Public Release: 

New coastal research center to aid wildlife conservation in Texas

Fennessey Ranch Provides research center for UH environmental studies

University of Houston

HOUSTON, June 4, 2002 - A new conservation and research center established by a private ranch and the University of Houston will provide a location for environmental studies aimed at protecting the natural resources and wildlife on the Texas coast.

The Fennessey Ranch, a 4,000-acre privately owned wildlife habitat near Corpus Christi in Refugio County, has partnered with the University of Houston to establish a Conservation Center of Excellence. The center will provide university faculty and students with a site for Texas coastal conservation research and the development of techniques to safeguard the fragile natural resources on the coast.

"The University of Houston and the University of Houston System are increasing their research and educational activities associated with several environmental areas, including air and water quality, ecology and environmental law," said Arthur Vailas, vice chancellor for research and intellectual property management for the University of Houston System. "This partnership with the Fennessey Ranch gives us an opportunity to expand our field-based studies on coastal ecosystems, providing our faculty and students with a living laboratory."

The proximity of the Fennessey Ranch to Mission Bay, Copano Bay and the Gulf of Mexico as well as to the Mission River/Aransas River watershed area will allow the University of Houston to create a world-class research center for environmental studies, Vailas said.

Several agencies conduct environmental research at the ranch, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission.

Brien O'Connor Dunn, owner of the Fennessey Ranch, said, "Rural America is dying. Through private stewardship of the land we can bring urban dollars into the rural economy while saving habitat and practicing good land use."

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Focusing on eco-tourism, the Fennessey Ranch is designed to encourage diversified, renewable revenue sources for Texas ranches and communities, and has been recognized nationally and internationally. In 1997, Dunn received the National Land Stewardship and Wetland Preservation Award for outstanding leadership in habitat and wetland conservation.

Launched 14 years ago, the Fennessey Ranch opened to the public in 1991. Recreational opportunities available include bird watching, wetland educational tours, fishing, and hunting for species including white-tailed deer, dove, quail, turkey and wild boar. The ranch provides a diverse habitat including wetlands, natural lakes, meadows, forests and rivers. The environmental plan developed by the Fennessey includes wetland enhancement, wildlife management and a grazing program designed to maximize habitat diversity.

About the University of Houston System

The University of Houston System is the state's only metropolitan higher education system, encompassing four universities and two multi-institution teaching centers. The universities are the University of Houston, a nationally recognized doctoral degree-granting, comprehensive research university; the University of Houston-Downtown, a four-year undergraduate university beginning limited expansion into graduate programs; and the University of Houston-Clear Lake and the University of Houston-Victoria, both upper division and master's-level institutions. The centers are the UH System at Sugar Land in Fort Bend and the UH System at Cinco Ranch. In addition, the UH System includes KUHF-FM, Houston's National Public Radio and classical radio station, and KUHT-TV, the nation's first educational television station.

For more information about UH visit the university's 'Newsroom' at www.uh.edu/admin/media/newsroom.

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