Cooperatove Conservation Project

Houston Toad Recovery

Texas rancher takes lead role in Houston toad recovery

Location: South-Central/South-West Region: Texas

Project Summary: Recovery of the Houston toad by providing safe harbor assurances and incentives to private landowners for their participation in habitat restoration and enhancement.
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Resource Challenge

The Houston toad is a federally listed endangered species.  Historically, the toad was known to occur in 12 counties in southeast Texas, but development and associated habitat loss have shrunk the range to only 9 counties with Bastrop County having the largest known remaining population.  An explosion of growth and development in Bastrop County is creating a now or never situation for recovery of the Houston toad.

Environmental Defense works with private landowners in Texas to enhance, restore and protect habitat for endangered species.  Through its Landowner Conservation Assistance (LCAP) and Safe Harbor programs Environmental Defense encourages landowner participation in endangered species habitat restoration by offering a suite of incentive-based tools and regulatory assurances. With habitat declining in the area most beneficial to the Houston toad, Environmental Defense recognizes the importance of working with private landowners and local stakeholders in this landscape to plan and implement conservation and restoration activities designed to recover the toad. 









Examples of Key Partners

Primary Partners: Long Family, Environmental Defense, US Fish and Wildlife Service.  

Key Organizations and Partners: Long Family, Environmental Defense, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Forest Service, Texas State University, Lower Colorado River Authority, Pines and Prairies Land Trust, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.









Results and Accomplishments

In the spring of 2005, one of the largest choruses of Houston toads heard during that breeding season was on the Long Ranch at a pond that had been fenced to control cattle access during the aquatic phase of the toad’s life cycle.  Pond fencing is just one of several activities that have been, or will be, implemented on the Long Ranch for the purpose of enhancing toad habitat.  Management activities such as planting loblolly pine seedlings and implementing prescribed fire and brush manipulation have, and will continue to enhance and restore wetlands, ponds and woodland areas that can be used by the Houston toad.  As a result of Bob Long’s example two additional landowners have started working with Environmental Defense and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in developing Safe Harbor agreements for their properties.  These properties will add close to a thousand more acres of restored habitats for the Houston toad.  The success of the Bob Long safe harbor and associated partnerships has created a groundswell of private landowner interest in projects designed to recover the Houston toad.










The establishment of the first Safe Harbor agreement for the Houston toad was a major achievement and has provided an important model for other landowners in the area. This cooperative effort between a private landowner, Environmental Defense and public and private agencies has set a positive tone for landowner participation in Houston toad recovery. Landowner concerns about regulatory liability encumbered through restoring endangered species habitat have been overcome by the example of Bob Long and now more landowners in the area are expressing interest in restoring habitats to benefit the toad.

Project Contact
David Wolfe
Senior Scientist
Environmental Defense



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