At the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch, everything points to quail. Our primary goal is to maximize “usable space” for quail on the landscape 365 days of the year. There is an important distinction for the land manager to understand when discussing the improvement of habitat for maximization of usable space versus creating an “ideal” habitat.
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Through our Texas Land Trends project, we have been tracking and telling the story of rural land use changes and trends across the state for the past few decades. Using remotely sensed data, we can better illustrate these changes; especially those related to urban and energy industry growth.
Our latest Texas Land Trends report examines conservation easements, an important tool that can complement both landowner and public needs by supporting rural economies, creating recreational opportunities. and providing intrinsic benefits.
Not surprisingly, about 94% of Texas is privately owned—84% of that land is considered working lands (farm, range and timberland) making private landowners the stewards with the largest influence over natural resources compared to public lands. As we watch Texas experience the largest inter-generational change in landownership ever experienced, how landowners continue the legacy of land management is up to them, making education the first priority.
In response to this unfortunate situation, the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute (NRI) researchers, including Drs. Wade Ryberg, Danielle Walkup, Toby Hibbitts and Brandon Bowers, are working in partnership with many private landowners and stakeholders to relocate gopher tortoises to new, development-free habitats. Read their story here.
Habitat loss, invasive species, disease, overexploitation, pollution—these are just a few of the many threats that species face in their fight for survival and that conservationists try to manage for in their efforts to protect and conserve species.
Wild quail face a long and varied list of challenges to their daily and long-term survival. While some perils are easily identified—a predator raiding a nest, a lack of vegetative cover for nesting, or a sweltering summer day—others, like diseases and parasites, are more subtle. Still others are even less tangible than that; to observe them, you have to dive into the gene pool. Genetic diversity is a topic not often addressed when discussing ways to help quail, but given its role in determining the fate of populations, perhaps it should garner more consideration.
Freshwater mussels play an important role in the health of freshwater ecosystems by providing food and habitat for other aquatic species, stabilizing stream bottoms, and filtering the water in our lakes and rivers. The Rio Grande basin is home to three mussel species suffering from habitat loss and growing human populations in this area may be threatening the water systems necessary for their survival.
The Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society (TCTWS) annual meeting is a time to present and discuss current research and recognize notable achievements in conservation leadership. NRI was well represented at this year's meeting by noteworthy scientific research presentations, employees who took on leadership roles within TCTWS, and extension outreach efforts.
From scattered rural settlements to big cities, the density and distribution of people in Texas has changed dramatically over time. As "urban sprawl" continues to increase development in the outlying areas around cities, it will affect the resources, amenities, and job opportunities for the people who live there.
The Statewide Quail Symposium is set for Aug. 16-18 in Abilene, and registration is now open. The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service symposium will be held at the MCM Elegante Hotel, 4250 Ridgemont Drive.