Where Do the Endorsement Funds Go?
By Owen Fitzsimmons
– Webless Migratory Game Bird Program Leader, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
In 1971, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) created its first hunter-funded stamp to generate revenue for white-winged dove conservation. Today, proceeds from the TPWD Migratory Game Bird (Stamp) Endorsement are used exclusively for the conservation of all Texas migratory game birds. The Texas Legislature allowed TPWD to increase our expenditures of this fund in 2015. Since then, over 27,000 acres of wetlands, uplands, bottomlands, and other critical migratory game bird habitats across Texas have been positively impacted.
In a privately-owned state like Texas, partnership support is key to the effective use of the proceeds. From 2016-19, every dollar contributed to partnership projects was nearly tripled thanks to matching contributions from partners or other funding sources. By leveraging funds and working with partners, a small investment into proven programs like the Texas Prairie Wetlands Program, administered by Ducks Unlimited, can yield a much greater return on the landscape. Newer partner-driven landowner incentive programs like the Coastal Grassland Restoration Incentive Program which enrolled over 10,000 acres of habitat in the first year; the Texas Playa Conservation Initiative, which restores critical playa functionality and integrity; and the Northeast Texas Conservation Delivery Network are shifting the tide of habitat loss by focusing on private lands in key areas for migratory game birds.
TPWD owns and operates over 50 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) comprising more than 700,000 acres. Stamp funds are helping significantly improve habitat and hunting opportunities at many of these sites. Currently, 750 total acres of publicly hunted WMA dove fields are supported with these funds, with multiple fields located in every major region of the state. The Las Palomas WMA, purchased largely with White-winged Dove Stamp funds in the 1970s, now supports over 200 acres of prime dove fields and the highest hunter success rate of any WMA, though it may soon have some competition. In Palo Pinto County, west of Fort Worth, over 100 acres of native sunflowers are being cultivated on the new Roger R. Fawcett WMA, which will open its gates to hunters for the first time this 2020-21 season.
In the past four years, over 2,500 acres of WMA wetland habitat have been restored and nearly 500 acres created through levee construction and repair, improved water management infrastructure, installation of solar wells and rock breakwaters, and the treatment of hundreds of acres of exotic vegetation. Projects like these not only expand management capacity, they improve public hunting and, ultimately, result in higher quality habitat for migratory game birds.
Stamp proceeds also support the Premium Private Land Dove Draw Hunt program; which gives hundreds of hunters each year a chance to win a limited access, top-quality day hunt with reputable outfitters valued at over $100 each.
Additionally, in 2019 the funds helped support TPWD’s Annual Public Hunting Program; which leases private land for walk-in hunting, primarily for dove and other small game, and can be accessed with the purchase of a $48 Annual Public Hunting Permit.
Thanks to Texas hunters, Migratory Game Bird (Stamp) Endorsement funds are helping TPWD and our partners make huge strides in the conservation of our migratory game bird resources. Ensuring the long-term sustainability of our birds and our proud hunting heritage.