In 2006, the privately owned Fennessey Ranch came under a conservation easement granted by the Brien O’Connor Dunn estate to The Board of Regents of The University of Texas System. The conservation easement was purchased by The University of Texas at Austin from a grant received from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. The reserve system is a network of 29 areas, established by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), representing different biogeographic regions of the United States that are protected for long-term research, water-quality monitoring, education, and coastal stewardship. Each reserve is managed by a lead state agency or university, with input from local stakeholders. The University of Texas at Austin is the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve’s lead state partner.
The conservation easement restricts development from occurring and ensures that the valuable habitats of Fennessey Ranch will continue to support wildlife well into the future. The easement also provides increased access for the public, access for monitoring land management practices, and provides educational and research opportunities to highlight the importance of healthy coastal ecosystems.