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      Nature Report: hunting & conservation

      Big bucks brings the big bucks to South Texas.

      Texas is tops when it comes to hunting.

      A recent study by the United States Fish and wildlife Service reveals Texas leads the nation with 1.1 million Texans hunting annually.

      "Habitat is the key," said Fred Bryant, Director of Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute Texas A&M Kingsville.

      "Private landowners hold the habitat.

      "Hunters help save the habitat in the way they put money into conservation."

      The Lone Star State is the nation's leader in hunting related expenditures with sportsmen spending approximately $3.6 billion yearly.

      There is no doubt that the recreational interest in hunting is driving the rural land market in South Texas," said Carter Smith, Executive Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife.

      "People are buying ranches because they are interested in wildlife and the extraordinary value of those places.

      "So, being able to capitalize on that interest and engagement and engage landowners in stewardship of the habitat to benefit game species has a bunch of collateral benefits for nongame species and rare and imperiled species.

      "So, it is a great entre for taking care of the foundation of it all which is the habitat."

      When habitat is saved for hunting it benefits all wildlife and is a win, win situation for ranchers.

      "Hunting has allowed land owners to seek new profits in their land that they have never had before, either in leasing or catered hunts, package hunts things like that," said rancher James McAllen, "So, when you incentivize the rancher to maintain his populations and actually not only maintain them but improve them, then you are improving wildlife everywhere.

      "If you are saving habitat for quail that is actually good habitat for cattle."