Trustees of Whooping Crane Conservation Association recently approved expenditure of $286,750 to acquire three tracts of private land currently used by whooping cranes. These sites are located within the lands designated as Critical Habitat wintering area for whooping cranes along the Texas Coast. Critical habitat contains those habitat qualities essential to conservation and recovery of the species. The Trustees believe it is important for the Association to do everything possible to protect these sites from residential and commercial development and to preserve them for continued use by the cranes. A majority of the funds committed for these acquisitions came from bequests to WCCA from two women. Lurae A Brinkerhoff provided $281,515 in 1998 and Elizabeth F. Overton gave $36,260 in 1999. The Association is deeply grateful for the donation by these women that will do so much to preserve habitat for the cranes. The purchase of these sites, scheduled for this summer, will support goals of the Canada/U.S. International Recovery Team.
The Association is partnering with The Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, and The Nature Conservancy, to purchase fee title on two tracts totaling 168 acres of freshwater and estuarine marshes, tidal mudflats, and saline uplands on Copano Bay. The total cost is estimated to be $348,800 with 25 percent ($86,750) being WCCA’s share. The southern unit is part of a territory that a pair and their chicks have used for several years. The northern unit is used by subadults and unpaired adult whooping cranes. We anticipate that the properties will eventually be transferred into the public trust, and possibly become part of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Other protected lands in the vicinity are Goose Island State Park, the Lamar and Tatton Units of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve.
The Association is also partnering with The Nature Conservancy to acquire a conservation easement on 108.8 acres of private land bordering San Antonio Bay. The easement will restrict any action that would be detrimental to the conservation purpose for whooping cranes and their habitat. This area is used as wintering habitat by two dozen whooping cranes often referred to as the Welder Flats population. The easement would prohibit further development or construction on this tract which borders resort properties known as Falcon Point Ranch.
The property is a prime piece of the Ranch, suitable for development, which borders salt marsh used by whooping cranes. Other protected crane habitats in the vicinity are Welder Flats Wildlife Management Area, Welder Flats Coastal Preserve, Guadalupe River Wildlife Management Area, and Aransas National Wildlife Area. The Whooping Crane Conservation Association’s $200,000 contribution for the easement will be combined with other public and private funding to fulfill the total real estate, contractual and land acquisition cost of $1,050,187.