surface water and must remain flooded for at least four months between September 1 and April 30, thus providing maximum benefits for migrating and wintering waterfowl. Many waterfowl species including pintails, mallards, green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, gadwalls, American wigeon, redheads, lesser scaup, lesser snow geese, and white-fronted geese regularly use these wetland projects. Mottled ducks are year-round residents of the Texas Gulf Coast and use permanent and semipermanent wetland projects for nesting and brood rearing during spring and summer. In addition to waterfowl, private-lands projects benefit other migratory species including shorebirds and colonial wading birds.

Currently, land enrolled in the TPWP provides for a variety of waterfowl needs. Landowners manage wetland projects as flooded rice fields (35 percent), native moist-soil wetlands (35 percent), and emergent marshes (30 percent). In the beginning, most cooperators enrolling in the program were rice farmers. But as rice agriculture has declined in Texas, landowners have shifted to restoring and managing natural moist-soil wetlands.

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