Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Texas that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Landscape conservation along the Rio Grande River and restoration of marsh and other shoreline wildlife habitat on West Galveston Bay are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Rick Perry and the state of Texas, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Texas and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Texas highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Rio Grande Watershed
From El Paso to Brownsville, the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo River winds its way through some of the most culturally, ecologically, and topographically diverse lands in Texas. Conservation of the river is a longstanding, shared concern for state and federal agencies, private landowners, nonprofit organizations, water managers, recreational interests, and a host of other stakeholders.
The watershed encompasses some of the most important state and federal recreational and conservation lands in the Southwest. These include Big Bend National Park, Black Gap Wildlife Management Area, Franklin Mountains State Park (the largest urban park in the contiguous 48 states), and Laguna Atascosa and Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuges. The area also includes expansive tracts of private lands under conservation stewardship that protect important spawning and refuge areas for imperiled fish species.
Through conservation easements, habitat-stewardship projects, and other collaborative work, this project will build on existing efforts to improve watershed health along selected reaches of the Rio Grande.
The initiative supports AGO priorities, including conserving rural farms and ranches, enhancing recreation opportunities and outdoor recreation-based economies, and protecting and renewing rivers.
West Galveston Bay
Galveston Bay, on the eastern shore of the Texas Gulf Coast, is fed by a 24,000-square-mile watershed that stretches from Dallas/Fort Worth to Houston. Human activities have profoundly affected the estuarine systems of the bay throughout this massive watershed.
The conservation efforts of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and its many public and private partners in West Galveston Bay have resulted in restoration of thousands of acres of intertidal marsh and seagrass meadows and miles of shoreline habitats. Successful restoration of brown-pelican nesting sites at the North Deer Island Bird Rookery earned the Coastal America Wetlands Restoration Award.
Upcoming projects in the bay will build new breakwaters via beneficial reuse of dredged materials to protect and enhance critical marsh and open-water nursery habitats. This project advances the goals of AGO by restoring and conserving imperiled habitat.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Texas, for example, the Department could p rovide financial support for acquiring conservation easements and for habitat-stewardship projects along the Rio Grande. The Department also could provide technical and financial support for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's restoration of estuarine nursery habitat in Galveston Bay.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.