Wal-Mart Gift to Launch Colorado River Initiative

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation announced Nov. 18 a $250,000 donation from Wal-Mart Foundation to provide catalytic funding for a new watershed restoration initiative.

Through this Water for Texas initiative, Wal-Mart hopes to help off-set its own water footprint in Texas, help restore native habitats resulting in healthier, more abundant wildlife and fish populations, and help provide more and better water for the citizens of Texas.

"By itself, this grant from Wal-Mart Foundation is significant," said Will Beecherl, chair of the foundation's Board of Directors. "Not only is this the first time private funding has made such a watershed initiative possible in Texas, it is also a statement and commitment by a major corporation to help protect the unique natural resources of Texas. It will enable the leveraging of other contributions, recruit many partners, and multiply the conservation impact to reach heretofore unattainable goals. With the help of other stakeholders, this will easily be a million-dollar plus project every year."

To accomplish restoration throughout the Colorado River basin, the foundations will work with multiple partners, including the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), the Upper Colorado River Authority (UCRA), the Colorado River Municipal Water District (CRMWD), and the Texas Organization of Wildlife Management Associations (TOWMA).

"There are more Walmart and Sam's Club stores in Texas than in any other state," said John Murphy, Walmart vice president for Operations. "These facilities use and sell lots of water and to help off-set that consumption, we wanted to participate in a sustainable water conservation program. Taking this initial step with Texas Parks & Wildlife and other partners seems natural."

Projects to help accomplish sustainability will be dynamic and targeted to specifically address different sections of the basin. For example:

•A portion of the funding will be used to provide additional support for the Creekside Conservation Program for projects on private land throughout the watershed area of the LCRA statutory district;

•UCRA will use some of the funds to support O.C. Fisher Lake Aquatic Research & Education Center, the focus of which is to enhance water quality and quantity while promoting public awareness and participation in water conservation;

•In partnership with the Natural Resource Conservation Service and Texas AgriLIFE, CRWMD will accomplish ecosystem restoration by expanding the distribution of the "salt cedar beetle" for the bio-control of salt cedar along the Beals Creek tributary of the Colorado River.

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