Natural Resources Management Program

Natural Resources Management Program
The Natural Resources Management Program (NRMP) works to preserve the biodiversity and natural heritage of Houston and surrounding areas by supporting green space preservation, protecting and restoring natural communities and cultivating a sense of environmental awareness through research, education and stewardship.

Within Houston’s urban environment, there are significant green spaces and natural resource areas. HPARD owns and manages an extensive network of parks and green spaces including 371 parks encompassing over 35,000 acres in and around Houston. Of those 371 parks, 80 have been identified as having natural areas totaling over 16,000 acres.

Multiple monitoring efforts are conducted within the park natural areas as part of the HPARD Natural Resource Management Program, including initial natural area assessments, seasonal biodiversity surveys, detailed vegetation surveys, annual monitoring, and citizen- and research-led surveys. These assessments allow NRMP staff to develop management plans for all of HPARD’s natural areas.

Several management objectives have been identified for the NRMP natural areas, including:

  • Control and removal of nonnative species
  • Introduction of native vegetation
  • Water quality improvement
  • Wildlife management

Habitat Restoration

The NRMP is putting the management objectives into action! We are currently working on habitat restoration projects throughout the city.

PRAIRIE RESTORATION PROJECTS:

Clinton Park
The NRMP has selected 10 acres at Clinton Park to restore to coastal prairie habitat. Funded by a National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Grant and partnering with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the NRMP had the area seeded with native grasses in May 2016 by our friends from Wildlife Habitat Federation. Wildflower seeds will be planted in the fall of 2016 and many community planting events are scheduled to follow. NRMP interns have been spending time at the Clinton Park Community Center working with the kids to educate them on the importance of native prairie habitat. The students from Furr High school have been assisting with the maintenance of our newly installed pollinator garden next to the community center. Visit Clinton Park Prairie and tell us what you find!
- Clinton Park Prairie Restoration Project iNaturalist Page
- Clinton Park eBird Hotspot

Hobart Taylor Park
Funded by the same grant as Clinton Park, the NRMP has begun restoration of 7 acres of prairie at Hobart Taylor Park. This site has also been seeded with native grasses and will have wildflowers seeded in the fall of 2016. Our fall planting events will consist of installation of native grasses and forbs grown in the HPARD greenhouse by our wonderful volunteers! These plants have a head start on those coming up from seed and will help the prairies establish faster and hopefully impede the growth of non-native species. Visit Hobart Taylor Prairie and tell us what you find!
- Hobart Taylor Restoration Project iNaturalist Page

Robert C. Stuart Park
Prairie restoration at this park began years ago with a grant that was awarded before the NRMP was established. Improper management has led this site to be covered in woody and non-native species; however, much of the hard work was done previously and with proper management, invasive species removal, and native plant installation, the 24 acre site will be a great example of prairie restoration in Houston. We have had a group out removing Chinese tallow trees from the site and will be mowing and seeding sections of the site this summer. Additionally, more invasive species removal workdays with SCA crews are planned for the summer 2016! Visit Stuart Park Prairie and tell us what you find!
- Stuart Park Prairie Restoration Project iNaturalist Page
- Stuart Park eBird Hotspot

RIPARIAN FOREST RESTORATION PROJECTS:

White Oak Park
White Oak Park consists of riparian habitat adjacent to White Oak Bayou. It is located near two other great natural areas: Woodland Park and Freed Art Nature Park. The NRMP has teamed up with Houston Audubon to make White Oak Park a “bird friendly community”. We will be removing non-native vegetation and installing plants that are utilized by the many resident and migratory birds found throughout the Houston area. We will also be installing interpretive signage to educate park visitors on the importance of native birds and other wildlife. White Oak Park is adjacent to the Bayou Greenways trail and our friends at Houston Parks Board have been instrumental in keeping trash and invasive species out of the park! Visit White Oak Park and let us know what you think!
- White Oak Park eBird Hotspot

