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The High Plains ecoregion is higher and drier than the Central Great Plains to the east.
Much of the High Plains is expressed as smooth to slightly irregular plains with a high percentage of cropland. The potential natural vegetation in this region is grama-buffalo grass. The northern boundary of this ecological region is also the approximate northern limit of winter wheat and sorghum and the southern limit of spring wheat. The ecoregion includes the plains area of the Llano Estacado. Thousands of playa lakes (seasonal depressional wetlands) occur in this area, many serving as recharge areas for the important Ogallala Aquifer. These playa lakes are also essential for waterfowl during their yearly migration along the Central Flyway of North America. Oil and gas production occurs in many parts of the region. Only 0.57% of this region is classified as recreation or conservation lands, amounting to 119,661 acres in total.
Southwestern Tablelands (Ecoregion 26)
The Southwestern Tablelands flank the High Plains with red hued canyons, mesas, badlands, and dissected river breaks. Unlike most adjacent Great Plains ecological regions, little of the Southwestern Tablelands are in cropland. Much of this region is in sub-humid grassland and semiarid rangeland. The potential natural vegetation in this region is grama-buffalo grass with some mesquite-buffalo grass in the southeast, Chapter 4 – Inventory of Outdoor Recreation Lands Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan juniper-scrub oak-midgrass savanna on escarpment bluffs, and shinnery (midgrass prairie with low oak brush) along parts of the Canadian River. Soils in this region include Alfisols, Inceptisols, Entisols, and Mollisols. This ecoregion houses slightly more than its High Plains neighbor, with 129,585 recreation-conservation acres, accounting for only 0.87% of the total area.
Central Great Plains (Ecoregion 27)
The Central Great Plains are slightly lower, receive more precipitation, and are more irregular than the High Plains to the west. The ecological region was once grassland, a mixed or transitional prairie from the tallgrass in the east to shortgrass farther west.
Scattered low trees and shrubs occur in the south. Most of the ecoregion is now cropland. The eastern boundary of the region marks the eastern limits of the major winter wheat growing area of the United States. Soils in this region are generally deep with shallow soils on ridges and breaks. Not surprisingly, as most of this ecoregion is covered by cropland, the Central Great Plains holds the smallest ratio of recreationconservation lands, with only 0.28% or 32,068 out of 11,533,378 total acres.
Cross Timbers (Ecoregion 29)
Edwards Plateau (Ecoregion 30) This ecoregion is largely a dissected limestone plateau that is hillier to the south and east where it is easily distinguished from bordering ecological regions by a sharp fault line. The region contains a sparse network of perennial streams. Due to karst Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan Chapter 4 – Inventory of Outdoor Recreation Lands topography (related to dissolution of limestone substrate) and resulting underground drainage, streams are relatively clear and cool in temperature compared to those of surrounding areas. Soils in this region are mostly Mollisols with shallow and moderately deep soils on plateaus and hills, and deeper soils on plains and valley floors. Covered by juniper-oak savanna and mesquite-oak savanna, most of the region is used for grazing beef cattle, sheep, goats, exotic game mammals, and wildlife. Hunting leases are a major source of income. Combined with topographic gradients, fire was once an important factor controlling vegetation patterns on the Edwards Plateau. It is a region of many endemic vascular plants. With its rapid seed dispersal, low palatability to browsers, and in the absence of fire, Ashe juniper has increased in some areas, reducing the extent of grassy savannas. Following the Cross Timbers in terms of percentage, 1.09% of the Edwards Plateau region is classified as recreationconservation land. While the ratio may be smaller than the Cross Timbers region, the actual acreage is larger, with 201,594 acres out of 18,449,346 being put aside for recreation or conservation purposes.
Southern Texas Plains (Ecoregion 31)
These rolling to moderately dissected plains were once covered in many areas with grassland and savanna vegetation that varied during wet and dry cycles. Following long continued grazing and fire suppression, thorny brush, such as mesquite, is now the predominant vegetation type. Ceniza and blackbrush occur on caliche soils. Also known as the Tamualipan Thornscrub, or the “brush country” as it is called locally, the region has its greatest extent in Mexico. The subhumid to dry region contains a diverse mosaic of soils, mostly clay, clay loam, and sandy clay loam surface textures, and ranging from alkaline to slightly acid. The ecoregion also contains a high and distinct diversity of plant and animal life. It is generally lower in elevation with warmer winters than the Chihuahuan Deserts to the northwest. Oil and natural gas production activities are widespread. The Southern Texas Plains hold the second smallest percentage of recreation-conservation land, with only 0.45% being classified as such. This percentage amounts to 59,836 acres out of 13,179,176.
Texas Blackland Prairies (Ecoregion 32)
East Central Texas Plains (Ecoregion 33) Also called the Post Oak Savanna or the Claypan Area, this region of irregular plains was originally covered by post oak savanna vegetation, in contrast to the more open prairie-type regions to the north, south, and west, and the pine forests to the east. Soils are variable among the parallel ridges and valleys, but tend to be acidic, with sands and sandy loams on the uplands and clay to clay loams in low-lying areas. Many areas have a dense, underlying clay pan affecting water movement and available moisture for plant growth. The bulk of this region is now used for pasture and range. However, the region houses 129,295 acres or 0.96% of recreation-conservation lands.
Western Gulf Coastal Plain (Ecoregion 34)
The Western Gulf Coastal Plain is a relatively flat strip of land, generally 50 to 90 miles wide, adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico. The principal distinguishing characteristics of this ecoregion are its relatively flat topography and mainly grassland potential natural vegetation. Inland from this region the plains are older, more irregular, and have mostly forest or savanna-type vegetation potentials. Largely because of these characteristics, a higher percentage of the land is in cropland than in bordering ecological regions. Rice, grain sorghum, cotton, and soybeans are the principal crops. Urban and industrial land uses have expanded greatly in recent decades, and oil and gas production is common.
