Texas River Access and Conservation Areas: A Case Study in Use of Riparian Leases to Enhance Angler Access and Facilitate River Stewardship

Texas contains 307,752 km of streams, creeks and rivers, including 64,686 km of perennially flowing waters. The state maintains public navigability laws that ensure the rights of paddlers and anglers to wade and float many Texas creeks and rivers. However, private ownership of riverbanks limits the number of locations where the public can legally access those waters from land. To confront this reality, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and cooperating organizations built partnerships with private riparian landowners to expand fishing and paddling opportunities on publicly navigable creeks and rivers. This was accomplished by securing and leveraging innovative funding sources to establish river access leases with private riparian landowners. Additionally, TPWD and cooperators assembled and implemented conservation plans to ensure sustainable recreational use of the new river access areas and built collaborative relationships among local fly-fishing clubs, non-governmental organizations, and communities to promote and encourage use of river access areas and to engage local partners in delivery of volunteer-based river stewardship projects. In 2012-2019, 24 public river access leases were established with cooperating landowners. The corresponding access areas enabled or enhanced paddling and river fishing on more than 340 km of 10 different rivers across Texas. These approaches offer a case study transferable to other states with riparian land ownership and river navigability laws comparable to Texas

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