$250,000 Wal-Mart Donation Supports Water for Texas

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AUSTIN, Texas, November 19, 2008 (ENS) - The Wal-Mart Foundation Tuesday donated $250,000 to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation to fund a new watershed restoration initiative on the Colorado River. The funding will be used to help landowners improve water quality and quantity and to control invasive saltcedar bushes that block and alter watercourses.

    Through this Water for Texas initiative, Wal-Mart hopes to help offset its own water footprint in Texas.

    "There are more Walmart and Sam's Club stores in Texas than in any other state," said John Murphy, Wal-Mart vice president for operations. "These facilities use and sell lots of water, and to help offset that consumption, we wanted to participate in a sustainable water conservation program. Taking this initial step with Texas Parks and Wildlife and other partners seems natural."

    The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is the official non-profit partner of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It provides private support to the department to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities.

    Both foundations expect that this initial $250,000 donation will attract other partners to contribute to improving the supply and quality of water in Texas.

    "By itself, this grant from Wal-Mart Foundation is significant," said Will Beecherl, chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation's Board of Directors. "Not only is this the first time private funding has made such a watershed initiative possible in Texas, it is also a statement and commitment by a major corporation to help protect the unique natural resources of Texas."

    "It will enable the leveraging of other contributions, recruit many partners and multiply the conservation impact to reach heretofore unattainable goals. With the help of other stakeholders, this will easily be a million-dollar plus project every year," said Beecherl.

    Foundation officials hope this program will be on-going and will eventually help restore several key watersheds, but it will begin in 2009 on the Colorado River.

    To accomplish restoration throughout the Colorado River basin, the two foundations will work with multiple partners, including the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Lower Colorado River Authority, the Upper Colorado River Authority, the Colorado River Municipal Water District and the Texas Organization of Wildlife Management Associations.

    The Texas Organization of Wildlife Management Associations will use part of the donation to reach out to landowners through member wildlife management associations to help them improve water quality and quantity. This outreach could include field days, technical assistance, conferences and workshops designed to influence riparian area protection.

    A portion of the funding will be used to support the Creekside Conservation Program for projects on private land throughout the watershed area of the Lower Colorado River Authority statutory district.

    Upper Colorado River Authority will use some of the funds to support O.C. Fisher Lake Aquatic Research and Education Center, the focus of which is to enhance water quality and quantity while promoting public awareness and participation in water conservation.

    The Colorado River Municipal Water District will use part of the donation to expand the distribution of the saltcedar beetle for the bio-control of invasive saltcedar plants along the Beals Creek tributary of the Colorado River.

    Since 2003, the district has been trying to control saltcedar in the upper Colorado River basin.

    This salt-tolerant, fire-resistant, water-guzzling plant was imported in the 1800s to help hold stream and river banks in place. But today, saltcedar has crowded out native plants such as cottonwoods and willows, disrupting the habitat of birds, fish, and other forms of life.

    Saltcedar blocks river and stream access by forming dense thickets, first as bushy shrubs and, later, as pink-blossomed trees that grow to 30 feet.

    When rivers and streams overflow their banks, saltcedar bushes can trap natural flood debris, blocking waterflow and causing new, erosive channels to form. These channels sometimes undercut farm roads and fields, causing them to collapse.

    But a leafbeetle, Diorhabda elongata, imported from Asia and the Mediterranean where saltcedar is native, has taken an impressive bite out of saltcedar in several sites in the West. The beetles munch their way through entire stands of saltcedar, while posing no hazard to people, pets, or crops.

    The use of biocontrol to manage saltcedar is a key component of the Colorado River project because long-term maintenance requires control measures that will be low-cost and provide a permanent means to keep saltcedar in check.

    Though the beetles have established many flourishing colonies, they originally failed to reproduce at southerly test sites, such as those in Texas, so more work is needed to establish them in the state.

    This program is under the direction of the USDA Agricultural Research Service and the Texas AgriLife Extension and Research Service. The objective of the program is to implement saltcedar biocontrol throughout the entire Colorado River watershed.

    {Photo: Heron on the Colorado River in Texas courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation}

    Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.