Why Conserve Land?
The urgent need to preserve land in the Greater Houston area is real. Houston is one of the fastest-growing, most dynamic cities in the United States and the Houston-Galveston Area Council of Governments has projected that the population of the Houston area will more than double between now and 2040 with much of the residential and commercial growth occurring far west of downtown Houston. Current urban growth occurring to the west and northwest where land is still available and relatively affordable is consuming thousands of acres of one the most important ecosystems in North America: the Katy Prairie.
Once lost, the Katy Prairie will never be replaced. And the loss of prairie lands – not just the Katy Prairie, but coastal prairie more broadly – threatens the well-being of both people and wildlife in the Houston region. Originally consisting of nearly 750,000 acres of a pristine prairie stretching from where Loop 610 sits now all the way to the Brazos River, the Katy Prairie today has fewer than 200,000 acres that remain undeveloped. The Katy Prairie is an important piece of the much larger Coastal Prairie, which was a vast expanse of tall grasses stretching from the Texas Gulf Coast all the way to Canada but which has been reduced to a small fraction of its original size. Open grasslands have given way to homes, commercial developments and roads; much of what remains of the prairie has been developed into farms and ranches – the latent seed bank covered over by improved grasses and agricultural crops.
Experts estimate that between 5% and 8.7% of the land in the eight counties surrounding Houston is currently under permanent protection. Scientists estimate that 17% of our lands worldwide need to be permanently preserved in order to ensure the survival of healthy ecosystems and species biodiversity. To help meet this goal, KPC is working to increase protected lands while they are still available and affordable.
KPC has distinguished itself as a leader in local land protection and now protects more than 20,000 acres in Harris, Waller, and Fort Bend counties, making KPC the largest private land trust, by acreage, in southeast Texas. These lands are located in the middle of the Central Flyway and boast more than 300 resident and migratory bird species; 110 species of mammals, amphibians, and reptiles; 600 species of wildflowers and grasses, and thousands of terrestrial insects and aquatic invertebrate species. The Katy Prairie has been designated a Global Important Bird Area by National Audubon – one of only 17 sites in Texas – due in large part to the incredible habitat available to upland species in decline on the prairie.
The Katy Prairie Preserve serves our community by keeping land in agriculture for local farmers and ranchers, affording a place for families to have nature-based adventures, and providing one of the last strongholds for wildlife in the region. KPC’s innovative approach to land protection and its ground-breaking community-based conservation programs have earned it local, statewide, and national awards. KPC is seen as a conservation leader with statewide influence.