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Wetlands Reserve Program Increases Conservation Outlook in Navarro County

Wetlands Reserve Program Increases Conservation Outlook in Navarro County

Story by Randy Henry

Wetlands are a vital natural resource and some landowners in north-central Texas have created or restored them on their property utilizing the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), which is a conservation program offered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

In Navarro County, Texas, WRP has been a successful conservation program for eligible landowners to help protect, restore, and enhance the original hydrology, native vegetation, and natural topography of wetland areas on their property.

Owners of the Thorn Ridge Wildlife Ranch and Lonesome Quail Ranch, both located in Chatfield, have completed wetland restoration projects using WRP.

�WRP has really helped some landowners in Navarro County address their property restoration needs while establishing a wetland environment that has increased wildlife habitat and other related natural resources concerns on their land,� said Kristy Oates, NRCS district conservationist in Navarro County.

WRP was reauthorized in the 2008 Farm Bill and offers wetland restoration practices such as dikes, range planting, forest site preparation, tree and scrub establishment, structures for water control, critical area planting, fence, pest management, and wetland wildlife habitat management. Also, WRP offers three enrollment options: a restoration cost-share agreement, a 30-year easement, or a permanent easement.

�WRP easements are extremely valuable to the wetland wildlife habitat for migratory birds, wetland dependent wildlife, and protecting and improving the water quality within the Trinity River Basin,� Oates said. �Thorn Ridge Wildlife Ranch and Lonesome Quail WRP are easements that are linked, so they collectively increase ecological benefits for both landowners.�

On the Thorn Ridge Wildlife Ranch, landowner Paul Dube enrolled 200 acres into WRP and targets conservation education and recreation. He changed the focus of the ranch from pastureland into a predominantly wetland habitat, which has significantly increased waterfowl and song birds on the land.

�When I saw the WRP information, it seemed a perfect fit for what I wanted to accomplish with a property of this nature,� Dube said. �I wanted to do much of the work myself, and NRCS helped with the best management practices and technical assistance to create this wetland wildlife habitat here today.�

By using WRP, the Thorn Ridge Wildlife Ranch provides natural food and cover for wildlife. As part of the wetland restoration plan, Dube and NRCS planted hardwood trees, bringing the total number of trees planted to 38,000.

�The restoration on Thorn Ridge Wildlife Ranch included swales and kidney ponds to make small water enhancement areas while establishing vegetation such as hardwood trees to produce an overall package for the wildlife,� Oates said.

�We have made a commitment to improving water quality on this land,� Dube said. �The technical support and information from NRCS were amazing, so it truly helped throughout the entire restoration process on the ranch.�

Just a few miles down the road from Thorn Ridge Wildlife Ranch is Lonesome Quail Ranch, where landowner Carroll Moran has 3,100 acres and enrolled 800 acres in WRP. Moran has a goal of adding more wetlands wildlife habitat, along with cover and food sources for different species, including white-tailed deer, nesting turkeys, and several kinds of ducks.

�When I was considering the purchase of land for wetlands habitat restoration, I found Lonesome Quail and Tomahawk Ranches in Chatfield,� Moran said. �I found out about WRP from a fellow rancher, and Tomohawk already had NRCS programs working on it so the transition was easy.�

Moran, an avid outdoorsman and conservationist, says he wanted land to restore for duck hunting while creating a wetlands wildlife habitat.

�It was all about restoring the wetland bottoms, so within my lifetime I have been interested in the restoration of land for wildlife and we got that done working with NRCS,� Moran said. �I ended up with two really great ponds for duck hunting that I originally had in mind using WRP.�

During the development of wetland habitat on Moran�s ranch, NRCS planted 349 acres of hardwood trees, along with moving 95,623 cubic yards of soil to create swales, kidney ponds and dikes.

�I thought the process was seamless, and the best part about working with NRCS was the program went really smooth and the technical expertise was excellent,� Moran said.

Moran connected easements that NRCS had completed with Thorn Ridge Wildlife Ranch and Lonesome Quail Ranch to have a unified WRP management plan for both properties.

�I have joined in the management of these easements and wetlands on Thorn Ridge Wildlife Ranch, so using one management effort works great for the wildlife and our (Dube and Moran) common goals after the restoration using WRP,� Moran says.

�WRP is restoration and the beauty of that restoration is for both humans and animals alike,� Oates said.

Dube Ranch Wetlands Habitat

Moran Duck Hunting Wildlife Habitat

Since enrolling 200 acres in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), landowner and conservationist Paul Dube has focused on conservation education and recreation at the 700-acre Thorn Ridge Wildlife Ranch in Chatfield, Texas. Small ponds surrounded by wetlands provide wildlife habitat within the restoration area.

As an avid outdoorsman and conservationist, Carroll Moran enrolled 800 acres in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). The restored wetlands on the Lonesome Quail Ranch in Chatfield, Texas, are used for duck hunting and other outdoor recreation.