Where the Money Goes

Bluebonnet and Camping License Plate Funded Projects

Show your support for state parks! Put a Bluebonnet or Camping plate on your vehicle, trailer or motorcycle and help preserve the unique beauty of more than 90 state parks across Texas. The bluebonnet is the state flower and symbolizes the natural beauty of Texas. The new Camping plate is a tribute to all those who love to camp in Texas State Parks.

Electric Vehicles

In 2010, Bluebonnet license plate buyers helped make State Parks more "green" than ever before by providing funds to purchase nine fully electric vehicles for use in parks. These battery powered vehicles allow staff to perform campground patrol and maintenance duties quietly and without producing emissions. That's good for park visitors AND the environment.

Additional Bluebonnet plate funds also allowed State Parks to acquire several heavy duty all-terrain vehicles that can be used for campground duties as well as going "off-road" for trail maintenance and back country work chores, while using less fuel than traditional vehicles.


A primary function of state parks is to inform and educate park visitors about the natural and cultural resources located at these sites. Thanks to funding provided by Bluebonnet license plate sales, visitors to Franklin Mountains, Falcon, Atlanta and Goliad state parks will see new exhibits installed detailing subjects such as the geology and history of the sites. Big Bend Ranch and Kickapoo Caverns will have new roadside exhibits installed as these sites prepare to become fully operational parks. Visitors to Caprock Canyons State Park will be able to learn about the state bison herd, while Caddo Lake State Park will have a new exhibit that will travel to schools and other venues to teach citizens about the unique resources of this northeast Texas site.

Buffalo Soldiers

TPWD staff and volunteers are leading the effort to educate the public of the important contributions to Texas history made by military units staffed by African-Americans during the period of 1867-1948. The Buffalo Soldiers program brings history to life with stories, costumes and tools to thousands of park visitors and school children each year. Sales of the Camping and Bluebonnet license plates help support the Buffalo Soldier Program, and demonstrate the roots of the multi-cultural society that make Texas unique.

State Parks are the repository of countless historic artifacts of Texas history. Bluebonnet plate funds will preserve artifacts found during recent investigations at the San Jacinto battleground. Locating and protecting archeological sites at Garner State Park will ensure that information about the park's prehistoric residents is gathered before it is lost forever. Other preservation projects include the conservation of original Civilian Conservation Corps planning documents and the historic Behrens cabin at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site.

TPWD fire truck

The use of fire is an important tool in maintaining the ecosystems in state parks. Safe and effective use of this tool requires the proper equipment for managing wildland fires and protecting employees working on fire lines. Bluebonnet license plate funds have been used to purchase a specialized fire engine to be used for wildfire suppression and implementation of prescribed fires on State Parks across the State.

The endangered Houston Toads of Bastrop State Park will also benefit from two projects funded by license plate sales. An intensive survey to identify the location of toad habitat will be conducted in order to safeguard these sites, and a large reforestation project that will plant thousands of trees on former agricultural land that has been recently added to the park will greatly aid this rare species.


Horned Lizard, Hummingbird and Rattlesnake License Plate Funded Projects

Show your support for Texas native non-game wildlife! Put a Horned Lizard, Hummingbird or Rattlesnake plate on your vehicle, trailer or motorcycle and help conserve wildlife diversity by funding a vast array of projects that help protect native species and their habitats. Beneficiaries include: Horned Lizard (the state's official reptile), the Texas Bumblebee, Ocelot, Attwater's Greater Prairie-Chicken, Red Wolf, the Whooping Crane, the Alligator Snapping Turtle and an assortment of other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and plants. All projects funded by this plate are used to implement the Texas Wildlife Action Plan.

Texas horned lizard near Sonora, Texas, Photo credit, Robin Verble

Recipient: Texas Tech University

Description: Our project examines Texas horned lizard survival, movements and habitats in central Texas. In collaboration with Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Fort Worth Zoo, private landowners, and the Texas National Guard, we are using radio-telemetry to monitor lizard movements, conducting on-the-ground harvester ant surveys, and quantifying vegetation diversity and structure. With these data, we are constructing habitat suitability maps that will allow managers to identify and protect high quality lizard habitat.

orchid and butterfly

Need: Orchid populations, pollinators, and Mycorrhizae

Recipient: Texas Tech University

Description: The Orchidaceae, one of the largest flowering plant families in the world, represents about 10% of all flowering plants on earth. Orchids are considered charismatic poster-children for biodiversity conservation because of their unique ecological place as indicators of ecosystem health, and their often bizarre and obligate interactions with various organisms both above- and below-ground.

