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Conservation News-January 29th

EPA Accepts Kickapoo Creek in Henderson County Watershed Protection Plan

The Kickapoo Creek in Henderson County Watershed Protection Plan (WPP) has been reviewed and accepted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Plan acceptance is dependent on meeting EPA’s guidelines for watershed-based plans. The WPP outlines a strategy to implement management measures that will reduce nonpoint source pollution into Kickapoo Creek.  The Kickapoo Creek in Henderson County Watershed comprises of 176,759 acres and is located almost completely within Henderson County, Texas with a small, northwest portion extending into Van Zandt County. Headwaters for Kickapoo Creek are at the confluence of Lake Palestine outside of the City of Chandler in Henderson County and continues into Van Zandt County. Municipalities within the watershed include Edom, Murchison, and Brownsboro. However, the City of Brownsboro is the only municipality along the water body.

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Sierra: Ocelots Find an Unlikely Haven in South Texas

A thick humidity lingers during most seasons in South Texas. Spiny hackberry, blackbrush, and other thorny plants create dense walls of vegetation. The Texas sun shines often, dousing the hundreds of thousands of acres of ranchland in near-white light. But upon closer look, one might catch a flash of a golden fur coat, spotted with black blotches and bands or big, luminous eyes peeking between a thicket of shrubland. These wild cats are ocelots—and they’re among the only two small populations remaining in the entire nation. Though these endangered cats once roamed everywhere from Louisiana to Argentina, less than 80 remain in the nation—and they’re all in South Texas. They live in two isolated populations: one on private ranchland and the other in Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, about 40 miles farther south in the Rio Grande Valley. Due to their small populations, the wild cats are threatened by low genetic diversity caused by inbreeding. And because the remaining subspecies live in Texas’s low-level coastal areas, many worry that the entire breeding population and its habitat could be wiped out by a tropical storm along the Gulf Coast.

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Roel Lopez recipient of 2024 Conservation Trailblazer Award

Three decades of research, teaching and service advancing the field of wildlife conservation were celebrated as Roel Lopez, Ph.D., head of the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management and director of the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute, received the Conservation Trailblazer Award from the Dallas Safari Club during their annual convention held earlier this month. The award celebrates the significant contributions of wildlife professionals to game and non-game wildlife conservation, including wildlife and habitat management, applied research and policy. “Dr. Lopez has dedicated his career to advancing wildlife conservation not only through research and educational outreach, but through the development of the next generation of conservation leaders,” said Jeffrey W. Savell, Ph.D., vice chancellor and dean for Agriculture and Life Sciences. “His actions in and outside of the classroom seamlessly integrate research, leadership and service, enabling our College to produce tomorrow’s leaders and advance natural resource stewardship.”

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Drought loosens grip on Texas agriculture

Drought continues to linger in patches of the state, but Texas agricultural producers face much better cropping outlooks going into spring, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts. AgriLife Extension agronomists Jourdan Bell, Ph.D., Amarillo; Reagan Noland, Ph.D., San Angelo; and Ronnie Schnell, Ph.D., Bryan-College Station, agreed that soil moisture conditions have improved compared to last year. However, they are still concerned that cropping conditions could decline without additional timely moisture, especially in drier areas. Around 97% of the state was experiencing some level of drought on Sept. 26, 2023, with around two-thirds of Texas mired in severe to exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. As of Jan. 16, 2024, that figure had dropped to 58% of the state experiencing levels of drought with about 13% experiencing severe to extreme drought and zero areas reporting exceptional drought. Exceptional drought is indicative of significant widespread crop and pasture losses and emergency-level water shortages in reservoirs, streams and wells.

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