Woodland Park
Woodland Park has a unique natural area adjacent to Little White Oak Bayou that is teaming with birds and reptiles. The Friends of Woodland Park have organized several planting events to restore a portion of Woodland Park to native riparian habitat. The natural area had previously been taken over by non-native species, which were removed to make way for the beneficial native plants that were installed. Volunteers have installed hundreds of native grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and trees to the area! Thanks to The Friends of Woodland Park for their wonderful dedication to this natural gem! Visit Woodland Park and let us know what you see!
- Woodland Park eBird Hotspot

Milby Park
The Milby Park restoration area is currently mowed park land adjacent to Sims Bayou. The NRMP has partnered with the Student Conservation Association to conduct riparian restoration within the park, in order to improve the water quality of Sims Bayou, create wildlife habitat, reduce erosion, and provide hands-on environmental education to youth. Restoration begins in October 2016! Visit Milby Park and help us inventory the vegetation and wildlife pre-restoration!

Volunteer Opportunities

Habitat Restoration
Our volunteer group meets the second and fourth Thursday of the month from 9am to noon at the HPARD Greenhouse.

We propagate plants from locally collected native seed. A typical workday may include seeding pots, bumping up trays into 1 gallon containers, separating seedlings, and weeding pots. We will also have special seed collecting trips, invasive species removal workdays, and planting events in our restored prairies!

We are also beginning to conduct semi-annual vegetation transects and monthly bird surveys at our current and future restoration sites. If you’re good at identifying plants or birds or if you would like to learn more about them, come join us!

If you’re interested in volunteering for the NRMP, email kelli.ondracek@houstontx.gov.

Christmas Bird Count
In December 2015, the NRMP with assistance from our friends at Houston Audubon started a new Christmas Bird Count Circle right in the heart of Houston! The Christmas Bird Count, run by The Audubon Society, was created in 1900 as a way of promoting bird conservation by counting, rather than hunting. During a three week time frame, thousands of individual counts across North America are conducted to provide important data assessing long-term trends in early winter bird populations.  Volunteers from around the city have come out to count birds in the surrounding circles for many years. We decided it was time to start a circle right in the middle of Houston to show the great diversity of bird species that call this urban landscape home. Some of our best birding areas are Hermann Park, Mason Park, Buffalo Bayou Park, ER and Ann Taylor Park, Clinton Park, Stuart Park, Herman Brown Park, and FM Law Park. A total of 132 species of birds were counted within the Central Houston Christmas Bird Count Circle last year! This bird count will occur on the Monday before Christmas each year and we will be able to track the number and diversity of bird species within our parks. It will also help us to see the change in bird diversity from our restoration projects throughout the years. The 2016 count will occur on December 19. If you are interested in participating, please contact kelli.ondracek@houstontx.gov. (Map)

Lady Bird Johnson Tribute Wildflower Planting
Every fall, volunteers join HPARD to spread native wildflower seeds along medians, parks, and bayous that will fill the city with vibrant colors in the spring. This is one of our most popular volunteer events! If you are interested in volunteering for this year’s wildflower planting event on November 5, 2016, please contact Oneika.shelby@houstontx.gov.

Houston WILD

Create your own backyard wildlife habitat and help the City of Houston become a Certified Wildlife Community!

Houston Wild promotes the creation and conservation of wildlife habitats within the City of Houston. Through community-wide collaboration and public education, the program encourages a balance between urban development and natural ecosystems. Although Houston is a large metropolitan area, it contains abundant wildlife. The goal of Houston Wild is to support wildlife through the development and maintenance of habitats where native animals can flourish. We can all play an important role!

Houston Wild is part of the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat™ program. It benefits the entire community through education and outreach. Additionally, it promotes the use of native plants in landscaping to develop natural habitats that attract wildlife and birds, require little to no fertilizer and require modest watering. Local citizens with wildlife habitat can register their backyards to become “Certified Wildlife Habitat” and join an active community of wildlife gardeners numbering over 400,000 nationwide. Obtaining National Wildlife Federation certification makes you part of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, a national effort to restore critical habitat for pollinators in peril. This certification celebrates your hard work in support of backyard wildlife and puts the City of Houston one step closer to becoming a Certified Wildlife Community.