With the help of HLLP program, we are enriching the knowledge on the orchid taxa of greatest conservation need and their associated flora and fauna by discovering new species, new populations, and synthesizing existing and newly generated information.


Recipient: Bat Conservation International

Description: Bracken Cave Preserve lies between the Edwards Plateau and the Blackland Prairie just north of San Antonio. This unique habitat, a true Texas treasure, sits atop the Edwards Aquifer, and supports a variety of wildlife, such as 37 species of birds, including the endangered Golden-cheeked warbler, at least 10 species of reptiles, and 15 species of mammals. Each year, as 10 million Mexican free-tailed bats migrate to the site from Mexico, BCI engages thousands of visitors in a conversation about the ecological importance of bats and other wildlife on the property and across Texas. Bat Conservation International will use its awarded Horned Lizard License Plate Grant to support "shovel ready" conservation actions that manage and restore key components of the Bracken habitat, including work to protect the maternity roost, to engage visitors in wildlife viewing and conservation education, and, to promote research through partnerships with academic institutions, like Texas State University, Texas A&M, and the University of Texas at Austin. See more »

Fort Worth Zoo

Recipient: Fort Worth Zoo

Description: Texas Horned Lizards were once common throughout Texas. Now, they are difficult to find throughout the entire state. There is much interest by private landowners in reintroducing these lizards, but brood stock and reintroduction methods are poorly developed. This project will enable the Fort Worth Zoo to build pens in which they will breed, rear, and grow Texas Horned Lizards in a propagation program that can become a reintroduction program throughout the state. Funds will also be used to allow researchers to track and monitor released lizards, in the hope that they can identify the most successful release methods and protocols.

Recipient: Texas Tech University

Description: The Monahans Sand Dune System is a rare, discreet habitat in the western parts of the state that hosts many sensitive species, including a suite of 9 endemic insects inhabiting these habitats that are found globally only in this part of the state. Because these habitats are rare, discreet, and sensitive, it's important to evaluate the habitat and the organisms that depend on them for a variety of conservation needs.

Recipient: University of North Texas

Description: The Texas Conservation Action Plan lists 3 bumble bee species as research and conservation priorities. Researchers have identified historical records of bumble bee prevalence and occurrence in Northeast Texas that are in need of re-evaluation to obtain present-day information about these sensitive species as compared to historic records. The Texas Bumblebee has declined over much of its range, but Texas remains one of the remaining strong holds of habitat. This projects will enable researchers to evaluate habitat quality, identify conservation threats, and will potentially enable better conservation throughout the historic range of these populations.

Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society

Recipient: Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society

Description: The Wildlife Conservation Camp is a 7 day outdoor camp for high school students. Now in its 20th year, the Camp works to bring lessons of wildlife science, conservation, land ethics, and nature appreciation to highly motivated young people, while exposing them to a network of wildlife biologists, geologists, and ecologists. Grant money will be used to create much needed outreach materials, and to enable event organizers to more effectively reach students through social media and internet mediums.

Phil Hardberger Park

Recipient: Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy

Description: Grassland habitats are disappearing quickly as development expands away from our cities. Rare pockets of grassland remnants still exist, and the Phil Hardberger Park aims to protect these important habitats. Grant funds will be used to create a public demonstration site where San Antonio visitors can learn about the importance of grasslands in ecology, and in water conservation.

Katy Prairie Conservancy

Recipient: Katy Prairie Conservancy / The Nature Conservancy

Description: The Katy Prairie was once a vast expanse of grassland in southeast Texas. Now reduced to a fraction of its original size, many land managers do not have the resources they need to keep the Prairie in a natural, productive state. The Katy Prairie Conservancy, in tandem with The Nature Conservancy will create a landowner's cooperative that will help private landowners restore the Katy Prairie. Grant money will purchase heavy equipment that will be loaned to land managers to enable them to restore their prairie remnants.

Recipient: University of Texas at Austin

Description: The worldwide decline of pollinators means that we must also be concerned about native pollinators. The success of native pollinators will become even more critical in the conservation of declining plant species, the restoration of wildlife habitat, and in the production of agricultural goods. Native pollinators may provide some relief, but little is known about pollen sources, and what plants they visit, and when. This project will help us identify pollen sources of native pollinators and what plants they're visiting and when. Information from this study will help us determine important resources on the landscape and how we can manage lands to support these species.


