DU Texas conservation efforts welcome southbound waterfowl

Texas, part of the Central Flyway, provides important winter habitat for waterfowl that are produced in the U.S. and Canadian prairies. Texas is unique in that it winters 90 percent of duck populations and 75 percent of snow goose populations found in the Central Flyway. Rice fields, prairie wetlands and associated coastal marshes provide important habitat for hundreds of thousands of white-fronted geese, several species of diving ducks, mottled ducks, and other species of puddle ducks.

"Ducks Unlimited is already working on several projects to alleviate some of the habitat losses caused by erosion, salt-water intrusion and subsidence along the Texas Coast," says Greg Green, DU regional biologist. "With the additional Texas projects the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has contracted us for, DU now has an opportunity to further our conservation and partnership efforts to significantly advance coastal restoration and enhance wetland protection and management."

TPWD has awarded Ducks Unlimited contracts for 14 projects directed to restore coastal marsh habitats and repair damaged infrastructure affected by Hurricane Ike. The projects will restore areas on public lands that provide crucial habitat for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species as well as improve flood and storm surge protection for coastal residents and interests.

"TPWD has worked with Ducks Unlimited for decades, and we are extremely confident in their ability to deliver on-the-ground habitat conservation in an efficient and cost-effective manner,” says Jim Sutherlin, project leader for TPWD Upper Coast Wetland Ecosystem Project.

More than 90 percent of the public projects DU has done in Texas are open to hunting, including, but not limited to: J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Richland Creek WMA, Keechi Creek WMA, McFaddin NWR, North Toledo Bend WMA, Justin Hurst (Peach Point) WMA, Mad Island WMA, Gus Engeling WMA, Guadalupe Delta WMA, Alazan Bayou WMA, White Oak Creek WMA, Big Lake Bottom WMA, and Gene Howe WMA.

DU is also leveraging funds through North American Wetland Conservation Act grants to improve habitat for waterfowl along the Texas coast. Texas Gulf Coast NAWCA VI should be completed this year. Projects funded through this grant will enhance more than 6,500 acres of coastal habitat on private and public lands. Nearly $2 million in funds from a diverse partnership, including DU, Wetlands America Trust, private landowners, TPWD, and Futch Foundation, were used as match for the $1 million NAWCA grant.

"Ducks Unlimited is excited to be working with many conservation partners to build upon our track record of providing efficient and effective conservation solutions,” says Todd Merendino, Texas DU director of conservation programs.,

Making conservation happen: Texas volunteers

Ducks Unlimited is a unique organization because it relies on the generosity and passion of its volunteers to accomplish its goals, and DU volunteers in Texas never fail to answer the call. In fact, 16 Texas chapters earned a spot on the President's Top 100 list this year. The President's Top 100 are among Ducks Unlimited's elite chapters in the nation. Every year, the list is reserved for the 100 chapters (out of more than 3,500 DU chapters nationwide) that raise the most grassroots dollars for DU's habitat conservation work. Texas DU volunteers are leading the charge for wetlands conservation.

"I believe the critical conservation work DU performs in Texas, as well as on the breeding grounds that impact Texas, is a direct reflection of the passion and dedication that DU volunteers and members have towards the organization and its mission," says David Schuessler, DU director of fundraising and volunteer relations. "DU supporters in Texas realize that continent-wide conservation work is needed to sustain the annual waterfowl migration to and from our state. Bluewings that jet through Texas in September benefit from projects in Mexico; winter wheat promotion in Alberta is critical to the pintails we all love so much on the coast; and North and South Dakota easements are essential to the mallards that visit north and east Texas every year. There is no magic bullet in waterfowl conservation; we have to work all throughout the flyway. That’s what DU members want, and that’s what DU provides," Schuessler said.

Show your Texas Ducks Unlimited pride!

--Andi Cooper, communications biologist, Southern Regional Office