A Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) project has been selected to target conservation easement and restoration in the Texas playa lakes of the Panhandle and South Plains regions for $1.5 million in funding.
A Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) project has been selected to target conservation easement and restoration in the Texas playa lakes of the Panhandle and South Plains regions for $1.5 million in funding. Ducks Unlimited, in partnership with the Playa Lakes Joint Venture and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, proposed this project and will contribute funding to work with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in a joint effort with landowners to acquire easements and restore critical functions and values to historically agricultural wetlands.
This project includes 15-year or 30-year easements to protect and restore playa wetlands and adjacent uplands buffers in these regions. Playas are the centers of biodiversity on the plains supporting 185 bird species, 450 plant species, 13 amphibian species, and 37 mammal species. In this dry landscape, playas are the main source of water for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds as well as resident prairie birds.
Partners will target playas surrounding local towns and communities whose available drinking water is impacted due to heavy center pivot irrigation activities. This project is also focused on improving monarch butterfly and lesser prairie chicken habitat. Partners are working with nine separate organizations targeting underserved landowners across Texas to increase their participation in the program.
“Playa lakes make up about 2% of the landscape in the region while they account for 98% of the biodiversity, this is why playa lakes are a key part of the ecosystem out here in west Texas,” said Chad Reed, NRCS assistant state conservationist in Lubbock.
Restored wetland ecosystems filter sediments and chemicals that helps improve downstream water quality, enhances wildlife and aquatic habitat, reduces impacts from flooding, recharges groundwater and offers recreational benefits.
WREP is part of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, a voluntary conservation program through which NRCS enters into agreements with eligible partners to leverage resources to carry out high priority wetland protection, restoration and enhancement projects to improve wildlife habitat.
Visit the Texas NRCS website for more details about WREP and Playa Lakes or for other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs. Contact your local USDA Service Center.