A collaboration decades in the making, including funding from one of the worst oil spills in history, has helped to secure one of the most pristine tracts of land remaining along the Texas coast for public consumption.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation has announced that the Powderhorn Ranch, a sprawling 17,000-acre piece of undeveloped coastal prairie in Calhoun County bordering Matagorda Bay, has been purchased as part of an effort that includes The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation Fund. TPWD and the conservation groups purchased the property for $37.7 million, the largest amount paid in any Texas conservation bid, and the largest land deal using Deepwater Horizon oil spill restoration funds. More than $30 million came from the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, a $2.5 billion pot of money created by BP and Transocean in the wake of the April 2010 Macondo rig blowout that killed 11 people and left the Gulf of Mexico reeling from an onslaught of oil. That funding overseen by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is being used to restore and aid coastal projects across the Gulf, with Texas earmarked to receive more than $200 million in support.
The Powderhorn is diverse, featuring wetlands, marshes, tidal corridors, oyster beds and live oak, among other natural features that made it such an attractive opportunity. The ranch will be converted into a state park and wildlife management area featuring public access that will cater to numerous pursuits including fishing, kayaking, birdwatching and hunting.
Native wildlife that calls the area home includes bobwhite quail, Rio Grande turkeys, white-tailed deer and countless other species. The region also harbors the endangered whooping crane and hundreds of species of migratory birds that travel south during the winter.
In addition to wildlife, the area features spectacular tidal habitat and brackish areas vital to the development of blue crabs, shrimp and the much-sought redfish.