White-tailed Deer License Plate Funded Projects

Show off your rack! Put a White-tailed Deer plate on your vehicle, trailer or motorcycle and help fund wildlife management and research.



Desert bighorn sheep were extirpated from Texas in the early 1960s. Early restoration efforts introduced desert bighorns into a few of the historical ranges with limited success, while other mountain ranges remained unoccupied. A few introduced bighorns persisted in those mountains for several years, but the numbers steadily declined. In mountain ranges where bighorns were able to establish viable populations, those ranges have been monitored through time to obtain herd data.

Wildlife managers have recognized the need for systematic surveys to determine desert sheep numbers and trends for many years. During the 1950s many techniques were introduced to derive bighorn sheep population estimates, but most survey methods were unreliable.

Desert bighorn sheep surveys improved through time as technology advanced. Research conducted by state game agencies in Arizona and Nevada indicated that late summer helicopter surveys were the best method for obtaining bighorn sheep population data. August/September helicopter surveys consistently produced greater total observations, reliable sex and age ratios, and better correlation of fall lambs to annual recruitment, when compared to other stable populations. Systematic desert bighorn sheep aerial population surveys did not occur in Texas prior to 1990. Annual helicopter surveys were initiated in West Texas during August 1990.

Desert sheep population information obtained from helicopter surveys during 1990-2013 has been used to assess population trends, distribution, sex/age composition and to make annual harvest recommendations. Aerial helicopter surveys have provided adequate data sets for making management decisions concerning desert bighorn sheep. Helicopter surveys conducted in August/September have been effective and continue in all mountain ranges supporting populations of free-ranging desert sheep.



The Trans-Pecos region of Texas currently supports 9 free-ranging populations of desert bighorn sheep, which occur within the Baylor, Beach, Sierra Diablo, 9 Point Mesa, Eagle and Van Horn mountains, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's (TPWD) Black Gap and Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and Big Bend Ranch State Park (Bofecillos Mountains).

In the last 5-7 years, numerous sightings of desert bighorn sheep have been reported in currently unoccupied bighorn habitat, suggesting natural expansion. The investigation of these sightings is critical to ensure proper attention beneficial to desert bighorns is dedicated to those mountain ranges in the future.

A few mountain ranges that have not been surveyed in the last several years include the Quitman Mountains, Sierra Vieja Mountains, and other smaller individual ranges within the Trans-Pecos. Bighorn sighting reports prompted the survey of the Carrizo Mountains in Culberson and Hudspeth Counties in August 2013. A small herd of bighorns was observed. Consequently, the Carrizo Mountains will now be included in future surveys, which will require additional resources (e.g. funding, manpower, helicopter flight time, etc.).

In addition to surveying currently occupied ranges, as populations thrive and either naturally expand to other mountain ranges, or are restored to unoccupied habitat, the need to survey new areas will increase. As new technologies are developed and/or improved (e.g. CyberTracker, rugged laptop data collectors, etc.) they will be incorporated into helicopter surveys to supplement survey efforts and support population estimates.

This program improves science and the consistency of aerial pronghorn surveys in the Panhandle.



Annual State pronghorn surveys are conducted in the Panhandle by fixed-wing aircraft in the months of June and July. The pronghorn habitat in the Panhandle is separated into 46 herd units that comprise more than 8.2 million acres. The District 2 staff is annually surveying approximately 24% of the total herd unit acreage.

Because flight hours are limited, field staff surveys only portions of most, but not all, herd units annually. Due to the vast expanse of pronghorn range in the Panhandle and limited flight hours, survey methodology is inconsistent with other regions (Trans Pecos and western Edwards Plateau/Permian Basin). Survey methodology in other regions involves complete counts of most herd units annually, while rotationally surveying a minority of herd units (alternate-year or third-year rotation) that are less critical (i.e., very low pronghorn numbers or low permit issuance rate). In the Panhandle, survey methodology incorporates the use of permanent survey “blocks” established in the 1970s or after that generally comprise a minority of each herd unit (sometimes as little as 10-15% of the herd unit). These traditional survey blocks are intended to serve as a trend or index for the remainder of the herd unit. Occasionally, the survey block is similar to the remainder of the herd unit, but in most herd units the survey block is very different and often encompasses superior habitat than that existing in the remainder of the herd unit. As a result, pronghorn numbers and trends often are not representative of numbers/trends in the herd unit as a whole.


pronghorn and plane

Ideally, survey of all or almost all herd units annually, as is done in the other 2 regions, would provide superior data for population estimates and permit issuance. Given limited funds and time, this is not possible. The next best approach involves surveying approximately 50% of herd units on a rotational basis, such that all herd units are surveyed every 2 years. Herd unit population estimates during non-survey years would be based upon previous year survey results, combined with the current-year trend in adjacent or nearby herd units that demonstrate similar population trends.

