The final 1,360 acres of Powderhorn Ranch have been donated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and will one day become a state park.
In 2018, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation donated 14,998 acres of the Gulf Coast property to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the Powderhorn Wildlife Management Area. The remaining acres were donated to the department in a land transaction that closed Oct. 27, 2021.
"The donation of Powderhorn Ranch is a promise kept," Mike Greene, Chairman of the TPWF Board of Trustees, said. "This historic investment was made possible by an exceptional public-private partnership and exemplifies how landscape-scale conservation can be achieved in Texas and beyond."
The 17,351-acre Powderhorn Ranch in Calhoun County is one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled coastal prairie in the state.
"This transformational project conserves irreplaceable wildlife habitat and brings an exciting new recreational opportunity to the people of Texas," Dan Friedkin, Chairman Emeritus of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, said. "It demonstrates how Texas's community of conservationists can work hand-in-hand with the state to preserve an extraordinary piece of our natural heritage for generations to come."
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Friedkin served as chairman of TPWF's $100 million "Keeping it Wild: The Campaign for Texas," which included funding for Powderhorn. He made the lead gift for the campaign, which was the largest individual gift in TPWF's history.
According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, the decades-long goal of conserving Powderhorn Ranch became a reality with help from numerous partners and donors.
The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy provided interim financing for the nearly $50 million project, and The Nature Conservancy holds a conservation easement that will forever protect the property.
"Powderhorn Ranch conserves pristine wildlife habitat in an area of Texas that is facing increasing development pressure," TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith said. "The investment in this property forever protects a remarkable diversity of species and habitat and connects a patchwork of protected lands from the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to Mad Island Wildlife Management Area and the recently expanded Matagorda Peninsula Coastal Management Area that are vital to the resilience of a healthy Gulf Coast ecosystem."
Powderhorn Ranch conserves land with forests of coastal live oak and intact wetlands. The property also includes thousands of acres of freshwater wetlands and salt marshes that offer fish and wildlife habitats, provide natural filtering to improve water quality, and shield people and property from storm surges and sea level rise, Texa Parks and Widlife said.
Powderhorn Ranch encompasses more than 11 miles of tidal bayfront on Matagorda Bay, which is home to hundreds of species of birds and animals, including the endangered whooping crane.
Since the 2014 acquisition, TPWF has stewarded the property to prepare for the donation to the state. Thousands of acres of running live oak were cleared and three new solar wells were installed. TPWF also constructed buildings to be used by staff, built miles of fence, and oversaw the restoration of the historic camp house on the property.
Before the property was transferred, TPWF worked to provide access to activities like birding, hunting, camping, and fishing.
Texas Parks and Wildlife said there is no timeline yet for development of the state park.
"We're thrilled to mark this milestone of donating the final Powderhorn acreage to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department," TPWF Executive Director Susan Houston said. "We are deeply grateful to the many generous donors and partners who made this historic conservation acquisition possible."