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Natural Resources

Fort Worth District Management Philosophy

Natural Resources Management Program

The Corps of Engineers is the steward of the lands and waters at Corps water resources projects. Its Natural Resources Management philosophy is to manage, conserve, and improve these natural resources and the environment while providing quality public outdoor recreation experiences to serve the needs of present and future generations.

In all aspects of natural and cultural resources management, Corps managers promote awareness of environmental values and adhere to sound environmental stewardship, protection, compliance, and restoration practices.

The Corps manages for long-term public access to and use of the natural resources in cooperation with other federal, state, and local agencies, as well as the private sector.

Natural resource managers integrate the management of diverse natural resource components such as fish, wildlife, forests, wetlands, grasslands, soil, air, and water with the provision of public recreation opportunities. The Corps conserves natural resources and provides public recreation opportunities that contribute to the quality of American life.

Canyon Lake Natural Resources

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the natural resources around Canyon Lake in an effort to provide and conserve a sustainable environment for the area wildlife and plant communities and provide a quality outdoor experience today and for generations to come. Below are a few topics that you might find interesting here at Belton Lake.

Environmentally Sensitive Area Management

Environmentally sensitive areas are areas where scientific, ecological, cultural or aesthetic features have been identified. Designation of these lands is not limited to just lands that are otherwise protected by laws such as the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act or applicable state statues. These areas must be managed to ensure they are not adversely impacted. Typically, limited or no development of public use is allowed on these lands. No agricultural or grazing uses are permitted on these lands unless necessary for a specific resource management benefit, such as prairie restoration and management. These areas are typically distinct parcels of land located within another, and perhaps larger, land classification, area. There are 430 acres at Canyon Lake under this classification. The acreages in these areas are designated as critical habitat for the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler, unique view-sheds and scenic qualities of the area, such as the scenic cliffs.

Wildlife Habitat Management

Though Canyon Lake does not have any areas designated as Wildlife Management Areas, the lake supports the management of wildlife and native vegetation management within its parks, environmentally sensitive areas and natural areas. Management efforts focus on producing native wildlife food and habitat. There is at least one federally-listed endangered species that could utilize habitat within the Canyon Lake area: the Golden-checked Warbler. Therefore, any work conducted on this project will be in accordance to the Endangered Species Act and will be appropriately coordinated with the USFWS. Non-game wildlife is also managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Other non-game programs, such as song bird nest box construction and installation of bat boxes, are performed on an intermittent basis to provide nesting and safe havens for some of our non-game species that are part of our environment.

The Canyon Lake Gorge

The Canyon Lake Gorge was created in July of 2002 when for the first time in the history of the reservoir, floodwaters flowed through the emergency spillway. The upper part of the Guadalupe River Watershed officially received 34 inches of rain in approximately one week. At the peak flow the water was moving at about 67,000 cfs and was approximately seven feet above the Spillway. Normal flow from the reservoir is 350 cfs with a maximum release of 5000 cfs. For six weeks, the water flowed over the spillway carving out a gorge that is one mile long, 130 to 200 feet wide, and up to 50 feet deep out of the 100 million year limestone. Material carved out of the gorge included rocks, trees, logs, soil and other flood debris that piled up in the Guadalupe River and created a huge blockage that took considerable time and expense to remove. While the dam performed its primary function and prevented an estimated $38.6 million in damages downstream during the event, flooding continued from the dam to the Gulf Coast and the floodwaters were still responsible for significant damage.

The Canyon Lake Gorge formation has provided a unique opportunity for education and research. Dramatic vistas were created, dinosaur tracks were exposed, seeps, springs and waterfalls were created, layers of geologic time can be seen, and scientist are able to learn more about water and geological formations. Tours of the gorge are available through the Gorge Preservation Society for a fee, and scientific research continues to evolve at the site. Currently, GBRA has a lease from Canyon Lake to manage the 64-acre Canyon Lake Gorge site and partners with the local private citizen to promote and conserve the gorge. GBRA and partners have plans to construct a rim trail to overlook the gorge. More information on the Gorge can be found on GBRA's site.

Bird Watching

Bird watching is a favorite pastime of many visitors to Canyon Lake. All kinds of songbirds, hawks, and even an occasional bald eagle visit the area. Great blue herons, ducks and geese in the winter, and various other shorebirds frequent the area and give the bird watching public something to see year-round.

Visit the Audubon Foundation for more bird watching information.

Agency Roles

The broad objective of fish and wildlife management is to conserve, maintain and improve the fish and wildlife habitat to produce the greatest dividend for the benefit of the general public. Implementation of a fish and wildlife management plan is the first step toward achieving the goals of the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (Public Law 85-624). The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Department share responsibility for managing fish and wildlife, primarily through enforcement of laws and regulations and establishing seasons and bag limits for game species.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The role of the Corps of Engineers, as a proprietary landowner, is essentially that of sound environmental stewardship. The Corps has the authority to restrict hunting and fishing in certain areas in the interest of safety and to prevent interference with project operations. The Corps may set harvest or season limits that are more restrictive than those set by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The Corps may also issue permits for hunting and charge administrative fees to cover program costs in accordance with ER 1130-2-550 and EP 1130-2-550.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has the primary responsibility for managing resident fish and game species. Game wardens from the enforcement division are responsible for enforcing game laws, and Corps of Engineers park rangers assist them in water safety patrols and search and recovery efforts. Disposal of injured and dying animals protected by law will be coordinated with game wardens. Annual white-tailed deer surveys and other special management programs, such as brown cowbird and white-tailed deer trapping and special harvest permits, will be coordinated with the area biologist.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the lead Federal agency for protection of wildlife. Among its other missions, the agency is responsible for carrying out the intent of the Endangered Species Act, which it does through listing of species, enforcement of the provisions of the act and establishing wildlife refuges. In accordance with the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act the Corps of Engineers is required to consult with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service when activities are proposed that may affect wildlife populations or habitat. All work that may affect an endangered species will be coordinated with the appropriate department.

Wear your life jacket