Importance of Natural Resources

The Trans Pecos Eco-Region- Texas Parks and Wildlife- [Official]

(music) [Narration]
The wide-open landscape of West Texas includes miles of grasslands, mountain ranges, and
thorny desert scrubland. Known as the Trans-Pecos eco-region, geographically this area covers
over 32,000 square miles and begins just west of the Pecos River. The region borders the
state of New Mexico to the North and the international border of Mexico to the South and Southwest,
which encompasses the Big Bend State and National Parks. The biodiversity here is rich due to
the unique convergence of biotic communities such as the Edwards Plateau, Great Plains
and Rocky Mountains. But approximately 50% of Trans-Pecos is represented by the Northern
portion of the Chihuahuan Desert. [Dave Holdermann]
The Chihuahuan Desert which is our main biotic community is a relatively new desert. It’s
only about ten thousand years old, and actually has low amounts of endemism – which means
species that actually developed here in the Chihuahuan desert. However, there are a couple
of categories of organisms; cacti are one of them, that have high degrees of endemism.
That is a lot of unique species that are found nowhere else in the world except in the Chihuahuan
Desert. [Narration]
The Trans-Pecos remained largely unsettled until the mid-1800s. With the establishment
of military outposts, Spanish Settlements and eventually the Texas and Pacific Railroad,
the seemingly endless supply of grasslands and natural springs invited new industries
to West Texas: Ranching and Agriculture. But human impacts began taking their toll on the
eco-region. Grasslands were degraded, rivers diverted, and springs began running dry. [Dave Holdermann]
The major cause for the dewatering or drying up of some of the really major, just world
class springs that occurred in the Trans-Pecos was the tapping of the groundwater for the
development of agriculture and that started in the very early part of the 20th century.
And the impacts of that was that they drew down the aquifers to the point where they
no longer could support the surface discharge of these large springs. [Narration]
In fact the drying up of Comanche Springs near Fort Stockton in 1955 landed the Comanche
Springs Pupfish on the federally endangered species list just a few short years later
in 1967. Now it’s only found in San Solomon Springs near Balmorhea. While water continues
to be a big concern for this environment, familiar threats in other areas of Texas such
as oil and gas production, as well as the introduction of wind harvesting, are also
leaving their mark on the Trans-Pecos. [Billy Tarrant]
We’ve had wind farm exploration and research in the Trans-Pecos ecological region for several
years now. However the big push to really generate farms and put a lot of towers up
occurred probably in about the last 5 years. One of the concerns obviously is the potential
impacts to Bighorn Sheep. Our Desert Bighorn Sheep population is doing extremely well in
Texas now and we would like to keep it that way. Another concern we have in the Trans-Pecos,
is the fact that historically much of this country was grassland or savannah, within
the last hundred years we’ve had a huge amount of brush encroachment. We’re working with
partners such as the Nature Conservancy to try to implement more of a prescribed burn
policy, work with private landowners on a much larger scale in implementing prescribed
burn plans for their properties. [Narration]
Using fire for brush control depends heavily on the weather in this arid eco-region, but
well managed use of prescribed burns continues to grow. Other successful partnerships are
helping wildlife in the Trans-Pecos as well. [Billy Tarrant]
One of the things we’re most proud of is our partnership with the Natural Resource Conservation
Service, in not only creating but implementing a Trans-Pecos resource area. It primarily
targets the desert grasslands and with a species of concern, the Pronghorn Antelope, and through
our cooperation with NRCS in working with landowners, our participation has exceeded
all expectations. It’s a fantastic example of us doing good work for the resource on
the ground through partnerships with private landowners. [Narration]
One species in particular that has greatly benefited from conservation partnerships is
the endangered Aplomado Falcon. After a successful reintroduction of the bird to the Texas coast,
a program operated and managed by the Peregrine Fund was extended to the Trans-Pecos, where
the Aplomado had practically disappeared. [Dave Holdermann]
Population-wise, we’re talking about a species that is extirpated, went right to the floor,
zero. And now after a half dozen years or so of restoration work, of actually releasing
captive bred birds we’re starting to see a very slow and incremental generation of a
wild population. It’s probably less than 50 birds at this point but we’re very hopeful
that once again this is going to become a bird that Texans can look forward to seeing
on the landscape of the Trans-Pecos. [Narration]
The Trans-Pecos remains the least impacted of all eco-regions within the state. But Biologists
and conservation-minded landowners alike understand – that title doesn’t come without a continued
vigilance in doing what’s best for the region. [Billy Tarrant]
I think that through the priorities outlined in the Texas Wildlife Action Plan, our goal
is to go ahead and keep that pristine value that we all cherish in the Trans-Pecos and
that the truth is that a lot of Texans come out to the Trans-Pecos primarily to escape
and to get away and we want that to continue, for this to be a refuge not only for wildlife
but for people as well.

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