Katy Prairie Conservancy receives $2 million grant to fund coastal conservation

FROM STAFF REPORTS
Posted 9/29/21

The Katy Prairie Conservancy announced Sept. 24 that it has received a $2 million grant from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. The Katy Prairie Conservancy’s Coastal Prairie …

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Katy Prairie Conservancy receives $2 million grant to fund coastal conservation

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The Katy Prairie Conservancy announced Sept. 24 that it has received a $2 million grant from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. The Katy Prairie Conservancy’s Coastal Prairie Strategic Habitat Initiative II project funded by this grant involves the permanent preservation of a 2,433-acre ranch in Jackson County with a conservation easement.

“This project is an exceptional opportunity for coastal prairie conservation,” said Mary Anne Piacentini, president and chief executive officer of the Katy Prairie Conservancy.

The ranch encompasses bottomland forest, native prairie, wetlands and agricultural lands and hosts abundant wildlife. The grant will also support the restoration of 360 acres on the Texas mid-coast to increase acreage of suitable roosting and foraging habitat for upland, shorebird and waterbird species. The Katy Prairie Conservancy’s Coastal Prairie Strategic Habitat Initiative II project also includes the donation of additional conservation easements on more than 900 acres of farm and ranch land in Jackson and Brazoria Counties.

These newly conserved and restored properties will have a positive impact on our region’s natural resources and communities, including water quality enhancement through the protection of riparian corridors and adjacent lands, air quality improvements by returning carbon to the soil and ground water and rainfall infiltration and floodwater storage on grasslands and wetlands. Conservation easements improve regional resiliency by ensuring strategic properties remain undeveloped through permanent protection while remaining in private ownership. Natural areas provide additional benefits to surrounding communities, including local agriculture, recreation, health benefits and improved quality of life.

Even with the rapid growth that Houston and the surrounding region are experiencing, there are still opportunities to protect coastal prairie, one of the most important and threatened ecosystems in North America. As the Katy Prairie Conservancy protects open and connected spaces, these lands help maintain the biodiversity of the coastal prairie habitat and serve as a refuge for wildlife.

The Katy Prairie Conservancy is grateful for past and current NAWCA funding, as it has and will continue to play a key role in ensuring that habitat is available for the many species of migratory and resident wildlife that rely on the coastal prairie and its wetlands. These grants provide essential funding for landscape-level conservation, establishment of wetlands and continued protection of wildlife habitat. NAWCA funding also provides the Katy Prairie Conservancy leverage and stimulus for other conservation and restoration funding sources.

The $34 million in NAWCA grants that have been approved by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission will provide the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners the ability to help conserve or restore 177,000 acres of habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds in 20 states. NAWCA is the only federal grant program dedicated to the conservation of wetland habitats for migratory birds. Since 1989, funding has advanced the conservation of wetland habitats and wildlife in all 50 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico, while engaging more than 6,500 partners in over 3,100 projects. Through NAWCA, federal funds are typically leveraged at twice the legally required dollar-for-dollar non-federal match-to-grant ratio.

Conservancy staff are excited to move forward with the Coastal Prairie Strategic Habitat Initiative II project, they said.

“It will increase connectivity along the Central Flyway, a major ‘highway’ for migratory wildlife and allow for the protection of priority lands in our strategic focus areas,” said Piacentini.

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