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Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation
Powderhorn Ranch near Port O’Conner is a rare treasure
Dr. Larry McKinneyOct 22, 2014 – Powderhorn Ranch near Port O’Conner is a rare treasure: a large tract of unspoiled coastal habitat that hasn’t yet been developed.Now, thanks to an unprecedented public/private partnership bolstered by philanthropic dollars, it will be safeguarded forever.In years to come, Powderhorn Ranch will provide spectacular outdoor recreation opportunities for the people of Texas and will conserve one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled coastal prairie land along the Gulf of Mexico, one of the most productive bodies of water on earth.More than 15 years ago, while still at Texas Parks and Wildlife, I had the opportunity to visit this special piece of Texas natural heritage.It was clear then, as now, that it was a special place long since vanished from much of the coastal landscape.I, like many before and after worked to make sure of its future but with little hope of success. It was a Texas-sized challenge in every way.Fortunately, a perfect storm of circumstances and partners has now led to this landmark acquisition.The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy all played a role in a land transaction that will benefit all the people of Texas for generations to come.The largest oil spill in U.S. history also is part of the story.

Fines paid in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are being administered through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, and the commitment of $34.5 million over the next three years made this transformational project possible.

It is the largest land acquisition so far using these moneys.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation is leading the fundraising efforts for the
$50 million project, leveraging the NFWF dollars with privately raised donations.

The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy provided interim funding to make it possible to purchase the property this year.

The Nature Conservancy will hold a permanent conservation easement on the property and will turn the title over to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation by the end of 2016.

The foundation then will turn the property over to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the state agency responsible for managing and conserving the state’s natural and cultural resources.

In years to come, the property will become a state park and wildlife management area and will offer spectacular recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts ranging from paddlers to hunters.

This private/public partnership represents a new model for funding landscape-scale conservation projects in an era of shrinking public resources and underscores the role philanthropy will play in landmark conservation efforts in the future.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is leading the fundraising efforts for Powderhorn Ranch and has raised $43 million toward the $50 million project so far.

The project is part of a comprehensive fundraising campaign called “Keeping it Wild: The Campaign for Texas.”

For more information on how you can be part of this historic effort, visit the TPWF website at

Dr. Larry McKinney is the executive director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

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