The state's population density is 80 people per square mile and growing steadily. The overall risk to ecosystems is extreme. Population density has increased 17.5 percent since 1990. The amount of developed land increases continuously mostly without the benefit of habitat analysis or investigation into non-destructive methods of construction. Texas has lost nearly all of its prairie, all of its native habitat in the lower delta of the Rio Grande River and in the regions surrounding all the metro areas. The state has 216 state listed and 105 federally listed threatened and endangered species. Biological Diversity Policy
Texas does not have a formal biodiversity policy, but has several related policies. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has a policy stating that the protection, conservation and management of the states biodiversity is a goal of the department. No methods for implementation were identified. The legislature also recognizes the significance of its coastal waterways. (Tex Trans. Code §51.002 et seq.)
Note: As of 2010 the TPWD is rolling out it's newly developed Wildlife Action Plan! Keep your eyes on the TPWD web site for further developments and updates.
Status of Biodiversity Science
Texas did not have a coordinated assessment system in place. However, the Parks and Wildlife Department initiated a comprehensive Terrestrial Wildlife database that will integrate and computerize all wildlife, plant, and habitat-related data. In addition, the state relies on its Natural Heritage database and GAP. GAP was initiated in 1994, was delayed due to budget cuts, but now has funding for two more years. GAP has finished its vegetation classification, and as of this year, nearly completed mapping. Mapping was be extended to terrestrial vertebrates with additional funding. The new plan (initiated in 2005) to be kicked off in 2010 is called the Texas Wildlife Action Plan (TWAP). The Wildlife Action Plan is a natural resources conservation plan for all of Texas, not just Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
Texas has separate laws to protect plants and animals. (Tex. Parks & Wild. Code Ann. §§68.001 et seq; 83.006; 49.015, Tex. Admin. code tit. 30,§330.129) For animals, listings are based on scientific data only. The law does not require recovery plans, critical habitat designation or agency consultation, although by regulation preliminary investigations of land to be developed is required. Penalties include fines of $100 to $500 and imprisonment up to one year.
The plants law provides for listings. (Tex. Parks & Wild. Code Ann. §§88.001 et seq.) In addition, listed plants cannot be collected from public lands without a Parks and Wildlife Department permit. Listed plants also are protected from commercial exploitation on private and public lands.
State Agency Management for Biodiversity
Some state agencies are required to manage their lands in a biologically sustainable way. For example, the Parks and Wildlife Department and the Land Office must develop a State Wetlands Conservation Plan for state-owned coastal wetlands. (Tex Parks & Wild. Code Ann. §14.002)
Cooperative efforts include the cooperation of several state agencies to mitigate negative impacts on important coastal areas. In addition, the Parks and Wildlife Department is conducting cooperative fish research with Mexico and is participating in a Texas Wildlife Action Plan.
State Agency Training
Parks and Wildlife Department staff regularly receive and produce training efforts that emphasize biological diversity. No other programs of agency personnel training were identified.
Texas does not have a "little NEPA." However, by statute, political subdivisions of the state may not approve of projects taking public land otherwise meant for wildlife unless there is no feasible alternative and mitigation is done. (Tex Parks & Wild. Code Ann. §26.001) In addition, the Parks and Wildlife Department makes recommendations to state and federal agencies, developers, and consultants regarding the impact of projects on wildlife and their habitat.
Texas has few land acquisition programs. The sale of wildlife stamps helps the state to acquire important habitat areas. A Non-game and Endangered Species Conservation account provides monies for non-game and endangered species habitat acquisition, although poor public and legislative support has made funding this account difficult. (Tex Parks & Wild Code Ann. §11.054) The state also has a Wetland Acquisition Fund, although specific levels of funding were not provided. Acquisition efforts also occur through the Public Lands Division. (Tex Nat. Res. Code Ann. §33.236)
Private Land Conservation
Texas offers several private land conservation programs. For example, conservation easements are authorized by statute. (Tex Nat. Res. Code Ann. §§183.001 et seq.) Over 13 million private acres are under active written Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife management plans that emphasize an ecosystem approach to conservation. A Private Lands Enhancement Program provides technical guidance to landowners on habitat management. An ad valorem tax credit is available for active wildlife management of private property. An Eco-Tourism program allows urban landowners to capitalize on wildlife management by engaging in economically feasible investments. In addition, a 1995 constitutional amendment was passed that will allow open space land used for wildlife management to qualify for tax appraisal in the same manner as open space agricultural land. A State Wetlands Conservation Plan promotes conservation through incentives for private landowners.
Texas has some provisions to control the introduction and spread of exotic species. (State and Local Legislative Links, Nat'l Laws) For example, the transportation of live harmful exotic species is prohibited. Wild animals not native to the state, such as lions, tigers and elephants, are restricted from importation without a permit. Noxious weeds and seeds are also regulated. Noxious weeds are controlled by spraying, cutting, and burning, and by prohibiting their inclusion in containers of agricultural or vegetable seeds. (Tex Agric. Code Ann. §§78.002 et seq.) The Parks and Wildlife Commission regulates the importation, possession, propagation, and sale of harmful species into state waters.
Predator or Animal Damage Control Activities
Texas has an animal damage control program that is operated in conjunction with the federal government. The day-to-day operations are run by the federal agency, although the state provides a majority of the funding and personnel In addition, state law allows furbearing animals to be taken at any time if the animal is causing damage or is suspected of carrying a disease. (Tex Admin. Code tit. 31,§65.376) The state also has a Predator Management Program that is separate from the state-federal program. This program permits the use of aircraft to hunt depredating animals such as bobcats, coyotes, and red fox. (Tex Parks & Wild. Code Ann. §43.103) The M-44 cyanide device is used to control coyotes, foxes, and wild dogs that depredate livestock and poultry or that are vectors of communicable diseases. (Tex Admin. Code tit. 4,§7.33)
Additional Legal Protections for Biodiversity
The state constitution states that the preservation and conservation of natural resources is a public right and duty. (Text Const. art. XVI, §59)
Texas has some public biodiversity education programs. For example, the Natural Heritage program has films on the importance of wildlife and biodiversity. In addition, the state participates in Project WILD and published a watchable wildlife guide in 1992.
Texas passed a takings bill in 1995. The bill gives landowners the right to sue state and local governments over actions that devalues their property by more than 25 percent and requires agencies to conduct takings impact assessments. (Tex Agric. Code Ann. §§134.001 et seq.; Tex. Admin. Code tit. 30,§261.42; Tex Admin. Code tit. 31, §§353.25 et seq.)
Contacts: Agricultural Extension Service
Texas A & M University
College Station, TX 77843
409-845-7967 Texas Forest Service
College Station, TX 77843-2136
409-845-2601 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
4200 Smith School Rd.
Austin, TX 78744
512-389-4800 Texas Department of Agriculture
P.O. Box 12847
Austin, TX 78711
512-463-7476 Texas General Land Office
Stephen F. Austin State Office Bldg.
1700 N. Congress Ave.
Austin, TX 78701-1495