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News Release

Applications Being Accepted for South Texas Grassland Restoration Incentive Program

Contact:
Jesús Franco
956-578-2207


Temple, Texas, Sept. 16, 2020 — The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Texas in partnership with the Rio Grande Joint Venture has announced funding for landowners and land managers through the South Texas Grassland Restoration Incentive Program (GRIP) for projects that enhance and restore grassland and grass-dominated shrubland for Scaled Quail, Northern Bobwhite, grassland birds, and pollinators. Of particular interest this time are projects aimed at improving habitat for the castanogastris (chestnut-bellied) subspecies of Scaled Quail.

Project proposals will be accepted through October 13, 2020. Once approved, projects must be completed no later than October 1, 2021. 

Eligible counties include Brooks, Duval, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, LaSalle, McMullen, Jim Hogg, Starr, Webb, Zapata, and roughly the western half of Kenedy, Kleberg, Live Oak, and Willacy. Underscored counties are eligible for both Northern Bobwhite and Scaled Quail projects.      

For many years, bird populations that depend on diverse grasslands and grass-dominated shrublands throughout south Texas have been steadily declining. Many factors have contributed to these population declines, but the primary cause is loss of habitat. These losses can be attributed to invasive non-native grasses, low diversity brush encroachment, and fire suppression. These factors have had a significant impact on Northern Bobwhite, Scaled Quail, Eastern Meadowlark, Cassin’s Sparrow, and multiple species of pollinators. Since 1965, the population of Northern Bobwhite in Texas has decreased by more than 90 percent and the population of Scaled Quail has decreased by 80 percent. 

“To address these drastic population declines, private landowners need to be supported to improve habitat for wildlife that depend on grasslands and grass-dominated shrublands and through the partnerships we have formed and with USDA-NRCS we are able to offer the South Texas GRIP,” said Jesús G. Franco, assistant coordinator of the Rio Grande Joint Venture and American Bird Conservancy. “Projects use mechanical and/or chemical brush management, native range planting, prescribed fire and prescribed grazing to achieve goals. Landowners provide in-kind services equal or exceeding the grant funding to ensure success of the projects.”

Landowners work in coordination with a project manager (usually a local NRCS, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, or Fish and Wildlife Service biologist) to prepare and submit a South Texas GRIP project proposal. The project manager will make sure recommended practices are aimed at improving habitat for grassland birds, Northern Bobwhite, Scaled Quail, and/or pollinators. Proposals are reviewed by the review committee, ranked and, if eligible, considered for funding.

Eligible management practices include prescribed burning, prescribed grazing, fencing, firebreaks, invasive herbaceous plant control, range planting, early successional habitat development, and brush management.

General Eligibility Requirements

  • Treatment area is at least 25 acres for Northern Bobwhite projects or 160 acres for Scaled Quail projects. Smaller treatment areas or their combinations will be considered depending on the expected impacted area and currently available habitat on site.
  • Landowner agrees to contribute to the project an amount equal to the amount of funding requested (1:1 match) –Landowner contribution form contains more details.
  • Landowner agrees to allow vegetative and bird data to be collected at project sites with advanced notice and coordination.
  • Landowner is committed to maintaining improved state of habitat in the treatment area for at least five years after project completion.

Since the program started in 2017, the South Texas GRIP has treated more than 9,000 acres which has significantly improved the habitat for grassland birds and pollinators too.

For additional information, contact Jesús Franco at  ​jfranco@abcbirds.org or 956-578-2207.