BY KELLY THOMPSON
Special to the Star-Telegram
September 9, 2014 – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, working with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, has initiated steps to accept a coastal treasure into the state’s inventory of public lands.
The $37 million acquisition of Powderhorn Ranch, a historic 17,351-acre property near Port O’Connor on Matagorda Bay, will conserve one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled coastal prairie land along the Texas coast, and ultimately it will provide spectacular outdoor recreation opportunities for the people of Texas.
Yet it almost didn’t happen.
In this day of growing demands on the state’s budget to fund education, highways and health programs, conservation has had to look outside the box for solutions.
The solution was to introduce an unprecedented public/private partnership, add in private philanthropic dollars and some alchemy from an oil spill disaster, and a new model of landscape-scale conservation emerged.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy all played key roles to make a land transaction possible that, but for their creative cooperation and a passionate land owner willing to wait for the creative solution, would not have happened.
The alchemy and irony was provided by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.
BP and Transocean paid $2.4 billion in fines as a result of the spill. The funds are administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) through its Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund for restoration, reclamation and conservation initiatives.
Recognizing the importance and possibilities of Powderhorn to conservation, NFWF committed $34.5 million to the acquisition, the largest single grant for land acquisition to date from the oil spill disaster funds.
The total projected cost to acquire and develop Powderhorn as a state park and wildlife area is $50 million.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is leading the fundraising efforts to raise $13.5 million to leverage the NFWF dollars with private donations. The NFWF funds are to be paid over a three-year period.
The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy provided interim funding that made it possible to purchase the property today.
Powderhorn will become a state park and wildlife management area, offering spectacular recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts ranging from paddlers to hunters.
Powderhorn will safeguard a wild piece of Texas that could have been lost forever.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation has raised $43 million to date toward the $50 million total project requirement.
The Powderhorn Ranch project is part of a comprehensive fundraising campaign called “Keeping it Wild: The Campaign for Texas.”
We invite you to become part of this historic effort. Please visit our website at www.tpwf.org to learn how.
Kelly R. Thompson is chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation.
View the article online: Star-Telegram, Conservation on a Grand Scale