Texas State Spotlight 2016

Texas State Spotlight, May 2016 By Charlie Stockstill


Many years ago, a wise man told me that there are three types of ships you should avoid – burning ships, sinking ships, and partnerships! After what I have witnessed, I can truthfully say nothing could be further from the truth, at least when it comes to partnerships benefiting wildlife.

For the last several years, Shell Oil has been a major, generous, valuable conservation partner. The dollars they have granted us have gone straight on the ground allowing us to build water collection devices in the trans-Pecos region of West Texas. Just last year, they asked if we might find a water project that would both enhance mule deer, and enhance their business presence in the Permian basin of West Texas. Not impossible, but a little difficult because of the lack of public property in the Permian basin. After a great deal of thought and conversations with volunteers, this is what transpired.

First, the greater Houston chapter obtained the conservation partnership commitment from Shell. Second, several years ago the Midland chapter had purchased 500 gallon portable guzzlers with its Chapter Rewards. These rain collection devices, while relatively small by comparison, enable us to put water in places that are historically dry, with a minimum amount of effort. These drinkers not only provide water for mule deer but also other species of wildlife that may live there. My thoughts were, if we were to do that again, and Shell had the business contacts of the landowners in the Permian basin, we might be able to positively affect those mule deer acres that had been ignored.

We then met with the Shell Land Manager for the Permian basin. Our goal was to find landowners with a few mule deer on their property, which would be willing to allow us to install the drinkers. We have a few prerequisites that need to be agreed upon. First, the land had to be surveyed by Texas Parks and Wildlife personnel to ensure that mule deer lived there, or could live there. Second, if the landowner allowed cattle on their property, the landowner had to provide panels to keep the cows from drinking the water. Next, should there not be enough rain to keep the guzzler full, the landowner would need to agree to fill the reservoir. And finally, if the landowner would be kind enough to install a game cam, we would be most appreciative of photos of any wildlife using the guzzler. And one important note: should the placement of the guzzler prove ineffective, we the local MDF chapter, would have access to move the guzzler to a better location.

Members of the Mule Deer Foundation in the Permian Basin rallied behind this idea. One of the members runs a water company that supports the petroleum industry in the area. He agreed not only to help find landowners willing to participate but also to volunteer his water service to fill the guzzlers should there be a lack of rain, thereby taking on some of the future efforts that may be required of the landowner. The local chapter also committed their Chapter Rewards to increase the number of guzzlers that could be purchased. Even the Midland chapter, who first launched this idea, has contributed.

The bottom line is that five of these guzzlers will be installed in the Permian basin per the wishes of all the partners including the greater Houston Chapter, Shell Oil, Texas H20, the Odessa and Midland MDF chapters in the Permian basin, and Texas Parks and Wildlife. And let’s not forget those landowners allowing these units on their property to provide a water resource for wildlife. Now 2,500 gallons of water will be available to wildlife in places it never existed before!

This is a partnership I am glad to be part of; as to the burning ship and the sinking ship, I think I will remember the wise man’s advice and stay away.

In keeping with the theme of partnerships, other mule deer habitat enhancement projects in the Southern Great Plains Region more projects are coming together. Working with a number of organizations, agencies and companies, we are building financial and logistical support to put meaningful, sustainable conservation on the ground. Our goal is to keep a number of these projects lined up and ready to go so we can build off our past successes for our future efforts. In effect, we are expanding from these cornerstone areas and magnifying the effects over an ever increasing landscape.

This concept has been implemented with remarkable success in the Big Bend region of Texas with guzzler projects funded by MDF on Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Black Gap Management Area and the adjacent El Carmen Land & Conservation Company property. These projects have built upon related work being done by, and in partnership with other conservation groups including the Texas Bighorn Society, Dallas Safari Club, Houston Safari Club, the Quail Coalition and others. These partnerships have in turn inspired participation from the CEMEX Corporation and Texas Parks and Wildlife who have worked with us to transplant over 100 mule deer to this area over the last two years with more transplants envisioned for the near future. The hope is that we’ll be able to restore what has been a historically robust population of deer to this critical habitat. The results are already visible with more deer, quail, and other species being seen throughout the area as the recovery from recent droughts takes hold and the power of having reliable water sources in the desert are felt!

Moving down the road a couple of hundred miles in the Trans Pecos (just a hop, skip, and a jump in West Texas terms!) we are building a new core project and partnership with a water project proposed for the Lado Ranch. This 93,000-acre property has wonderful mule deer habitat and active conservation and wildlife restoration programs in place for species ranging from prairie dogs and quail to bighorn sheep and mule deer. As with the Big Bend project, the ability to work out from intensively managed core areas and multiply our results as new partnerships develop are almost limitless in this sparsely populated corner of the Chihuahuan Desert.


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