ExxonMobil Provides $10,000 to Support South Texas Natives Program
KINGSVILLE - March 04, 2009
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ExxonMobil recently presented a $10,000 contribution to the South Texas Natives Program at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. ExxonMobil’s contribution will go toward support of project operations and ongoing efforts to develop native plant material and restoration techniques for South Texas. A.M. “Al” Sandoval, senior field superintendant for ExxonMobil’s King Ranch Gas Plant made the presentation.
South Texas Natives (STN) is a program of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute (CKWRI) at Texas A&M-Kingsville. STN was started in 2001 with the support and contributions of private landowners. The program’s focus is to develop and promote native plants for restoration and reclamation of habitats on private and public lands. STN has been instrumental in bringing together a variety of collaborators to address some of the region’s most important conservation problems including a lack of native seed, exotic grass invasions and little proven knowledge of how native plant restoration should be done in South Texas. The program is funded by grants from the Texas Department of Transportation, private foundations and in large part by donations of companies such as ExxonMobil.
“Donations from companies like ExxonMobil are the lifeblood of STN,” said Dr. Fred Bryant, executive director of the CKWRI. “This is a program that lives and dies on the generosity of those who care about wildlife and restoration in South Texas.”
“STN has made a determined effort to involve oil and gas companies that operate in South Texas,” said Forrest Smith, STN coordinator. “It’s extremely important to this project and landowners that ExxonMobil is committed to being part of the solution to restoration concerns in South Texas, as evidenced by their contribution.”
The oil and gas industry is an important part of the restoration equation in South Texas. Exploration and production activities impact thousands of acres of wildlife habitat and native rangeland in the region annually. STN’s work provides a usable solution to minimize this concern. Native seed developed by the program can be used in the mitigation and restoration activities necessitated by the industry, by both landowners and the companies overseeing operations.
“Support of STN by ExxonMobil is extremely relevant, and shows the company’s willingness to make a difference in an environmental and economic sector that their operations play a key role in,” Smith said.
Prior to STN, there was little or no adapted native plant seed available to companies or landowners who needed to implement restoration practices. STN and collaborators released seven native grass seed varieties in 2007. By the fall of 2008, cooperating seed companies were marketing the first native seed to South Texas consumers. These sales were a tremendous milestone for the project, and showed how the seed development efforts of the project could help landowners.
In 2008, STN, the USDA National Resources Conservation Service E. “Kika” de la Garza Plant Materials Center and Texas Agrilife Research released one of the first native forbs for South Texas. The same partnership plans to release three additional native forbs in 2009. A variety of other native grasses and forbs are well on their way to release and eventual availability for restoration use.
“Unfortunately, seed demand far outweighs commercial production at this point,” Smith said. “Fixing that is a big priority for STN and the seed companies in 2009.”
Factors such as invasive exotic grasses, expansion of transportation corridors, increasing energy production activity and urbanization will continue to threaten wildlife habitat in South Texas. STN and scientists at the CKWRI work daily to study and provide scientific solutions to these factors.
“Effective restoration of a drilling pad site or revegetation of a gas pipeline right of way on a remote ranch might seem like a minor item to many folks,” Smith said.
The use of native seed for these activities allows both the operator and landowner to satisfy their objectives; environmental responsibility, stabilization and mitigation for the oil and gas company; and sustainability, protection and improvement of economically important wildlife habitat for the landowner.
In the end, wildlife populations should benefit greatly from effective native habitat restoration practices in South Texas. The value of wildlife, from both ecological and economic standpoints is huge in the region. “Restoration efforts are a positive endeavor for all involved, including wildlife, and will be an increasingly important consideration for landowners and oil and gas companies in coming years,” Smith said.
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