a good land grab

Houston conservancy rescues precious Texas land for wildlife and future generations

Houston conservancy saves precious Texas land for wildlife and future

Long-billed curlew
The long-billed curlew can now roam near Katy. Photo by Greg Lavaty

With much of Texas land being snatched up by locals and frenzied outside speculators and investors, news of conservation is always welcome. To that end, the Katy Prairie Conservancy has announced the preservation of nearly 965 acres of additional land for two important land conservation projects.

This major grab increases lands conserved by the land trust to 30,127 acres. Notably, the lands will be protected from any future commercial development.

The first project, according to the conservancy, was an acquisition of 159.82 acres on the Katy Prairie Preserve, which is adjacent to other protected lands and falling within a nine-square mile area designated for multiple conservation projects. The second parcel of land is a donated conservation easement on 804.5 acres in Matagorda County.

Closer to Houston, the nearly 160-acre property in Waller County contains approximately 90 acres of agricultural wetlands (rice farming), while the remainder is grassland, per the conservancy. This tract provides wetland habitat when rice is being farmed, while the grasslands provide habitat for an abundance of grassland bird species. Sandhill cranes and long-billed curlew can be found on the land.

Meanwhile, in Matagorda County, the conservation easement is a working farm and ranch managed to benefit wildlife. During the fall, winter, and spring the shallow freshwater provides habitat for migratory birds and waterfowl hunting, according to a press release.

In the winter, the wetlands provide critical foraging and roosting areas for many species of wetland-dependent wildlife, particularly birds.

Eventually, the conservancy notes in a release, the combined projects on the Katy Prairie, (with the new acquisition), aims to add nearly 5,000 contiguous acres to the southwestern portion of the preserve for public access, educational programming, research, and recreation.

Carefully managed areas with special habitat for wildlife of concern; properties protected with flood plain easements to aid with regional flood control and agricultural lands that ensure local farming, grazing, and food production are also crucial factors.

As those familiar Katy Prairie are aware, the area offers visitor amenities such as KPC’s Matt Cook Memorial Wildlife Viewing Platform at Warren Lake and the Ann Hamilton Trail at KPC’s Indiangrass Preserve — all of which offer year-round, family-friendly nature experiences.

“There is an urgent need to conserve land in the Greater Houston area, as growth is consuming the coastal prairie, and the loss of these lands threatens the well-being of people and wildlife,” says Mary Anne Piacentini, president and CEO of the conservancy, in a statement.

“Protected lands, such as the newly protected properties on the Katy Prairie Preserve and in Matagorda County, serve our community by keeping land in agriculture, linking current generations to natural heritage, and connecting people to nature. Additionally, they provide critical habitat for wildlife, including  migratory birds traveling through the Central Flyway.”