Calhoun Ranch to be restored to wetlands

Nov. 14, 2011 at 5:14 a.m.

Sea-Dan Ranches in Calhoun County is now one of the largest conservation easements in the state under the Wetlands Reserve Program, potentially giving whooping cranes another place to spend the winters.

The Wetlands Reserve Program is part of the National Resources Conservation Service, a part of the United States Department of Agriculture.

The Wetlands Reserve Program easements restore land to its native condition. Landowners can enter three types of agreements. With a 30-year or permanent easement, the USDA pays all of the restoration costs. Landowners may also enter a cost-sharing agreement, where there is no easement, but the USDA pays 75 percent of the costs.

For all of these agreements the landowners still own the property, but are required to keep the wetlands in restored condition forever.

The Sea-Dan Ranches, in Seadrift, put 5,776 acres under a permanent easement, one of the largest easements in the program's 20-year history, said Claude Ross the easement program specialist with the Wetlands Reserve Program.

The land is owned by Kathleen Carey and her brother John Welder, Ross said. There are more than 75,000 acres of land under easement in Texas and more than 2.3 million acres across the country, Ross said.

Wetlands are key to the health of the land because it acts as the kidneys of the ecosystem, filtering out toxins and keeping the ecosystem balanced, Ross said. The wetlands are also used as the winter homes of whooping cranes and other native water fowl.

"Wetlands are constantly losing (ground) to agriculture and development, so any time we get the chance to restore the land, we take it," Ross said.



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