Gulf Coast Refuge Lands Protected (TX)

SWEENEY, TX, 4/16/2004 – Brazoria County and the Trust for Public Land (TPL), today celebrated the addition of 102 acres of bottomland hardwood forestland to the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, located less than one hour south of Houston. Through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), TPL purchased the land and conveyed it to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to ensure its permanent protection. The tract will become part of the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge and will help protect neotropical migratory songbirds and many other wildlife species.

“We are very thankful for the effort TPL has made to help us protect this valuable old growth forest habitat for years to come,” said Mike Lange, refuge biologist for FWS. “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.”

?The purchase marks TPL’s fifth conservation effort for the San Bernard Refuge, bringing the total acreage protected through this partnership to more than 4,200 acres.

“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 Amy Wanamaker, TPL project manager. “We greatly value our partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and our friends at the Refuge. We hope to continue this partnership that has helped save so much of this rapidly disappearing Gulf Coast habitat.”

Located less than one hour south of Houston, the region 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 area 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.

In an effort to protect the remaining bottomland hardwood forests and associated wetlands in the area, FWS initiated a regional land conservation planning effort known as the Austin’s Woods Conservation Plan in 1995. The initiative calls for the protection of 28,000 acres of native wetlands in Brazoria, Fort Bend, Matagorda, and Wharton Counties. This area’s ecosystem provides habitat for 237 species and 239 million individual birds annually.

For the past 5 years, TPL has helped FWS to purchase and conserve these wetland tracts, characterized by bottomland hardwood forest, swamp, and marsh, along Texas’ Gulf Coast. In 1999, TPL conveyed 2,378 acres. Two years later, TPL conveyed a 1,271-acre tract, which included the new champion live oak for the state of Texas, crowned in April 2003. Another 608 acres were added by TPL in January 2003.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.9 million acres of land in 45 states. In Texas, TPL has protected more than 26,000 acres for communities, including areas in and around Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information please visit us on the web at