Public land open for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation activities only makes up a tiny percentage of all land in Texas — especially when compared to other western states. However, a couple of property acquisitions set to move forward on opposite sides of the state will increase the amount of land available to use by the general public in the near future.

First, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service just purchased 8,169 acres from the Conservation Fund to expand the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge. Located south of Port Arthur and Beaumont, the land consists of a mix of coastal prairie and marshlands formally owned by the McFaddin Ranch.

That area is known for having prime habitat for a wide range of shorebirds and waterfowl and is also a popular destination for hunters and anglers. This acquisition by the wildlife refuge will ensure the land is preserved while at the same time opening it up for recreational use by the general public. It will also continue to serve as a useful barrier to help protect inland communities from hurricanes.

"Upon taking ownership, the USFWS will provide public access, including waterfowl hunting, to the ranch after they evaluate the property for recreational usage potential and timing," said Tim Cooper, Project Leader at the Texas Chenier Plain NWR Complex (which includes McFaddin NWR).

This land acquisition was funded by the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (which is where 98 percent of the money goes when waterfowl hunters purchase "duck stamps" each year), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (which was created after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill with money from criminal penalties imposed on BP) and by a grant from the Meadows Foundation.

On the other side of the state, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Commission is considering purchasing 16,000 acres of land as an addition to the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area in Brewster County. Located just to the east of Big Bend National Park, this land is currently owned by the Texas General Land Office (which manages state lands to provide revenue for the Texas Permanent Schools Fund).

The land tract currently shares an 11-mile boundary with the Black Gap WMA and is a high-quality habitat for mule deer, bighorn sheep, black bear and quail. TPWD plans on opening up this land for hunting and outdoor recreation if the land acquisition goes through.

According to Stan David from TPWD's land conservation branch, the proposed land acquisition would not cost the TPWD or the state itself any money. Instead, the purchase would receive 75 percent of the necessary funds through a grant from The Pittman-Robertson Fund (which is financed by a federal excise tax on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment), while The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (a group that raises private money for TPWD projects) would raise the remaining 25 percent.

The TPWD Commission is accepting public comments on the proposed acquisition of land to enlarge the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area through 7 a.m. on May 23. The commission will vote on the proposal at their public meeting May 24 in Lubbock.