The wetland, terrestrial, and marine environments within the 185,708-acre Mission-Aransas Reserve are owned and managed by a combination of state, federal and private partners. The Reserve stewardship program promotes land conservation by working with land owners to coordinate management activities and providing technical assistance when necessary. The stewardship program also helps to identify critical coastal and estuarine areas for potential land acquisition.
Permanent protection of valuable coastal and estuarine habitats is a priority of the Mission-Aransas Reserve stewardship program. This protection can occur through the acquisition of land from willing sellers or through the purchase of conservation easements. Conservation easements are willing agreements between a landowner and an organization that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation value. The stewardship program has identified priority areas for land protection within the Reserve watershed and will work with the Reserve partners to acquire the funds to conserve these valuable habitats.
The Mission-Aransas Reserve Headquarters is located in Estuarine Research Center on the University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI) campus. The campus is located on 72 acres of beach-front land and consists of a series of interconnected buildings that contain laboratories, classrooms, offices, a resource center, a visitor’s center, exhibit halls, an auditorium, and workshops. The campus also contains a 3.5-acre man-made wetland that is designed to provide visitors with a “hands-on” wetland experience. UTMSI staff are responsible for managing the grounds and facilities of the UTMSI campus.
In 2006, the University of Texas at Austin and the Mission-Aransas Reserve purchased a conservation easement on Fennessey Ranch, a privately owned property that contains meadows, brush, prairie, freshwater wetlands, natural lakes, and riparian woodlands. This 3,261-acre wildlife oasis is host to numerous types of birds, plants, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and mammals. The Ranch is designed to be an environmentally friendly business that profits from traditional livestock ranching, as well as oil and gas drilling, wildlife tours, hunting leases, kayak adventures, and photography trips. 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 general public and educational opportunities to highlight the importance of healthy coastal ecosystems.
The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Complex consists of over 115,000 acres of salt marshes, coastal prairies, oak mottes, swales, and freshwater ponds. The waters adjacent to the Refuge contain valuable tidal flats, seagrass beds, and oyster reefs. The Refuge was originally established in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a safe-haven for threatened and endangered species and as refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. It is world-renowned as the winter home of the largest wild flock of endangered Whooping Cranes. The Refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and contains numerous trails that offer great opportunities for wildlife viewing.
Goose Island State Park is owned by the State of Texas and managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The Park was acquired between 1931 and 1935 by deeds from private land owners and a Legislative Act that set aside the state-owned “Goose Island” as a park. Within the 321-acre Park there are oak mottes, coastal prairie, salt marsh, and a shell ridge, while the bays that surround the Park are filled with tidal flats, oyster reefs, and seagrass beds. These habitats support a diversity of wildlife, including numerous types of migratory birds, which has made Goose Island a popular destination for many birders. It is also home to the “Big Tree” – a live oak that is estimated to be around 2,000 years old.
Land Owner - Buccaneer Cove Preserve
Buccaneer Cove Preserve is located at the mouth of the Aransas River and contains 856 acres of brackish marsh and tidal flats. The Preserve is owned and managed by the Coastal Bend Land Trust whose primary goal is to preserve and enhance native wildlife habitat. Whooping Cranes, Sandhill Cranes, Reddish Egrets, and other waterfowl are frequently seen using this valuable habitat.