In late 2013, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced five projects to restore and enhance habitats for species impacted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Disaster. The list included the Gulf Coast Migratory Waterfowl Enhancement Project, which has made waterfowl one of the first beneficiaries of the oil spill settlement.
The NFWF-administrated Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund will provide Ducks Unlimited with a $1.25 million grant through the Texas Prairie Wetlands Project (TPWP) to restore and enhance more than 22,000 acres of Texas coastal wetlands.
With the vast majority of Texas land under private ownership, working with landowners is vital to accomplishing habitat objectives for wintering waterfowl. As the largest program in Texas assisting private landowners with wetland restoration and enhancement, the TPWP is the perfect vehicle to accomplish this.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Ducks Unlimited partnered to form the TPWP in 1991. To date, the program has restored and enhanced more than 67,000 acres along the Texas Gulf Coast, including more than 5,200 acres in fiscal year 2014. The TPWP provides engineering, design, and cost-share assistance to private landowners to conserve wetlands. In exchange, the landowners agree to manage the habitat for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species. Recently, cost-share assistance for the installation of wells has been a high priority for the TPWP. These wells provide guaranteed water to thousands of acres of waterfowl habitat, which would otherwise go dry. The TPWP is the ideal partnership for delivering habitat to offset the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the ongoing Texas drought on coastal wetlands.
Though individual project areas may be small, TPWP units provide 20 percent of the available waterfowl habitat on the Texas Mid-Coast in dry years, according to analysis from the Gulf Coast Joint Venture. The importance of this habitat continues to grow because rice agriculture, which provides more than 40 percent of the available food resources for waterfowl along the Gulf Coast, has virtually ceased to exist in the face of statewide water restrictions.