Join us from 6:30-8:00pm, Georgetown Public Library, Classroom • NPAT Executive Director, Pat Merkord, will preside over the NPAT…Read more of this >>
Blackland Prairie Park Field Trip Saturday from 9:00am to Noon• Jeff Quayle, of Fort Worth NPAT…Read more of this >>
Chisholm Trail Park- Spring Festival Chisholm Trail Community Center, Saturday from 11a.m. - 3p.m. • We are very proud…Read more of this >>
Photos by Phillip Quast
Jaime Gonzalez of Coastal Prairie Partnership demonstrates how to make and sow seed balls:
Loose Flowered Penstemon
Lance Leaf Gaillardia
By Jon Hayes
Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture
April 15, 2014
La Grange, TX – In the grasslands of Central Texas a historic partnership of organizations has come together in a commitment to put a stop to the more than half century long decline in Northern Bobwhite Quail populations by providing the one thing biologists say these birds need most; habitat. Local Texas Quail Coalition Chapters (QC), The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), and Conoco Phillips are supporting an innovative approach to grassland habitat restoration that involves biological planning and design, conservation delivery, tracking habitat changes, and monitoring grassland bird populations. At the center of this effort is the newly implemented Grassland Restoration Incentive Program (GRIP) that, since it began on November 1, 2013, has developed agreements with landowners to restore more than 34,000 acres of habitat in key areas of the state.
The GRIP provides financial incentives to landowners for conducting approved habitat management practices aimed at addressing greatest limiting factors for suitable grassland bird habitat on their properties. These practices include brush clearing, prescribed burning, prescribed grazing, and native grass reseeding. The program is completely voluntary and has been met with an unexpected level of demand from a long list of landowners who are committed to sound range management and land stewardship.
Along with significant stand-alone projects located in Callahan, Clay, Shackelford, and Stephens County in North Texas and in Austin, Colorado, Fayette, Lavaca, Gonzales and Dewitt Counties in South Central Texas, there are a number of large scale landowner cooperative efforts being supported by the GRIP. One such effort is the Post Oak South Texas Quail Working Group located on the border between Karnes and Wilson Counties. The landowners involved with this group collectively own approximately 20,000 acres of contiguous rangeland that is being managed for the benefit of resident quail and other grassland bird species. GRIP is providing financial support to these landowners for control of Honey Mesquite, Huisache and other invasive brush species and to restore native grass communities on key tracts of land within their property boundaries. This group recognizes that restoring large parcels of habitat in concentrated areas will be the most effective way to have significant impacts on resident populations of target bird species.
In Colorado and Austin Counties the GRIP is supporting the efforts of the Wildlife Habitat Federation (WHF), an organization committed to restoring healthy quail populations to that part of the state. The core area of WHF projects stretch from properties adjacent to the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge (APCNWR) at the southern end to the area around Cat Spring on the northern end. Since beginning their work more than a decade ago, WHF has helped many landowners restore habitat on their properties and have been rewarded for their efforts by seeing quail return to these areas in numbers not seen for decades. GRIP is now supporting their continued efforts by providing landowners they work with much needed assistance in their habitat improvement efforts. By locating the bulk of this support within a short distance of the APCNWR the GRIP is not only working to improve the outlook for quail but also for the Attwater Prairie Chicken, possibly the most endangered bird species in North America, by improving grassland habitat outside of the refuge fences.
The funding for GRIP is unique in that it combines resources from state, private, and corporate partners to provide assistance to private landowners in targeted areas where Quail populations have experienced the most recent declines. This enables the program to be able to maximize efficiency so that habitat gains are more readily realized. The support provided by QC, NWTF, TPWD, and Conoco Phillips, as well as many other partners, is going right where it will have the most direct benefit for the target species; on the ground. Through their support of the GRIP and related efforts, these organizations have made the choice to do what they can to ensure that future generations of Texans will continue to enjoy healthy populations of Northern Bobwhite and the rest of the grassland birds that call this state home.
Administration and oversight for the GRIP is provided through the Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture partnership and two local initiative teams that set standards and specifications for GRIP projects. For more information and for a full list of eligible counties please visit www.opjv.org. Interested landowners are also encouraged to contact their local TPWD biologist for more information. TPWD biologists can be found HERE.
About the Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture
The OPJV is a regional, self-directed partnership of government and non-governmental organizations and individuals working across administrative boundaries to deliver landscape-level planning and science-based conservation, linking on-the-ground management with national bird population goals. The OPJV activities focus on a broad spectrum of bird conservation activities including biological planning, conservation design, conducting on-the-ground conservation delivery projects, organizing outreach, research, monitoring, creating decision support tools, and raising money for these activities through partner contributions and grants within the Oaks and Prairies Bird Conservation Region (BCR) and the Edwards Plateau BCR.
