AUSTIN – To help facilitate the conservation of Texas’ most vulnerable species, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) recently updated the list of Texas Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN). The list is a core element of the Texas Conservation Action Plan, and is a guiding framework for Texas to access more than $50 million annually for SGCN-focused habitat conservation, education and recreation under the proposed Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.
Through extensive partnerships with public and private landowners, local, state, and federal agencies, river authorities, conservation non-profits, universities, and other cooperators, TPWD manages and conserves the native diversity of fish, wildlife, and plants found in the state. Specific conservation actions include ecological research, species propagation and reintroduction, biological surveys and monitoring, habitat restoration, habitat protection, and other actions taken to ensure that the natural heritage of Texas is preserved for future generations. Such actions are prioritized for species recognized as SGCN.
Maintaining an updated list of SGCN ensures that conservation investments are directed toward species considered imperiled or vulnerable due to declining trends or substantial threats to their populations and habitats. A prime example of such investments is the State Wildlife Grants Program, which was authorized more than twenty years ago by U.S. Congress to provide a dedicated source of funding to state fish and wildlife agencies explicitly for the conservation of SGCN. Since 2000, TPWD has received more than $34 million from the State Wildlife Grants Program to fill critical science needs and implement conservation actions to restore and preserve the more than 1,300 species recognized as SGCN in Texas.
A report authored by TPWD in 2017 titled “Sustaining Our State’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources” identified an annual funding need of over $132 million to adequately address the needs of Texas SGCN. In recognition of the substantial conservation needs of SGCN in Texas and nationwide, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act has been repeatedly introduced into U.S. Congress. Passage of the Act would bring more than $50 million to Texas annually for the conservation of SGCN.
Given the substantial conservation investments dedicated to SGCN in Texas, it is critically important that the list of Texas SGCN be regularly revisited with consideration of the best available science on status, trends, and threats to species and their habitats. The initial list of Texas SGCN was published within the 2005 Texas Wildlife Action Plan and subsequently updated within the 2012 Texas Conservation Action Plan. The Texas Conservation Action Plan is scheduled to be updated in 2023, at which time TPWD will again revise the list of Texas SGCN.
Meanwhile, significant advancements have occurred in the available science on status and trends of Texas biodiversity since the previous list of SGCN was published in 2012, including taxonomic verifications and the documentation of species extirpations, range reductions and expansions, and hybridization with nonindigenous species. Furthermore, during 2018–2020, TPWD and cooperators completed a litany of species conservation status assessments which were used to inform the 2020 revision of the lists of State Threatened and Endangered species. Given this dramatic influx in available science on the status of Texas biodiversity, TPWD determined that a revision of the list of Texas SGCN was timely and warranted. The updated list of SGCN is available for download on the TPWD website.