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Cheryl Irwin (NFWF)
cheryl.irwin@nfwf.org
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 NFWF awards $34.5 Million to Support Historic Powderhorn Ranch Acquisition in Texas

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 22, 2014 -- The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $34.5 million in funding to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation for the acquisition of Powderhorn Ranch in coastal Texas. A multi-partner coalition yesterday announced the purchase of the 17,351-acre Powderhorn Ranch along the Texas coast in Calhoun County.  The acquisition will conserve a spectacular piece of property that is one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled coastal prairie in the state. In years to come, Powderhorn Ranch is expected to become a state park and wildlife management area.

Safeguarding this natural treasure has been contemplated for more than 30 years by several conservation organizations and wildlife agencies including The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). Along with NFWF, these organizations are playing a critical role in the acquisition and long-term conservation of this property. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is spearheading the fundraising for the $50 million project, which includes the purchase of the property, habitat restoration and management, as well as a long-term endowment.

The real estate transaction has been more than two years in the making. Powderhorn Ranch was previously owned by Cumberland & Western Resources, LLC, whose primary investors are conservation-minded citizens who sold the property below its market value to ensure its permanent safekeeping.

A significant portion of the funding for the project is being provided by NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, which was created with dollars paid by BP and Transocean in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. NFWF has committed $34.5 million over the next three years, making this the biggest land acquisition in the nation so far using BP spill restoration dollars.

“The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is proud to be part of this remarkable conservation effort along the Texas Gulf Coast. The size and diversity of species and habitat found on the Powderhorn Ranch make it an integral project in the overall recovery process of the Gulf from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. “The combined effort of so many groups exemplifies the tremendous cooperative effort necessary to protect and restore wildlife and habitat.” 

The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy of Texas are each providing $10 million in interim funding so the Powderhorn Ranch can be purchased in 2014. The two organizations will be reimbursed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, who will hold title on the property by the end of 2016, and will ultimately turn it over to TPWD. The project exemplifies a new model of funding conservation projects in Texas and is a demonstration of both public and private entities working together for the long-term benefit of Texas and its citizens.

The acquisition will protect in perpetuity unspoiled coastal land with forests of coastal live oak and intact wetlands. This range of habitats is perfect for public hunting, fishing, hiking, paddling and bird watching. These nature tourism activities currently bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the Texas coast. The property also includes thousands of acres of freshwater wetlands and salt marshes that offer vital fish and wildlife habitat, provide natural filtering to improve water quality and shield people and property from storm surges and sea level rise.

From the 1950s to the early 1990s Texas lost more than 200,000 acres of coastal wetlands. The Powderhorn acquisition helps combat this trend, protecting local economies, people and property as well as wildlife. The ranch includes more than eleven miles of tidal bay front on Matagorda Bay and provides habitat for hundreds of species of birds and animals, including the endangered whooping crane. Habitat management of the property for the first two years will be provided by The Nature Conservancy through a contract with the TPW Foundation.

This project represents some of the first obligations of funds received by NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund.  In early 2013, a U.S. District Court approved two plea agreements resolving certain criminal charges against BP and Transocean related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Provisions within the plea agreements direct a total of $2.544 billion to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation over a five-year period. From that amount, NFWF will receive more than $203 million for projects to protect or restore natural resources in Texas in the aftermath of the oil spill. 

For additional information about Powderhorn Ranch, please click on the links below:

Powderhorn Ranch Fact Sheet

Powderhorn Ranch Acquisition Video

To learn more about the state of Texas’ process for identifying priority Gulf Coast restoration projects, visit www.restorethetexascoast.org.

To learn more about NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund in Texas, please visit www.nfwf.org/gulf/Pages/GEBF-Texas.aspx.