Clock ticking on efforts to save Deer Park Prairie

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by Brad Woodard / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on August 19, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Updated Monday, Aug 19 at 10:54 AM

DEER PARK, Texas -- It’s a 50 acre parcel of land frozen in time — untouched by man for thousands of years.

“What we have here is ancient. We’re standing on ancient ground that hasn’t been plowed,” said Jennifer Lorenz of the Bayou Land Conservancy.

“It has over 300 species of flowers and grasses, pocket gophers, rare frogs and birds that only spend the winter in habitats like this that have been in sharp decline,” said biologist Jaime Gonzalez. “It’s really like finding a coral reef in the middle of a subdivision.”

Surrounded by subdivisions and barely three miles from Deer Park refineries, it’s how much of Harris County used to look. When it comes to coastal prairies, less than one-tenth of 1 percent is left, making this what some would argue is the rarest habitat in the greater Houston area, and among the rarest in the world.

“You can’t calculate the value of this,” said Gonzalez.

Developers can. The owner has agreed to sell the land to conservation groups for $4 million. So far they’ve raised more than half of that, but the deadline is Aug. 20 at midnight.

“He’s a business man, but he has also been very patient and he’s willing to sell this to us for less than bids he currently has, which is pretty generous,” said Lorenz.

She’s hoping someone equally generous, perhaps even a corporation, will help come up with the additional $1.6 million needed to push the deal through. Otherwise, the land will be dozed, and more than 200 homes built instead of the education center the conservation groups would like to see.

“This is the hands on type of teaching here. This gives us the ability to get outside the book, get off the internet and come out and actually feel what is here,” said Jerry Hurtado, a teacher at Deer Park High School.

“So for the plants, for the animals…this is an incredibly important place to preserve,” said Lorenz.

She said it’s not just about preserving habitat, it’s about preserving history.

To learn more about the effort go to www.bayoulandconservancy.org

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