EnCana Donation Funds School Service-Learning, Aquatic Habitat Restoration, Game Warden Training
AUSTIN, Texas – A $486,000 donation by natural gas producer EnCana Corporation to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation will fund a new grant program to get high school students out into natural settings for service-oriented learning projects, control of giant salvinia and other invasive plants choking Toledo Bend reservoir in East Texas, and much-needed facilities for the new Texas Game Warden Training Center.
“We’re proud and pleased to be able to support these important education, conservation and training efforts, as they’re right in line with our company philosophy,” said Paul Sander, EnCana vice president, at a recent TPW Commission meeting.
The donation is one of the largest for Texas conservation work in recent years. It will fund three separate efforts:
• Create the Healthy Habitats Program, a new partnership between TPWD and the Texas Center for Service-Learning, providing grants to enable schools and communities to identify conservation needs and develop projects to address them;
• Support a native aquatic habitat restoration program at North Toledo Bend Wildlife Management Area; and
• Support foundation efforts to raise funding for new facilities at the Texas Game Warden Training Center in Hamilton County.
“At present, EnCana is one of the largest corporate conservation partners of the Foundation and Department,” said Dick Davis, TPW Foundation executive director. “We have been impressed with the company’s commitment to conservation in other parts of North America and extremely pleased the company has now chosen Texas as a beneficiary of its generosity. EnCana’s Texas-based staff has been very engaged during the development of this partnership and we look forward to exploring additional ways to accomplish conservation together in the future.”
Part of the donation will benefit North Toledo Bend Wildlife Management Area on the northern shore of Toledo Bend Reservoir in Shelby County near the Texas-Louisiana border. The WMA is managed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on land owned by the Sabine River Authority, providing settings for research and public hunting, fishing and boating. The WMA includes a wetland maintained by an earthen levee which is important to provide wildlife habitat and is also popular for public hunters, boaters and anglers. The wetland is connected with a type of bottomland hardwood ecosystem that is critically important for wildlife but which has largely disappeared in Texas.
Like many East Texas lakes, the WMA wetland is plagued by exotic invasive water weeds like salivinia and water hyacinth, which block boater and angler access and crowd or shade out native plants more beneficial to fish and wildlife. Invasive plants now cover more than 95 percent of the 550-acre wetland. The donation will fund two electric pumps that can each move 4,500 gallons of water per minute. This will allow biologists to draw down water levels to expose and kill invasive plants and help encourage beneficial natives.
“This donation will dramatically increase our ability to grow native aquatic plants that would benefit wintering waterfowl, shore birds and wading birds,” said Bill Adams, TPWD’s Pineywoods ecosystem project leader, who oversees eight WMAs in the region. “It will also allow us to reduce the number of acres needing herbicide application due to an infestation of giant salvinia. This plant out-competes native plants for sunlight and nutrients and creates an ecological desert for migrating, wetland-dependent species.”
The donation will also fund a new Healthy Habitats service-learning program that will provide grants to schools across Texas. The program envisions high school students partnering with communities and TPWD staff and other experts to identify conservation needs and work together to come up with solutions. The students will address priorities in the Texas Wildlife Action Plan, a blueprint to “keep common species common” and avoid more species from becoming threatened and endangered.
The Healthy Habitats project builds on an existing partnership between TPWD and the Texas Center for Service-Learning, a statewide initiative of the Texas Education Agency and the Region 14 Education Service Center. The donation will support efforts to integrate community service with academic learning, and assist students, teachers, administrators, and communities with training, technical assistance, and resources. Later this year, the center will begin seeking grant proposals, with information and application forms to be posted online.
The donation will also be used to expand facilities at the new Texas Game Warden Training Center, which was moved to donated land in Hamilton County after it outgrew old, cramped facilities in Austin. The donation could help build a new building or be used to support the broader fundraising campaign, seeking to raise millions of dollars.
The donated site currently has seven dormitories, a former cafeteria now used as a combination classroom-dining facility, and an infirmary connected with small offices. Three FEMA trailer houses moved to the site are currently used as administrative offices. Phase I of an ambitious expansion plan is currently getting underway, putting in utility infrastructure and preparing the site for a new administration building, classroom building, armory, gymnasium and other facilities.
The training center typically runs one academy per year, training approximately 50 new game warden cadets each time. It will also provide ongoing inservice and field training for existing game wardens. The ultimate goal is a world-class facility that can handle enhanced training covering the expanding role of Texas game wardens for many decades to come.
Since 1991, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation has been the official non-profit partner of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. By bringing together companies, corporations, communities and individuals, the foundation has raised more than $60 million benefiting a wide variety of projects.
EnCana is one of North America’s largest independent natural gas producers. The company has a long history of supporting conservation and education causes. For the past two years EnCana has been on both the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index and the North American Index. Inclusion in these groups demonstrates high environmental, social and business standards.
About EnCana Oil & Gas (USA)
EnCana Corporation, one of North America’s leading independent natural gas companies, operates in the United States (U.S.) under its subsidiary, EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. (EnCana) and coordinates its operations from its U.S. headquarters in Denver, Colo. EnCana has operations in Colorado, Louisiana, Texas and Wyoming.