Funding from license plate sales will allow us to initiate the process of converting survey methodology in the Panhandle to complete survey of herd units on a rotational basis. Complete herd unit coverage (vs. partial coverage) will improve the science behind estimates of pronghorn populations and permit issuance. Furthermore, this methodology better satisfies the TPWD charge of implementing consistency in survey techniques among regions.

Background and Funding Need

Mule Deer

For the past 3 decades, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) annually conducted mule deer surveys with fixed-wing aircraft, as well as night-time spotlight surveys during fall. In 2006 TPWD began conducting aerial mule deer surveys by helicopter to improve estimates of deer numbers and herd composition. In January and February each year, random transects of varied lengths are flown in monitoring units of High, Medium, and Low deer density.  Total mule deer range comprises 24.3 million acres in the Trans Pecos and 13.7 million acres in the Panhandle. Survey transects in 2007 constituted less than 1% (0.54%) of the total mule deer range. Wide confidence intervals of monitoring unit estimates (+ 54% for Low; + 41% for Moderate; + 23% for High) were largely a result of low sample size, diversity of deer habitat and distribution, and improper herd unit delineation (because of incomplete knowledge of deer populations). However, confidence in estimates can be greatly increased with improved delineation of monitoring unit boundaries (by decreasing variability among transects). This process was initiated in the Trans Pecos in 2006 and initiated in the Panhandle in 2007. An increased number of transects during 2007-08 surveys helped to improve knowledge of deer distribution and density, and ultimately improved monitoring unit delineation. These added transects are needed each year in both ecoregions to increase statistical validity of population estimates and knowledge of our Texas mule deer herd.

Recent findings from our mule deer sightability research provide biologists a better estimate of true population size compared to raw count trend data. Conclusions from the research indicate using a certain sightability model that includes data taken during each individual mule deer observation such as sex, age, and group size of deer, vegetation, deer activity, light, terrain, and distance from helicopter are key in providing more accurate and precise population estimates, and advancing mule deer management in western Texas.

Additionally, a buck-only mule deer season was proposed in Sherman, Hansford, Gaines, Martin, and eastern Andrews counties for the 2008-09 season and in Dawson and Wheeler counties during the 2009-10 season. Deer numbers are generally low in these counties, and survey data is limited. The hunting season proposals were based upon occasional deer sightings, landowner reports, general knowledge of deer presence, and limited survey data. Current-year aerial survey transects in these counties helped to quantify general knowledge and assumptions, as well as provided some baseline information on deer numbers and herd composition prior to establishment of hunting seasons.

Project Benefits

Since 2008, aerial survey efforts have increased by 12-13% (10 additional random transects in Trans-Pecos monitoring units and 5 additional transects in the Panhandle) to help improve statistical confidence in estimates and delineation of monitoring unit boundaries. Monitoring unit boundaries have been revised as a direct result of the new information obtained from these additional transects.

Because of the need to collect significantly more information during mule deer surveys to apply the sightability model, better survey equipment for data collection must be purchased. Using touch screen laptops that are docked and mounted in the helicopters and are blue-toothed to aviation headsets worn by observers, biologists will be able to document essential data by recording their voice on the computer. GPS locations will also be taken by the computer once the observer taps the screen to start recording their voice file. Biologists will return to the office and playback their voice recordings while entering data in the same computer software. This data collection system is suburb for our mule deer surveys. It allows biologists to collect needed information at the same time still searching for deer during surveys (because the data recorder essentially never takes their eyes away from the survey area) and is efficient for post survey population estimate analyses.

Aerial survey transects conducted in Sherman and Hansford counties (3 transects) and in Gaines, eastern Andrews, and Martin counties (6 transects) improved knowledge and data (deer density and buck:doe ratios). In addition, transects flown in Dawson and Wheeler counties (3 transects) during 2009-10 increased our understanding of the mule deer herd in those areas. Surveying these transects provided support of mule deer seasons and valuable baseline information for these previously un-hunted counties.

census study

Determining white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) abundance and population characteristics on a tract of land is beneficial to good deer management, especially on small high-fenced acreages where deer populations may be more susceptible to slight perturbations. A continuing decrease in average landholding size and an increasing interest in deer-management has emphasized a need for a reliable population-estimation method for small acreages.

