Just outside the hustle and bustle of Houston, the Katy Prairie offers a natural reprieve from our modern lives. This coastal prairie is home to 300 species of birds, 100 species of mammals, amphibians, and reptiles, and close to 700 species of grasses and wildflowers.
It’s an ecological treasure that can sequester carbon, hold back floodwaters, and allow us to connect with the beauty of our land. But with ever-expanding development, this gift of natural abundance is at risk and may not be here for long. The Katy Prairie Conservancy is working hard to preserve as much of the coastal prairie as it can.
The coastal prairie once included 9 million acres of tall grasses, wildflowers, and wetlands along the coasts of Texas and Louisiana. As the city of Houston has grown, the land around it has been converted from a pristine natural paradise to strip malls, offices, parking lots, and expanding suburbs. It is estimated that just one percent of the original coastal prairie remains, with just 15% – 20% degraded, but in a restorable state. Losing this Texas legacy means that we lose the wildlife habitats, rice farming, cattle ranching, outdoor recreation, and native plants and animals.
The Katy Prairie Conservancy, established in 1992, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the coastal prairie. Between land donations, land sales, and conservation agreements with landowners, they oversee more than 24,000 protected acres in Texas, with 18,500 acres in the ecological heart of the Katy Prairie. They have restored more than 4,000 acres of wetlands and are now restoring grasslands on multiple preserves.
These programs give volunteers the opportunity to be directly involved in conservation and restoration through seed collection, plant propagation, and plantings. For example, The Great Grow Out program empowers volunteers to grow plants in the comfort of their own home before they are planted in fields and the Putting Down Roots event is an annual planting day with a strong educational component to teach how the prairie has deep roots in local culture, recreation, and economic development.
Despite the good work of Katy Prairie Conservancy, this land and its natural abundance remain under an increasing threat of development. America loses a football field of natural lands every 30 seconds to create more roads, houses, pipelines, and more. Texas loses more farmland every year than any other state. We can expect that Houston and the surrounding areas will continue to boom, which only increases the need to protect our coastal prairie, the eagles that soar above century-old rice fields, the shy bobcats that prowl the muddy bottomlands, the red-eared slider turtles that lounge near fallen Cypress trunks, and so much more.
Katy Prairie Conservancy is a nonprofit member of EarthShare of Texas, which means your support of our federation supports the Katy Prairie Conservancy in its long-term goals. Above all, the organization envisions a future where enough sizable pieces of the coastal prairie have been conserved to form a regional “central park” for the growing population, thus providing access to nature for both people and wildlife forever.