Tips for creating wildlife habitat in your space in the city:

  • Provide food: Planting native forbs, shrubs and trees is an easy way to provide the foliage, nectar, pollen, berries, seeds and nuts that many species need to survive and thrive. You can also use supplemental feeders and food sources.
  • Supply water: Plants, birds, bugs and animals need clean water sources for drinking, bathing and reproduction. Water sources may include natural features such as ponds, lakes, streams, springs, and wetlands; or human-made features such as bird baths, puddling areas for butterflies, installed ponds or rain gardens.
  • Create cover: Wildlife requires places to hide in order to feel safe from people, predators and inclement weather. Use native vegetation, shrubs, thickets and brush piles, or even dead trees.
  • Give wildlife a place to raise their young: Wildlife need a sheltered place to raise their offspring. Many places for cover can double as locations for raising young, including wildflower meadows and bushes where many butterflies and moths lay their eggs, brush piles and dead trees. Human-made features, such as bird houses, bat boxes, and bee boxes are also great additions.
  • Create a healthy habitat: Wildlife populations thrive with native food sources, clean water, and plants free from harmful chemicals.  Establishing sustainable gardening practices utilizing native plants, practicing water conservation, and avoiding pesticides or herbicides helps to ensure wildlife abundance.
  • Get certified: Once you have provided these essential elements to make a healthy and sustainable wildlife habitat, join the thousands of wildlife enthusiasts across the country who have earned the distinction of being part of NWF's Certified Wildlife Habitat® program.

For more information and tips, go to Certified Wildlife Habitat.

To register your Houston-area wildlife habitat, contact jed.aplaca@houstontx.gov

Natural Area Ordinance

The Natural Area Ordinance (NAO) was created under Chapter 32-10 of the City of Houston Code of Ordinances to address natural area creation on private land. This allows for citizens to create and maintain natural habitats, including native plantings in their yards. Additionally, citizens are able to gain exemption from the Houston Municipal Code, Section 10-451 provided that their yards are maintained according to the NAO Guidelines. If you would like to create wildlife friendly habitat in your yard, please submit the natural area permit application.

Mayor’s Monarch Pledge

Mayor Turner has signed the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayor’s Monarch Pledge! The City of Houston has committed to take action to help save the monarch butterfly, whose population has steeply declined over the last two decades. The NRMP is working on meeting the action items identified in the pledge.

The City of Houston is currently working on meeting the following action items:

6 – Actively pursuing hosting a native plant sale
7 – Currently collecting milkweed seed from the Houston area and working on propagation of the plants. 
8 – Native garden planted at the rear of City Hall Annex and we have milkweed plants slated to go into that landscape.
12 – We are currently working with other groups to complete the NWF Community Wildlife Habitat Certification.  We should complete this within the next year as we are already 84% complete.
15 – In several of the HPARD Community Gardens we have included pollinator plants and milkweeds.
16 – Invasive species removal is actively being done in our Prairie restoration sites and parks with volunteers.
19 – The Natural Area Ordinance (Ch.32-10) allows for citizens to create a more pollinator friendly habitat in their yard, by reducing the restrictions on mow height.

Houston Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Action Plan:

The emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) has now been confirmed in Texas. This invasive wood-boring beetle originates from Asia and is responsible for killing millions of ash trees throughout the country. The beetle has spread to 26 states and is currently located in northeast Texas, where it is closely being monitored by the Texas A&M Forest Service. HPARD's NRMP and Forestry Department are currently working on a plan to inventory ash trees throughout city parks and right-of-ways in anticipation of the EAB moving south into Houston. We are looking for volunteers to visit city parks and inventory ash trees! We will host trainings soon on identification of ash trees and data collection methods. Join our Houston EAB Action Plan iNaturalist page and let us know where you see ash trees within the city. Email Kelli.Ondracek@houstontx.gov for more information.