AUSTIN The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is seeking public input on the application for an Enhancement of Survival Permit.
“Once roaming widely across Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona, ocelots have now been reduced to a small group in South Texas largely due to habitat loss,” Amy Lueders, the USFWS Southwest Regional Director, said in a news release. “With this agreement, the East Foundation has proposed an innovative strategy to aid in the ocelot’s recovery by expanding their range in South Texas. We encourage the public to review the proposed agreement and provide us their input during the public comment period.”
The ocelot is listed as an endangered species throughout its range in South and Central America, Mexico, southern Texas and southern Arizona. In Texas, fewer than 100 ocelots are currently known in two small, isolated breeding populations on private ranch land and the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.
The proposed agreement would reintroduce ocelots on the East Foundation’s San Antonio Viejo Ranch in Jim Hogg and Starr Counties, and provide additional habitat for reintroduced ocelot dispersal onto private lands close to the San Antonio Viejo Ranch in Brooks, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Starr and Zapata Counties. Other proposed conservation measures in the agreement include ocelot monitoring, habitat management and research.
A Safe Harbor Agreement is a voluntary agreement involving private or other non-federal property owners whose actions contribute to the recovery of species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
“By participating in this programmatic Safe Harbor Agreement, landowners agree to voluntarily manage the land for the benefit of the ocelot and, in turn, receive assurances that they will not be subject to additional Endangered Species Act restrictions on their property as a result of their conservation actions,” Meredith Longoria, the Wildlife Division Deputy Director at TPWD, said in the release. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”
The proposed Safe Harbor Agreement was developed after a multi-year ocelot reintroduction research and planning effort between East Foundation and other private landowners, TPWD, universities, conservation organizations and zoological institutions.
The ESA has been highly effective and credited with saving 99-percent of listed species from extinction. Hundreds of plants and animals have been recovered, are stable or improving thanks to the collaborative actions of tribes, federal agencies, state and local governments, conservation organizations and private citizens.
TPWD and the USFWS encourage the public to review and comment on the Enhancement of Survival Permit application for the proposed SHA for Ocelot Reintroduction, and associated draft screening form pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Public comments will be accepted through Oct. 16.
Comments may be submitted by one of the following methods:
Internet: regulations.gov. Search for and submit comments on Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2023-0160; or
U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2023-0160; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/3W, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA, 22041-3803.
For more information about the ocelot reintroduction project in Texas, visit RecoverTexasOcelots.org.