Bayou Land Conservancy (BLC) has announced a conservation easement on 966 acres of critical Lake Creek property in Montgomery County. The property is just northeast of Magnolia on Tranquility Ranch, which is owned by Nathan and Lindy Ingram. BLC started working with the Ingrams in 2015.
The conservation easement is across Lake Creek from the 7,000-acre Cook’s Branch preserve owned by the Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation. The proximity of the two large properties will benefit wildlife by maintaining the “carrying capacity” of the land.
The 966 acres permanently preserved at Tranquility Ranch help meet BLC’s long-term conservation goals and contribute to the environmental health of the region.
The preserve will function as a wetland and stream mitigation bank, known as the West Montgomery Mitigation Bank. It has credits available to developers seeking to offset impacts in this rapidly growing area.
Featuring a mix of hardwood and pine forest, Tranquility Ranch consists of over 400 acres of existing wetland habitat, 20 acres of streams & ponds, and 13,000 linear feet (2.5 miles) of stream frontage on Lake Creek.
In addition to high quality existing habitat, over 90 acres of wetlands and 300 acres of flooded forests will be improved and restored on the land.
The 966-acre preserve is part of a larger 1200-acre property that hosts a special event venue called The Wyldes at Tranquility Ranch. It hosts retreats, weddings, and other events.
Benefits to People and Wildlife
Jill Boullion, Executive Director of Bayou Land Conservancy, said, “This conservation agreement makes a significant stride towards BLC’s conservation goals to preserve land in the Lake Houston watershed.”
“We’re grateful to landowner Nathan Ingram and his care and protection of this special place,” said Boullion.
Preservation of Tranquility Ranch will provide many community benefits. They include flood control, water-quality improvements for drinking water and recreation, and wildlife habitat. The preserve also is an important nesting, wintering, and migratory stop-over site for many bird species, including owls, raptors, and songbirds.
Importance of Lake Creek Preservation to Downstream Flood Protection
Leaving natural areas natural won’t reduce flooding per se. But it will keep flooding from getting worse.
It will also reduce flood damage by ensuring generous setbacks from areas that flood.
Wetlands are nature’s sponges. They retain runoff that might otherwise quickly add to flood peaks downstream. They also clean water.
Bayou City Waterkeeper ranks the wetlands along Lake Creek as one of the five most critical wetland areas in the Houston Region.
For those who may not know where Lake Creek is, it enters the San Jacinto West Fork just south of Conroe, about 9 miles south of the Lake Conroe Dam. See the big green area in the upper left.
From this map, we can see that rainfall from seven watersheds flows under the US59 bridge. Comparing peak flow data from them during the January 2024 flood, we can see that Lake Creek had the highest discharge rate. See below. USGS graphs are arranged in order from highest to lowest, except for the last, which reflects rain falling in all seven watersheds.
All of the streams above flow under the US59 bridge.
Note: the first six peaks do not total up to the last because streams peaked at different times.
Of course, these numbers partially reflect uneven rainfall distribution during the January event. And rainfall totals in the Lake Creek watershed were among the highest in the area.
The discharge rates above also reflect watershed size. According to Table 2 in the San Jacinto Regional Watershed Master Drainage Plan:
- Spring Creek drains 392 sq. mi.
- Lake Creek drains 330 sq. mi.
- Cypress Creek drains 266 square miles (sq. mi.)
- Little Cypress drains 52 sq. mi.
- Willow drains 52 sq. mi.
Looking solely at watershed size shows that even if the rainfall distribution had been uniform, Lake Creek would have contributed a major percentage of the overall flow.
And that – in a sentence – is why Lake Houston Area residents should care about conservation along Lake Creek, especially considering that the watershed is developing so quickly!
Conservation Easement Will Protect Land in Perpetuity
BLC conducted an extensive audit of natural resources including wetlands and wildlife on the Ingram property before the conservation agreement was put in place. No matter who the owner is, the easement will run with the land and protect the land in perpetuity. The audit will provide a baseline for future comparison.
Ingram reportedly had offers to buy the land from sand miners and developers but chose to conserve it instead. Said Boullion, “I commend him because obviously it’s not cheap to own and hold that much land in a natural state. So, he looked for a way to monetize his property while conserving the land and benefiting the community. He is one of the most conservation-minded people I know.”
The conservation easement held by BLC will let Ingram sell wetland-mitigation credits through the West Montgomery Mitigation Bank. He will sell them to developers who have no other choice but to disturb wetlands while developing the rest of their property.
For more about how the wetland credits work in Texas, see this page from Texas A&M.
The Army Corps controls and permits the process. But non-profit groups, such as the Bayou Land Conservancy, play a major role in it.
About Bayou Land Conservancy
BLC is one of the leading conservation groups in the Houston region. It preserves land along streams for flood control, clean water, and wildlife. BLC is a nationally accredited, community-sponsored land preservation organization working to permanently protect land, with a focus on the streams that feed Lake Houston, an important source of drinking water for millions of people.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/25/24
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