OPJV partner organizations include Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, National Wild Turkey Federation, American Bird Conservancy, Quail Coalition, Texas Wildlife Association, The Nature Conservancy, Natural Resource Conservation Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Native Prairies Association of Texas, Sutton Avian Research Center, University of North Texas Quail and various other local, state and national organizations. For more information on the OPJV visit www.opjv.org and follow @OPJV on Twitter.
The Grassland Restoration Incentive Program (GRIP) is a voluntary private landowner financial incentive program with the objective of encouraging landowners to implement management practices that address greatest limiting factor(s) for suitable grassland bird habitat on their property. GRIP is part of the larger Grassland Bird Conservation efforts of the Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture partnership and is supported by Biological Planning, Conservation Design, Conservation Tracking, and bird Population Research and Monitoring under an Adaptive Management Framework (Plan-Do-Learn). The GRIP is part of a collaborative conservation delivery effort between the member organizations of the Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture (OPJV) and the Gulf Coast Joint Venture (GCJV).
• Funding, staff support, and resources for the GRIP are provided by OPJV, GCJV, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Conoco Phillips, Quail Coalition Chapters, National Wild Turkey Federation and the American Bird Conservancy, as well as many other local individuals and partner organizations.
• The GRIP was established to address specific, partner derived, ecoregional Grassland Bird population and habitat objectives.
• Project proposals can be submitted by staff from any of the OPJV partner organizations, and are reviewed by Local Initiative Teams made up of local biologists and land managers from various organizations.
• Eligible practices and appropriate payment rates have been selected by partners from Natural Resource Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentive Program approved practices.
• The GRIP began accepting project proposals on November 1st, 2013, and to date, the area being improved through GRIP funded habitat treatment(s) totals 34,294 acres.
• Approved project treatments are currently costing the program approximately $15.08 per acre.
Total acreage of approved project treatments include:
• 1,035 acres of native grass reseeding
• 1,768 acres of brush management (includes both chemical and mechanical)
• 165 acres of prescribed burning
• 27,909 prescribed grazing (acres under grazing plan through August 31, 2015)
• 68,467 feet of fencing (for the purpose of implementing prescribed grazing plans)
• Based on best available models GRIP improved acres have the potential to restore more than 2,000 Northern Bobwhite breeding territories.
• Currently, GRIP funding is available for eligible projects in the following TX counties (right): Montague, Clay, Archer, Baylor, Throckmorton, Shackelford, Stephens, Callahan, Navarro, Ellis, Washington, Austin, Colorado, Fayette, Lavaca, Gonzales, Dewitt, Karnes, and Wilson.
• OPJV and GCJV staff worked with the Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative and the US Geological Survey to develop a shared online database called the Grassland Management Inventory Tool (G-MIT) that is used by GRIP project managers and other partner organizations to input and store data about ongoing grassland restoration projects.
• Beginning in the spring of 2013, OPJV staff have partnered with TPWD and researchers from Texas State University collected data at over 2400 points at multiple scales as part of a a long-term grassland bird monitoring project in the GRIP eligible counties listed above. Monitoring efforts are planned to double in 2014 as we expand into Oklahoma.
• The GRIP, G-MIT, and grassland bird population monitoring project combined represent a long-term commitment from the OPJV and GCJV partner organizations to implement strategic habitat conservation for selected grassland bird species.
For more information on the GRIP or other OPJV grassland bird conservation efforts please feel free to contact us:
NPAT President Kirsti Harms wrote:
Despite predictions of storms, 20 participants, many of them Master Naturalists, came out for the Granger Lake tour and workshop on Sunday, April 13. The first stop was a remnant Austin Chalk Prairie off the Comanche Trail along the south shore of Granger Lake. Board member and TPWD Plant Ecologist Jason Singhurst volunteered to lead the tour. He gave an overview of Blackland prairies and the limestone outcrops that can be found in these ecosystems. The group then spent time identifying plants in this prairie. There were several plants in bloom, including blue sage, fox-glove, prairie phlox and a winecup variety found in Williamson County.
The next stop was a prairie replication site below Granger Dam. This was originally a joint project between the Army Corps of Engineers, Texas Parks and Wildlife and NPAT. The project has been inactive for several years and there was discussion about how to revive it. NPAT and ACOE hope to get some volunteers interested in working on this again. It could be a great regional resource for education and prairie seeds.
Finally the group traveled to board member Nancy Webber’s Alligator Ranch for lunch and the workshop portion. Her ranch house is off-the-grid, built from recycled building materials and on a restored prairie—perfect for hosting this group! Executive Director Pat Merkord gave an introduction to NPAT, along with a lesson on how to find remnant prairies. We hope this will inspire people to start looking for them and to start thinking about helping Texas prairies in general. One of our goals is to begin a chapter in the Central Texas area to keep the momentum going in this region.