Our objective was to determine the accuracy and precision of abundance and sex/age ratio estimates derived from various population-survey methods, using known populations of white-tailed deer over a 3-year period. This research was being conducted within a 211-ha high-fenced enclosure on Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area, located in Mason County, Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department personnel captured white-tailed deer on private and public properties in central Texas each January - March and stock the study site with a herd of known population size and composition. After the population surveys are conducted during August and September of each year, all deer in the enclosure are harvested to determine the known number of deer. The enclosure was then observed from the air by helicopter (using Forward Looking Infrared or FLIR) to ensure that all deer had been removed. Population estimates derived from various survey procedures are compared to the actual known population. Survey methods evaluated include spotlight surveys (traditional and distance sampling), daylight mobile surveys, Hahn-line surveys, infrared-triggered camera counts, and stand counts.

Since March 2006, three populations have been introduced, surveyed, and removed from the study site. Data for all three years are currently being analyzed. We look forward to this project improving the knowledge of deer managers in Texas and the efficiency of management under small high fenced acreages by determining reliable population-estimation methods for deer populations.

White-tailed Deer in binocs

Since the mid 1970's, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has been monitoring white-tailed deer populations and harvest throughout the state.

TPWD currently monitors white-tailed deer populations in 30 of 35 Resource Management Units (RMU's). Data collected during these efforts allow TPWD biologists to evaluate the effects of various harvest strategies on white-tailed deer populations, and identify populations where an increase or decrease in deer harvest is necessary. The methods used to obtain white-tailed deer population data were improved significantly in 2005, resulting in more reliable population estimates.

proposed RMU modifications

Current methodology relies on technological advancements including accurate laser range-finding binoculars and GPS receivers, which have been acquired with funds generated by the sales of the White-tailed Deer license plate. Furthermore, funds generated from the Deer license plate will be used to make deer population and harvest data readily available to the public through the Texas Wildlife Information Management System (TWIMS). When this internet database application is available, the public will be able to access graphs, charts, and tabular data regarding deer population density, sex ratio, fawn crop, age structure, hunter success, and more, for each of the RMU's monitored. You will be able to witness the effects of various hunting regulations, such as antler restrictions, on deer populations throughout the state. Although much work is required to complete this application, TPWD will publicize how to access this application once it is available.


Largemouth Bass License Plate Funded Projects

Show off your bass! Put a Largemouth Bass plate on your vehicle, trailer or motorcycle and help keep bass fishing BIG in Texas.

Neighborhood Fishin'

85% of Texans live in urban areas – some 18 million people – and most don't fish. Neighborhood Fishin' aims to give Texans a good place to fish close to where they live.

Neighborhood Fishin' is a new program that provides year round recreational fishing opportunities in major urban areas, emphasizing youth and family participation. Success of the program relies on effective partnerships between Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), businesses, local governments, volunteers and users. The program is expected to increase participation in fishing and outdoor recreation while attracting more urban youth and families to public parks.

Neighborhood Fishin'

Through this program, selected lakes in urban parks receive frequent stockings of catfish throughout the summer and rainbow trout throughout the winter. Management of bass, sunfish or other existing species provide further fishing opportunities throughout the year. Information on stocked fish and how to catch them is available at each lake; at some sites, prospective anglers have access to basic fishing equipment at little or no charge. Businesses, organizations, and volunteers are encouraged to sponsor and conduct fishing clinics for local youth and families, promote the program in the community, provide fishing instruction and aquatic education, and establish and maintain tackle loaner programs.

Currently the program operates on 15 urban lakes. Our goal is to eventually move into all urban centers with populations above 100,000.

Neighborhood Fishin'

This program seeks to attract families with children, especially those who have never (or rarely) been fishing. Urban households within a 15-20 minute drive of Neighborhood Fishin' lakes are the primary target. In Texas, minority groups are often found in these neighborhoods. In 2010, we estimate that some 50,000 people participated in the program. About half are children and adults who don't typically fish. About 2/3 live within 5 miles of the lake. More than half tell us this is the only place they fish.

More Information: http://www.neighborhoodfishin.org

Operation World Record

Do fish descended from Toyota ShareLunkers grow bigger, faster, than fish without this trophy heritage? Will they reach a larger maximum size and result in a new state and/or world record?

