Protecting the Great State of Texas
The Nature Conservancy has long protected Texas' most cherished and iconic lands, including Big Bend, Enchanted Rock, Powderhorn and more.
The Lone Star state is a living laboratory for the world, encompassing all of the planet’s major ecosystems. You name it, we have it: shortgrass, tallgrass, desert, mountains, marshes, forests and oceans. With the state population projected to double by 2050, it’s now more important than ever to protect and preserve Texas land, water, wildlife and way of life for future generations. Read on to find out more about how The Nature Conservancy has protected almost one million acres of land in our great state.
TNC Preserves: Places We Protect
For over 55 years, The Nature Conservancy has committed to protecting the best of Texas: the lands and waters that sustain us and make our state so special. That includes making large-scale land purchases to protect areas that are ecologically and culturally important—whether they provide habitat for endangered species, safeguard freshwater supplies or connect to Texas’ natural history and heritage. Across the state, TNC owns and maintains 38 preserves representing nearly 100,000 acres of protected land. View the places we protect in Texas or find an open preserve day or volunteer event near you.
Private Landowners: Lone Star Land Stewards
With 95 percent of Texas land privately held, conservation easements with private landowners are among the most effective tools at our disposal, because they allow landowners to keep the land they love while safeguarding natural resources for the future. As the Texas population grows and development increases, the impact and importance of conservation easements isn’t going unrecognized. While land fragmentation accounted for the loss of over 1 million acres of working lands in Texas from 1997 to 2012, 88 percent of all conservation easements in Texas have been executed in the last two decades alone.
With these easements, we can protect almost three times more land than through direct land purchases, all while preserving water supply and supporting farming and ranching—integral components of our state’s heritage, economy and culture. In many cases, landowners have stewarded Texas landscapes for generations, threading their legacy into the lands on which they live, work and play.
Partnerships: Preserving Legacy Landscapes
The Conservancy also has a long history of collaboration with government, philanthropic and community partners to protect public lands, safeguarding nearly one million acres across the state to date. These are places and spaces Texans have cherished for generations—from the West Texas desert, north to the high plains, through the Hill Country and eastward to our Pineywoods and Gulf prairie. In total, TNC has played a critical role in preserving 34 of Texas’ state and national parks, including iconic places like:
- Big Bend National Park
- Big Thicket National Preserve
- Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge
- Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park
- Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
Collaborative Conservation: The Way Forward
Texas is faced with outsized challenges that are stretching our lands to their limits. The state continues to grow, prosper and develop at a remarkable pace, and conservation in Texas is becoming increasingly synonymous with creativity and collaboration. As the next chapter of the Lone Star land story is written, the Conservancy is committed to forging strong partnerships and innovating solutions to protect the landscapes we love and depend on—for the next 55 years and beyond.
Protecting and Preserving Land and Water in Texas
TNC in Texas
The Texas chapter of The Nature Conservancy was established in 1964, with attorney and conservationist Edward "Ned" Fritz serving as the president of the board of trustees.
The chapter's first land project—an acquisition of 2,600 acres of native coastal prairie—was completed, establishing the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge.
We established the Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary in the Big Thicket of East Texas in 1977. This 5,654-acre preserve protects a variety of plants and animals, including one of the last remaining longleaf pine communities in Texas, and is open year-round to the public.
The Chapter acquired and conveyed the 1,640-acre Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, now one of Texas’ most popular state parks.
The Conservancy’s work to protect Texas lands and waters continued to grow and develop with the establishment of new preserves, parks and natural areas in every corner of the state.
TNC helped acquire lands for the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge along the U.S.-Mexico border, an internationally known birding and wildlife viewing destination that has grown to 92,000 acres.
TNC transferred the 67,200-acre North Rosillos Mountains Ranch to the National Park Service in 1989, which was then added to Big Bend National Park.
Our Clive Runnells Family Mad Island Marsh Preserve in Matagorda County, now 7,000 acres of critical coastal and marsh habitats, was established in 1989. The preserve is widely known as a prime locale for birdwatching in North America, with over 250 species observed here.
Strong conservation partnerships corporations amplified the impact of TNC’s work and helped us preserve some of the state’s most cherished and iconic landscapes, from the Davis Mountains to the Devils River.
Dolan Falls Preserve was created in 1991, beginning two decades of conservation work along the Devils River—the most pristine river in Texas.
The Chapter purchased the U Up, U Down Ranch near Fort Davis to establish the Davis Mountains Preserve—now the Conservancy’s largest preserve in Texas. TNC also holds conservation easements on 67,000 acres in and around this mountain range.
TNC acquired the Lennox Foundation Southmost Preserve on the Rio Grande at the southernmost tip of Texas, which protects one of the two remaining native palm groves in the state.
The Texas population surpassed 20 million in 2000; during this decade, TNC made several landscape-scale acquisitions to preserve habitat, protect drinking water and safeguard wildlife species for future generations.
In collaboration with partners, TNC purchased 24,500 acres of pristine dunes and beachfront on South Padre Island; the land was added to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. This coastal area is not only home to a bustling resort community, but it provides habitat for 16 wildlife species with federal or state conservation status—including the cricically endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle.
TNC supported the City of San Antonio’s Edwards Aquifer Protection Initiative, which approved a sales tax increase generating $90 million to protect land over the aquifer—the City’s primary drinking water supply.
In 2007 TNC accepted the donation of conservation easements totaling more than 40,000 acres that protected sensitive lands on the Guadalupe, Pedernales, Devils and Blanco rivers.
The Texas population continued to skyrocket, with our major cities repeatedly making the top ten list for the country's largest. To balance this pace of growth, TNC continued to protect some of our most critical landscapes for people and wildlife.
Working with partners, TNC acquired the 17,350-acre Powderhorn Ranch on the central Texas coast using funds from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill; the ranch contains one of the largest remaining undisturbed tracts of native coastal prairie habitat left in Texas and will eventually become a state park and wildlife management area.
The Chapter acquired two new preserves in the historic Columbia Bottomlands —Brazos and San Bernard Woods. The old-growth forests and wetlands found here are critically important habitat for migrating songbirds and over 400 wildlife species. These lands also protect the Colorado, San Bernard and Brazos rivers, which provide freshwater to more than one million people.
TNC purchased 536 acres of the former El Rancho Cima Boy Scout Camp—pristine Hill Country property that includes more than a mile of Blanco River waterfront and habitat for a number of wildlife and rare plant species. Eventually, this area will be open to the public for hiking and swimming.
The demand for natural resources continues to rise, as do the impacts of climate change. TNC Texas is working creatively and collaboratively to preserve Lone Star land, protect water quantity and quality and enhance Gulf of Mexico resiliency for the future.
In November of 2020, Suzanne Scott joins TNC as its new Texas State Director, bringing over two decades of leadership and conservation experience to the Chapter.