However, there are still a large proportion of lands set aside for recreation-conservation purposes, currently 798,268 acres or 5.32% of the total region.
South Central Plains (Ecoregion 35)
Data Source: Planning & Geospatial Resources Chapter 4 – Inventory of Outdoor Recreation Lands Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan County-level Analysis To assist local governments in meaningful community planning, county data was examined through multiple approaches, including representative acreage and service to populations (per capita). Figure 4.4 characterizes the distribution of acres per capita by county.
Data Source: Planning & Geospatial Resources Data Source: Planning & Geospatial Resources Figure 4.5 represents recreation-conservation land by county, which does not take into consideration population. As can be seen in the map below, 20 out of 254 counties Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan Chapter 4 – Inventory of Outdoor Recreation Lands reported zero recreation- conservation. This can be attributed to several different causes; either there are not enough people to require outdoor space, or the recreation providers did not report any owned lands in their respective counties.
As can be seen in Table 4.4, the per capita rate of recreation-conservation lands is significantly lower owing to fiscal, spatial, political, and other constraints.
Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan Chapter 4 – Inventory of Outdoor Recreation Lands In contrast to the previous table, Table 4.5 shows the top ten counties with the highest per capita ratio of recreation-conservation lands, where the majority of counties have extremely low population rates.
Conclusion In summary, the Texas population has grown at a tremendous rate. The urban metropolises have a much lower per capita allocation of recreation and conservation acreage than counties with smaller populations. This trend is not surprising, given land costs and development pressures. Moving forward, state and local officials will need to plan ahead to provide equitable access to conservation and recreation lands, particularly in urban areas.
The urban counties, with populations greater than 500,000, include:
The ten counties with populations greater than 500,000 account for 58% of the state’s population, but only offer 8.4% of the recreation-conservation lands available for public use.
Chapter 4 – Inventory of Outdoor Recreation Lands Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan These counties account for 58% of the state’s population, but only offer 8.4% of the recreation-conservation lands available for public use. Further, the opportunities to acquire additional lands are hampered by the lack of available quantity and quality of land, and the cost for acquisition and development in the urban setting. Figure 4.6 illustrates the per capita distribution of recreation-conservation lands in Texas.
Figure 4.6 Total Recreation-Conservation Acres by County Population Size and Number of Counties While this statewide inventory is the most complete data set to date; improvements in data standardization, as it relates to park classification (community, neighborhood, regional, etc…), would be useful in increasing the value of this inventory for future planning and analysis purposes.
Furthermore, there are limitations to this data set.
While the majority of owning entities responded with some type of property information, there were a small percentage of non-responders that were not included in this compilation. Also, particularly as it relates to smaller municipalities, many did not have the data in a digital geospatial format. ArcGIS and its corresponding capability to produce accurate geospatial data still have a cost prohibitive element for many recreation providers. Moving forward, TPWD plans to give the data freely to any recreation providers that request it, in order to increase planning efforts across the state.
Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan Chapter 4 – Inventory of Outdoor Recreation Lands Outdoor Recreation Demand To ensure that ample opportunity for public participation has occurred in the development of the TORP, a variety of state and national survey studies were used to establish outdoor recreation trends in Texas. Results from the 2002-2007 Texas State Parks On-Site Visitor Survey, the TPWD 2009 Hispanic Focus Groups, and the Texas results from the 2009 NSRE conducted by the USFS are included in this analysis of outdoor recreation demand. In addition to these earlier studies, in 2011 TPWD also conducted two web surveys to garner public input on the outdoor recreational needs of Texans; generating nearly 4,000 responses.
Outdoor Recreation Participation in Texas and the United States The USFS conducts a national survey approximately every five years to assess outdoor recreation participation patterns of persons 16 years and older in the U.S. The NSRE, conducted since 1960, evaluates participation for about 80 outdoor recreation activities.
This research provides the opportunity to view long-term trends in outdoor recreation activity participation because the survey data was collected in a consistent way over those years. A report completed in 2009 by the USFS compares long-term trends from the 1980s until recent time (2009) shown in Table 5.1.
The NSRE is a valuable national source of information that provides a sample size large enough to extrapolate Texans’ participation in outdoor recreation activities. The most popular activities participated by U.S. residents and Texas residents are shown in Chapter 5 – Outdoor Recreation Demand Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan Figure 5.1. The percent of Texans participating in these outdoor activities generally mirrors participation by U.S. residents.
40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Source: NSRE Addressing Demographic Change Outdoor recreation participation by Hispanics in Texas is important to understand as the Hispanic population is projected to increase to more than 53% of the total population by 2040 (Texas State Data Center, 2008). As Texas demographics continue to shift,
Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan Chapter 5 – Outdoor Recreation Demandparticipation in outdoor activities among diverse groups is becoming increasingly important. Understanding the participation and non-participation rate among the largest ethnicity in Texas is critical to reaching this under-served group.
The NSRE provides socio-demographics of Texans participating in outdoor recreation activities, including detailed information by ethnicity, age, education, household income, and location of residence. A second study, Hispanic Qualitative Research: Conclusions and Recommendations, was conducted in 2009 for TPWD using focus groups in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. This research focused specifically on generating ideas from Hispanic State Park visitors regarding how to increase park visitation, broaden conservation and stewardship, and solidify future support for nature-based outdoor recreation. The qualitative findings led to several key strategies being considered to broaden engagement with diverse, dynamic, and growing populations.
Together the studies create a more complete picture of outdoor recreation demand in Texas.