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries biologists are currently conducting research to answer these and other questions as part of Operation World Record. Operation World Record (OWR) is an attempt to produce the next world record largemouth bass through a program of selective breeding using Toyota ShareLunkers with pure Florida largemouth genes. Research to evaluate the growth rates of these selectively bred fish is ongoing.

Operation World Record

This new research program is the first study of its kind and is being carried out on a scale never attempted before. Between 2006 and 2010, approximately 77,000 six inch largemouth bass were tagged and then stocked into six public lakes: Lake Raven in Huntsville State Park, Purtis Creek State Park, Meridian State Park, Mill Creek Lake in Canton, Lake Pinkston in Center, and Marine Creek Lake in Fort Worth. Fish were collected by electroshocking each year and the growth rate of OWR fish was compared to that of wild fish.

Cutting edge genetic analysis of the ShareLunker and OWR fish is also being conducted. A tissue sample is taken from each ShareLunker and sent to Dijar Lutz-Carrillo, a genetic scientist at the A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery in San Marcos, for analysis. Lutz-Carrillo has identified a number of genetic markers common to big bass. It is believed this is the first time this has been done. It is hoped that this information can be used in the future to identify fish with superior growth potential. This advanced genetic analysis will also be able to determine if any future Toyota ShareLunkers are OWR fish. It will also be able to determine which ShareLunker parents produced the biggest offspring!

The early results are promising – on average, the OWR fish are nearly a half pound heavier by age 4 than are wild fish of the same age. Time will tell just how big the OWR offspring can get. Maybe the future state or even world record will come from this selective breeding program. Stay tuned!

Zebra mussels are a small exotic and invasive mussel native to the Black and Caspian Sea drainages of Europe and Asia. They were first discovered in North America in 1988 in Lake St. Claire in the Great Lakes region. Since their introduction into the United States, many millions of dollars have been spent by state, federal and private entities trying to stop their spread and dealing with their devastating impacts. In April 2009 the first live zebra mussel was found in Lake Texoma, and then in August 2009 live zebra mussels were also found in Sister Grove Creek in Grayson and Collins counties.

Zebra mussels

Zebra mussels can have devastating economic impacts on municipal water supplies, power plants and industrial facilities. They are also responsible for fouling boat hulls and plugging water intake systems used in boat motors, air conditioners and heads. Their destructive power lies in their sheer numbers and their ability to attach to any hard surface in the water. They clog water intake systems and increase operation and maintenance costs. They will colonize boat docks, fishing piers, navigational buoys and bridges. Even swimming beaches can become fouled with the shells of dead zebra mussels to the point where they are unusable. Their filter feeding activity reduces the biomass of plankton in a water body which in turn affects its productivity because plankton are basically the beginning of the aquatic food chain. This filtering activity can increase water clarity which may promote growth of aquatic vegetation resulting in habitat changes or it can increase the risk of problematic vegetation such as hydrilla becoming established. Changes in fish populations have been documented to occur over time due to competition for available food sources. Zebra mussels pose significant threat to native mussels because they will colonize on their shells and smother them.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has taken a lot of steps aimed at trying to stop and slow the spread of this harmful species in the state. This includes:

  • Monitoring for the spread of zebra mussels by sampling lakes in the north Texas area.
  • Incorporating zebra mussels into part of a Statewide Invasive Species Campaign by developing "Clean, Drain and Dry videos" and posting them on YouTube, printing and disseminating zebra mussel brochures, handouts and putting up signs at boat ramps.
  • Developed a new website (www.texasinvasives.org) were the public can learn more about zebra mussels and can even report possible sighting of zebra mussels and other invasive species to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
  • TPWD and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) organized training for staff and marina owners on zebra mussel decontamination and boat inspection procedures.
  • Inspecting boats and informing the public about the threat of zebra mussels during the Aquapalooza event on Lake Travis in July 2010.
  • Staff have visited with local marina owners and operators to ensure they are aware of the threat and advised them to keep a watchful eye out for boats with zebra mussels attached.
  • TPWD has attempted twice to eradicate the small zebra mussel population in Sister Grove Creek using potassium chloride (KCl) but both attempts were unsuccessful.
Native Aquatic Plant Habitat

Over the past fifteen years TPWD Inland Fisheries staff in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has developed the techniques to create beneficial native aquatic plant communities. These plant communities can provide excellent fish habitat without causing access and ecological problems common to populations of invasive exotic species like hydrilla, water hyacinth, and giant salvinia. Using these techniques, TPWD and various partners are planting as many as 23 beneficial native aquatic plant species (totaling thousands of plants) in reservoirs across Texas. As these partnerships move forward, one of our biggest challenges to establishing quality fish habitat in over 1,000 public reservoirs of Texas is the need for sources of native plants. To meet this challenge, two native aquatic plant nurseries have already been created and a third has been proposed.

