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      Nature Report: Hunting Conservation Tool

      It might come as a surprise to some, but hunting is one of the most effective conservation tools that we have.

      More than 95 percent of the native wildlands that remain in deep South Texas are in the hands of private landowners, and in order to keep that important habitat intact landowners must find a way to make their land produce income.

      Taxes must be paid, windmills repaired and fences kept up.

      Mineral wealth such as gas and oil are not always available, and traditional cattle operations are becoming difficult for ranchers to make a living with.

      While ecotourism such as bird watching and photography provide some supplemental income to participating area ranchers, hunting is increasingly what pays the bills.

      Wildlife is a renewable resource, and on well-managed properties deer, turkey, quail, dove and other game animals are pursued by sportsmen willing to pay for the opportunity to hunt.

      Rancher James McAllen said, "Hunting in Texas has really helped the private landowner, and it is the private landowner that is going to be incentivized to take care of that property as best he can so he can pass it on to the next generation."

      While the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have valuable wildlife refuge holdings in South Texas, they are not extensive enough to sustain all the migratory birds and native creatures that make South Texas their home.

      With deer season opening this coming weekend, it is important to understand that by saving habitat for whitetail deer and other game animals you are also providing critical habitat for colorful green jays and endangered ocelots.