Texas rancher praised for protection of rare toad

BASTROP COUNTY, Texas, March 11, 2004 (ENS): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the nonprofit conservation group Environmental Defense jointly recognized a Texas family on Wednesday for their dedication to conserving a rare amphibian species that resides in central Texas.

The federal agency and the nonprofit group praised the efforts of Robert K. Long, Sr. and his family for their partnership to create, enhance and restore habitat on the their 540 acre ranch to benefit the endangered Houston toad.

A ceremony recognizing the partnership was held Wednesday at the Long family's property, the L & L Ranch, in Bastrop County, Texas.

Environmental Defense has worked with the Long Family and the Fish and Wildlife Service over the past year to develop a Safe Harbor Agreement that outlines specific management actions designed to provide a net conservation benefit to the Houston toad.

This kind of agreement is a voluntary arrangement between the federal government and non-federal landowners that are designed to benefit endangered species while providing landowners assurances that they will not incur additional restrictions on their property due to their beneficial actions.

Conservation measures outlined in the agreement include activities to facilitate the Houston toad's reproductive success, improve the quality of foraging and other habitat areas, and enhance movement between foraging and breeding areas for the toad on the ranch.

The Houston toad was listed as endangered on October 13, 1970. The species is characterized as a small to medium sized toad that varies in color from light brown to reddish to gray. It was historically known to occur in 12 Texas counties, but is now believed to only reside in nine counties.

The most robust of the remaining Houston toad populations occurs in Bastrop County in association with the "Lost Pines" ecosystem, characterized by pine and oak woodlands and deep sandy soils.

"Partnerships such as this, where agencies and private land owners work together with common goals present true opportunities for species recovery," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Director H. Dale Hall.

Several agencies such as Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Department of Agriculture, and the Natural Resources Conservation Services are also expected to participate in the implementation of the Safe Harbor program on the L & L Ranch.

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/mar2004/2004-03-11-09.asp#anchor7


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