Native Aquatic Plant Habitat
  • The Lake Conroe native plant nursery was developed in 2008 by the Seven Coves Bass Club using a grant from B.A.S.S. along with support and funds from TPWD, the San Jacinto River Authority, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Located below the Lake Conroe Dam on San Jacinto River Authority property, the Lake Conroe nursery has the capacity to produce 1,600 individually potted plants per year of 18 different species. Over 2,000 potted plants from this nursery have been transplanted into Lake Conroe so far.
  • A second nursery was developed in 2010 with funding provided by the East Texas Woods and Waters Foundation on TPWD property at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens. The current capacity of the TFFC nursery is similar to the Lake Conroe nursery but includes room for expansion as demand increases. In addition to providing native aquatic plants for numerous partnerships across Texas, this nursery is a featured part of the TFFC hatchery tours. This provides the opportunity for approximately 60,000 visitors each year to learn how we produce native aquatic plants and their benefits to fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, and as shoreline erosion control.
  • A third nursery partnership has been proposed with City of Waco Utility Services. The purpose of this nursery is to provide native plants for the Lake Waco Wetlands which will be used to improve water quality in the Bosque river watershed and Lake Waco. Even though the primary purpose of this nursery is to provide plants to decrease nutrients and sediment in a drinking water reservoir, fish and wildlife will also greatly benefit from the establishment of this wetland.

Texas Rivers License Plate Funded Projects

Show your support for Texas Rivers! Put a Texas River plate on your vehicle, boat trailer, motorcycle, RV or travel trailer and help protect and preserve Texas Rivers. Sales from this plate will help fund a vast array of projects that help protect Texas Rivers and the fish, wildlife and habitat they make possible

Colorado River

The Conserving Texas Rivers Initiative represents a public-private partnership that is successfully leveraging project-based funding and other resources to conserve some of Texas most scenic, wild, and storied rivers. The Conserving Texas Rivers Initiative is designed to help build and sustain capacity among local landowners, communities, and nongovernmental organizations to conserve and advocate for the long-term preservation of their hometown rivers. Although focused statewide, current projects supported through the Conserving Texas Rivers Initiative center on rivers of the Texas Hill Country, where Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is cooperating with an extensive network of national, state, and local conservation partners including the Devils River Conservancy, Hill Country Alliance, Llano River Watershed Alliance, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy of Texas.

The clear, spring-fed rivers of the Hill Country are ecologically-unique, hosting 14 species of native fishes found nowhere else in the world, including the official state fish of Texas, Guadalupe Bass. Hill Country rivers are also recreationally and economically valuable. For example, bank, wade, and kayak fishing in rivers of the Texas Hill Country generates an annual economic impact of $71M. Fishing and other recreational uses of Hill Country rivers, such as paddling, tubing, and wildlife-viewing, are inextricably linked to natural river flow patterns and intact habitats characteristic of pristine, unaltered rivers of the region.

Since its establishment in 2010, the Conserving Texas Rivers Initiative continues to deliver science-based, scale-appropriate, and transformative actions to help keep Hill Country rivers healthy and flowing and maintain the recreational values described above. Outcomes of the Conserving Texas Rivers Initiative from 2010-2017 are summarized below.

