Results and Accomplishments
Currently six landowners are participating in ED's LCAP and restoring brush very near areas where ocelots are known to occur, so that in the future these lands can be used as core habitat for the cats. Landowners signed agreements stating that they would protect the restored area for up to 20 years. The US Fish & Wildlife Service, Meadows Foundation, Houston Endowment and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have provided or are providing funds for this work. In addition, Environmental Defense worked with Texas Parks & Wildlife, the NRCS and FSA to write a special practice for the Conservation Reserve Program - a popular US Department of Agriculture incentives program that essentially pays farmers to take highly erodible land out of production - called "Rare and Declining Habitat", that will allow farmers and ranchers to receive cost-share from the USDA to not only take land out of production but also restore native thorny vegetation for the ocelot. This practice should be available to South Texas landowners during the next CRP sign-up period.
The Nature Conservancy of Texas, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and NRCS all provide information to ED and to landowners regarding key areas of interest and potential program participants, as well as advise ED on restoration techniques and best practices. Texas A&M University in Kingsville researchers provide information on ocelot ecology. A new focus of the work will be on mapping key corridors and more strategically targeting incentives programs where they will have maximum effect for ocelots, and all organizations listed will play a role in this effort.
ED works with Pronatura Noreste through contractual arrangement to direct funds to landowners in Tamaulipas where ocelots are known or suspected to occur. The funds are used to complete wildlife surveys and management plans, and go toward small projects such as fencing a sensitive area of brush to protect it from grazing. Funds from the Dallas Zoo to Pronatura Noreste recently paid for some expanded research to find out where breeding populations of ocelots in Tamaulipas might be concentrated. A new focus of ED's work here, as a result of the Dallas Zoo research, will be to involve an expanded pool of landowners where ocelots have been found and further increase research on these private ranches. The research will involve setting up trip cameras to capture ocelots on film and installing scent pads that cats rub on, leaving hairs that will be analyzed for genetic material. Key in this effort will be Environmental Defense, Texas A&M University Kingsville, Pronatura Noreste and Nature Conservancy.