A partial list of case studies that demonstrate how the Great Plains Native Fish Conservation Areas prioritization and the lists of priority projects identified at conservation planning workshops have been used to inform and influence investments in landscape-scale conservation of Great Plains rivers.
Native Fish Conservation Areas Success Stories in the Great Plains
- The Native Fish Conservation Areas prioritization has been used to guide Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) regulatory/permitting decisions that seek to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts to native fishes, mussels and their habitats (e.g., permits issued by TPWD for streambed disturbance, bridge maintenance, instream dredging, dewatering, public waters stocking, non-game fish collection, commercial fishing, exotic species transport, and others).
- The Native Fish Conservation Areas prioritization has been used to establish a network of protected areas where specific development activities are prohibited or where special conditions are now included in permits to avoid/minimize impacts to focal species.
- The Native Fish Conservation Areas prioritization has been used to guide TPWD’s selection of focal watersheds for delivery of voluntary conservation initiatives (e.g., technical guidance and landowner incentives for spring, riparian and instream habitat restoration in focal watersheds). TPWD has invested more than $3.36M in monitoring, research, and habitat restoration in these focal watersheds since 2012. This has included investments of more than $500,000 in landowner incentives that resulted in restoration of over 8,500 acres of fish and wildlife habitats. Habitat restoration projects have primarily focused on sensitive aquatic habitats including aquifer recharge features, springs, riparian and instream habitats. TPWD biologists have provided technical guidance on watershed best management practices to more than 350 private landowners, resulting in improved land management practices on more than 200,000 acres of ranch lands in focal watersheds.
- The Native Fish Conservation Areas prioritization has been used by TPWD in guidance to USDA regarding selection of focal landscapes for delivery of Farm Bill land conservation programs. More specifically, the Native Fish Conservation Areas prioritization provided the basis for recommendations to USDA on selection of focal landscapes for investment of funding through the Conservation Reserve Program. Additionally, TPWD recently proposed that the Native Fish Conservation Areas prioritization be used as the geographic basis for a new Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) initiative, which would dedicate significant funding to implement aquatic resources best management practices (using defined NRCS practices) within focal watersheds defined as Native Fish Conservation Areas. A formal proposal to establish this initiative is under development.
- The Native Fish Conservation Areas prioritization was recently provided to the USFWS Austin Ecological Services Field Office upon request. They indicated their intention to use the Native Fish Conservation Areas prioritization to inform their selection of priority areas for delivery of landowner incentives through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. The Native Fish Conservation Areas prioritization is now being used as a component of the scoring criteria for the Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program, which supports conservation easements on working lands. During the most recent funding cycle, four of the five proposed easements selected for funding were for ranches located within watersheds identified as priorities through the Native Fish Conservation Areas prioritization. These projects were awarded $907, 775 by TPWD (leveraged against $9.2M in other funding sources) to permanently protect 11,211 acres of priority watersheds. Similarly, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation recently established a new conservation easement funding program, which will consider the Native Fish Conservation Areas prioritization in their scoring criteria.
- Approximately $750,000 of TPWD’s State Wildlife Grant Funding apportionment for 2016 has been allocated to support implementation of priority research, monitoring and conservation projects identified through Native Fish Conservation Area planning workshops in the Brazos, Red, Canadian and Colorado river watersheds.
- Approximately $500,000 of TPWD’s Aquatic Invasive Species project-based funding allocation for FY16-17 (provided by the Texas State Legislature) has been dedicated to riparian invasive plant management projects identified as priorities within the Colorado River and Brazos River Native Fish Conservation Area planning processes.