  • $1.2M in TPWD funding was leveraged 1:13 against $4.5M in project-based grants and donations and $11M in partner matching funds to deliver the subsequent results
  • Conducted 54 river conservation workshops attended by over 1,500 landowners with a reported land ownership of more than 200,000 acres
  • Developed a riparian habitat handbook and restoration design manual that were distributed to Hill Country landowners and regional conservation practitioners
  • Provided onsite technical guidance on aquatic habitat management strategies to landowners that steward more than 123,000 acres of ranchlands in Hill Country watersheds
  • Designed and invested in cost-share landowner incentives that restored approximately 9,327 acres of aquifer recharge features, springs, creeks, and riparian buffers in focal watersheds
  • Restored and protected 50 springs that contribute flows to Hill Country rivers
  • Provided cost-share assistance to partner land trusts to secure conservation easements on five ranches, protecting aquifer recharge features, headwaters streams, creeks, and riparian buffers on 15,890 acres of Hill Country watersheds
  • Conducted surveys for aquatic and riparian invasive plants on 217 miles of the Llano, Pedernales, and Blanco rivers, assembled management plans, and implemented large-scale control measures
  • Identified beneficial alternatives to current bridge designs used on Hill Country rivers and provided technical guidance on the replacement of two low-water bridge crossings on the South Llano River
  • Provided guidance on removal of two low-head dams on the Guadalupe and San Marcos rivers
  • Completed assessments of Guadalupe Bass populations in the South Llano, North Llano, Llano, Pedernales, Guadalupe, Blanco, and Colorado rivers
  • Successfully repatriated Guadalupe Bass to the Blanco River and reintroduced Guadalupe Bass to the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River
  • Stocked Guadalupe Bass in the South Llano River to support genetic restoration of a hybrid population, successfully reducing hybridization levels to below the conservation target

Revenues generated from sales of the new Texas Rivers Conservation License Plate will provide continued financial support for the types of projects described above, and address a critical need of the Conserving Texas Rivers Initiative by providing non-federal matching funds. These non-federal matching funds will be used by the department to meet the cost-share requirements of various federal and private granting programs that support river conservation. With an anticipated leveraging ratio of at least 1:4, the department expects that each Texas Rivers Conservation License Plate purchased will generate over $100 annually for river conservation.

Priority Areas for River Conservation

Texas contains 191,228 miles of streams, creeks, and rivers, including 40,194 miles of perennially flowing waters. The state maintains public navigability laws that ensure the right of paddlers, anglers, tubers, and other river recreationists to wade, paddle, or float many of Texas rivers. However, private ownership of riverbanks significantly inhibits public river access in the state. The preponderance for privately-owned river banks reflects general land ownership trends in Texas, a state where less than five percent of the landscape is in public ownership.

River Access and Conservation Areas - Llano River

To enhance public access opportunities and encourage nature-oriented recreation on Texas rivers, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department established the ever-expanding Texas Paddling Trails Network, which currently consists of more than 70 trails. The Texas Paddling Trails Network designation promotes existing public river access areas that offer safe and reliable access and family-friendly paddling opportunities. Many of the access areas contained within the Texas Paddling Trails Network are located at city, county, and state parks and public boat launches. Texas Paddling Trails have increased public awareness of river access and recreation opportunities, and enhanced the outdoor recreation economy for many local communities. A recent economic impact study of the statewide Texas Paddling Trails Network conservatively estimated an annual economic impact of over $160 million dollars.

Despite the improved river access opportunities afforded to Texans through the Texas Paddling Trails Network, river access continues to be limited because of the nature of land ownership in the state. However, Texas landowners recently became part of the solution for expanding public river access. In the year 2000, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department began leasing private lands for public access to bank and wade fishing opportunities within the Guadalupe River trout fishery. In 2004, an economic impact study indicated that for every dollar spent by the department on these public access leases and trout stocking, $4.75 of economic value was generated for the local economy.

In 2012, the department significantly expanded its use of private lands leases as a tool to enhance public river access. Funded through a competitive grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the department invested $150,000 to lease private lands for public access to bank, wade, and kayak fishing on Texas rivers. This investment supported seven multi-year river access leases on the Brazos (2), Colorado, Guadalupe (3), and Neches rivers, and resulted in creation of the department’s River Access and Conservation Areas Program.

River Access and Conservation Areas - Devils River

In 2014, the department was awarded $775,000 in competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation to further support river access leases. This allowed the department to expand the program to include 19 multi-year river access leases on Brazos (3), Colorado (4), Devils (2), Guadalupe (4), Llano, Neches, Nueces, Sabine, San Marcos, and South Llano rivers. The two newest leases opened on the Devils River in spring 2017, and one lease recently closed on the Colorado River. Our current grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will allow us to support the 18 active river access leases thru fall 2018.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department continues to apply for competitive grants and seek private donations to continue the current leases beyond fall 2018 and hopefully add many more river access leases throughout the State. Limitations of the program are primarily the availability of funding and ability to locate willing landowners. Through your purchase of a Texas Rivers Conservation License Plate, you will play an important role in helping to maintain and expand public access to nature-oriented recreation on Texas rivers through the River Access and Conservation Areas Program.