Smoothing Rough Edges Along the Texas/Oklahoma Border

Smoothing Rough Edges Along the Texas/Oklahoma Border

Fish and wildlife are oblivious to the lines people draw on maps to separate jurisdictions. Agencies need to think and act in ways that look “beyond borders” as well in order to address landscape-level conservation. A recently completed project along the Texas/Oklahoma border makes that easier for managers in both states. With support from the Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative, a team led by Dr. David Diamond resolved differences in the ecological mapping systems in Texas and Oklahoma and developed methods to keep the two states’ systems coordinated in the future. As a result, managers in these states can now use a common ecological frame of reference to develop conservation strategies that match the life histories of the species on the landscape.

Several years ago, the Missouri Resource Assessment Partnership (MoRAP) at the University of Missouri worked with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and others to map Ecological Systems for Texas. MoRAP later worked with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), and the Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory (ONHI) to develop a similar map for Oklahoma. The two state-based datasets were favorably received and widely used in the respective states, but inconsistencies in mapping at the Oklahoma/Texas border hampered landscape-level planning. In addition, the lack of an enduring features layer in Oklahoma’s mapping system complicated updating the dataset.

In 2016, the Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative Steering Committee identified the need to resolve the differences between the Texas and Oklahoma ecological systems maps, add an enduring features layer in Oklahoma, and devise a cost-effective method to keep the two-state databases updated as a high priority. With funding provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) administered by the Wildlife Management Institute, Dr. David Diamond, MoRAP Director, worked with state and federal partners to address these needs.

Staff from TPWD collected field data at over 1,600 plots and classified over 2,300 additional plots based on National Agricultural Imagery Program photos and other datasets to resolve edge matching issues, and to help better characterize and classify the ecological system types in the panhandle region of Texas and adjacent Oklahoma. With these data in hand, the team was able to develop an enduring features layer for Oklahoma. They also developed a method and workplan for up-dating the combined dataset as conditions change in the future.

A project of this scope and scale would have been difficult for the states to execute without the vision provided through the GCP LCC and funding from the FWS. It demonstrates the value of collaboration to address landscape-scale challenges faced by state and federal resource agencies today. The final report on this project is available online.

April 16, 2018