KPC's Stance on Hunting
KPC considers hunting a viable and appropriate traditional land use. From its inception in 1992, the Katy Prairie Conservancy has been hunter friendly, as a number of local hunters were involved in the formation of the organization. As the Katy Prairie Conservancy has grown to around 13,000 acres under ownership hunters have played a valuable role through their contribution of their hard earned dollars and through advice and time toward habitat management. Hunters are willing to pay for the right of trespass to pursue their sport, and this willingness to pay for access generates revenue for KPC. As KPC has acquired land, its policy has been to try and maintain local relations by leasing the properties back to the people on the land at the time of purchase; this includes both agricultural tenants and hunting tenants. Currently, KPC has a number of hunting tenants including hunting clubs, private individuals, and even the state of Texas for their Public Hunting Program. Annually, through lease payments KPC receives around $120,000 from hunters. This figure does not cover contributions made to the conservancy by individuals or in kind services that may have been provided. KPC also provides hunting opportunities for interested youth through the Texas Youth Hunting Program which is a collaborative program of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Wildlife Association.
We have found that hunters tend to be our most willing conservation stewards both financially as well as with their time. They have helped with habitat improvements as well as with management and advice. When they are out on our properties they are extra eyes and ears and are more than willing to share their observations. If something is amiss on a property we often hear about it from a hunter. Unauthorized trespass, not to mention poaching is becoming a more pressing issue on and around our properties. Hunters provide a presence on our properties, particularly remote ones, at unpredictable times which help to deter these activities as those interested in illegal activities can’t predict when someone may or may not be around. So, given a choice between a group of honest hunters with a vested interest in the proper management of our properties and your run of the mill road hunter/poacher who’s just out to shoot something, regardless, we’ll take the honest hunters with their knowledge of and enthusiasm toward the management and maintenance of the resource that provides their adored recreation.
Though numbers are declining, in 2006 an estimated 12.5 million people hunted. There activities infused $22.9 billion in the economy. Furthermore, hunters provide the lion share of revenue to our state wildlife agency through the purchase of hunting licenses and state wildlife stamps, as well as to the Feds through the purchase of the federal Duck Stamp and through excise taxes on ammunition, firearms and other hunting related equipment.
On the Katy Prairie deer have not yet become the problem that they have in other areas of the country, though they may yet as our urban population grows. We have our own overpopulation problem, not people (though that could be arguable), feral hogs. Feral hogs are rapidly increasing in number and are extremely adaptable, prolific, and destructive of wildlife habitat, agricultural lands and even private residential property. Consequently, feral hogs are considered fair game by all of our tenants, agricultural as well as hunters. Unfortunately our hog problem will only increase as urban development moves closer and closer to our properties.
Along with rice farming, hunters have been instrumental in the development of the Katy Prairie as we currently know it. Rice production over the years created the infrastructure to provide winter habitat to the large numbers of waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds that winter along the Texas coast. Currently rice production is declining on the Katy Prairie. To mitigate some of this habitat loss KPC has worked closely with Ducks Unlimited (DU). Through the Texas Prairie Wetlands Program which is administered by DU and monitored by Texas Parks and Wildlife, KPC has created over 2500 acres of prairie wetland habitat with funding provided through this program. These projects are managed for wetland habitat. Birders on the Katy Prairie have come to expect flooded rice fields during the winter months and these flooded fields provide excellent bird watching opportunities. Have you ever wondered why that water is out during the winter months? It is not necessary for crop production. The water is there, almost without exception, because hunters have paid for it to be there. During dry years when this habitat is critical water can get expensive. Hunters do a lot to help manage the resource for waterfowl habitat and good waterfowl habitat is good for a host of other species. So the next time you are enjoying the day watching ducks, geese, shore birds, eagles, or whatever, over a flooded rice field or pasture on the Katy Prairie, remember to thank a hunter.
Our experience has been, and continues to be, that the vast majority of hunters are good people who are honestly and actively interested in the proper management and maintenance of our natural resources. These people tend to have a real conservation ethic because they recognize that improper utilization of the resource will eventually result in its decline and consequently their opportunity to hunt.
Information coming soon.