608 Acres Added to San Bernard NWR (TX)

WEST COLUMBIA, TX – January 7, 2003 -The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Brazoria County, today celebrated the addition of 608 acres of Austin’s Woods land to the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge. TPL purchased the land through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and conveyed it to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to ensure its permanent protection. Its fourth project in Austin’s Woods since 1999, TPL has worked actively to preserve more than 4,000 acres along the Texas Gulf Coast.

The newly acquired tract is internationally-significant for protecting threatened neotropical migratory songbirds and other wetland species. Its ecosystem provides habitat for 237 species and 239 million individual birds annually.

“We’re very excited to have helped preserve this unique habitat not only for the wildlife and plants that live there, but also for future generations of Texans who will enjoy its beauty,” said Valarie Bristol, State Director for TPL. “Across the state, natural land continues to rapidly disappear to development and sprawl. We hope that this example shows how TPL can help other communities preserve their critical lands.”

Located less than one hour south of Houston, Austin’s Woods was once a vast ecosystem of bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands encompassing over 700,000 acres and reaching nearly 50 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. In recent years, the region has suffered from clear-cut logging operations and new suburban development. Today, only 177,000 acres of this habitat type remain along the Texas Gulf Coast.

“We are very thankful for the effort TPL has made to help us protect this valuable sanctuary for years to come,” said Mike Lange, Refuge Biologist for the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. “We encourage Texans from all parts of the state to witness for themselves the beauty and diverse bird life that the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge offers for visitors.”

In an effort to protect the remaining bottomland hardwood forests and associated wetlands in Austin’s Woods, USFWS initiated a regional land conservation planning effort known as the Austin’s Woods Conservation Plan in 1994. This initiative calls for the protection of 28,000 acres of land in Brazoria, Fort Bend, Matagorda, and Wharton Counties. As part of this initiative, TPL has worked in partnership with the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge to acquire 2,378 acres in 1999, and 1,371 acres in 2001.

The Trust for Public Land was founded in 1972 to conserve land for people. TPL’s land conservation projects range from community gardens and playgrounds to regional parks, historic landmarks, and wilderness areas. During its 30 years of operations, TPL has added more than 1,310,000 acres of land valued at more than $2.32 billion to our nation’s common wealth of public open space. Through these efforts, TPL has been able to pass on $288 million in savings to communities in which it has worked. For additional information about the Trust for Public Land’s work and projects in Texas and across the country, visit www.tpl.org.