Improvements Underway at J.D. Murphree WMA
Ducks Unlimited and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) completed a project in early December to improve more than 1,500 acres of important marsh habitat on the Salt Bayou Unit of J.D. Murphree WMA.
The environmental and economic benefits of wetlands and prairies along the Texas Gulf Coast are tremendous, and the marshlands south of Port Arthur are no exception. Coveted by anglers and hunters for the abundant wildlife, these marshes also provide storm surge protection for the citizens and industries of Chambers, Jefferson, and Orange Counties.
The Salt Bayou Water Control Structure was installed in 1995 to prevent the influx of saltwater into the north end of the Salt Bayou system. Since then, the structure has been degraded by corrosion from exposure to high saline waters and sustained physical damage caused by hurricanes.
Multiple leaks have developed, and many of the flap gates are either missing or inoperable. As such, the structure no longer functions properly, and TPWD staff cannot control the influx of saltwater into the northern reaches of Salt Bayou.
Ducks Unlimited provided survey, design, engineering, and construction oversight services to restore management capabilities to the unit. Once completed, the structure will allow TPWD to reliably control salinity and water levels in the Salt Bayou Unit and restore beneficial wetland plant communities.
J.D. Murphree WMA provides important habitat for waterfowl that winter along the Texas Gulf Coast and year-round habitat for mottled ducks as well as other wildlife and fisheries. Over the past 100 years, accelerated loss of emergent coastal wetlands has reduced vegetation, soils, and long-term resource sustainability within the area.
The $540,000-project contributes to the overall goal of the Salt Bayou Watershed Restoration Plan. This is a multi-partner, long-term effort to conserve the Salt Bayou system and ensure its continued benefits for wildlife, fisheries, and the community.
This project was included as a match in a North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) proposal submitted by Ducks Unlimited in July 2017. If awarded full funding, DU, TPWD, and Jefferson County will have leveraged $1,000,000 in NAWCA grant funds. This will complete future projects that will enhance and restore 3,400 acres of waterfowl habitat on the Texas Gulf Coast.
—by Andi Cooper
Wardens Crack Down on Illegal Wildlife Trade
Texas game wardens made multiple criminal cases against individuals attempting to make online sales of various threatened and protected wildlife species, as well as state and federally regulated natural resources. Navigating through internet forums and online marketplaces where trade in both live wildlife and wildlife parts are known to occur, wardens were able to negotiate undercover transactions with willing sellers to purchase things like a taxidermied great blue heron, raptor talons, American alligator heads and live box turtles.
During the operation, game wardens conducted 20 cases using online searches and mobile apps to uncover illegal items for sale. The investigations netted numerous seizures of wildlife resources, and resulted in issuance of 18 citations and 18 warnings. Citations included charges for sale and possession of threatened and or protected species, sale of migratory duck parts, sale of American alligator parts (no retail dealer permit), commercial exotic snake permit violations, Illegal sale of game fish, no fish dealer’s license, and failure to possess a non-game dealer permit. All citations issued were class C misdemeanor violations punishable by fine from $25 — $500.
Additional covert wild web operations have been conducted elsewhere around the state, with the most recent crackdown in Houston last May. The public is urged to help augment game warden efforts by notifying Operation Game Thief at 800-792-GAME.