Deer Park Prairie conservationists get 3-week extension

DEER PARK, TX

The Bayou Land Conservancy was facing a deadline of midnight Tuesday to raise $4 million to purchase the prairie that other developers wanted to buy for a project. So the group reached out to donors to help raise the money.

Though they didn't quite get there in time -- they raised $3.2 million of the $4 million needed -- they say they were given a three-week extension by the land owner. The new deadline to raise the money is September 10.

The owner bought the land a few years ago for development. Later, a prairie expert discovered it and asked for permission to explore it. The 53 acres turned out to be a coastal Cajun prairie that is virtually untouched.

"The Deer Park prairie is so special because it is literally an ancient ecosystem. That tract has never been plowed," Bayou Land Conservancy Executive Director Jennifer Lorenz said.

More than 300 plants exist on the prairie.

"Those plants support insects, and some insects only use one plant to eat. And those insects then support the birds," said Katy Emde, a board member of the Bayou Land Conservancy.

The owner agreed to sell to the conservancy if they could raise $4 million. After a year of waiting and with higher offers coming in, the Bayou Land Conservancy was given a two-week deadline.

"Individuals in Houston have come out to the tune of $2 million, $100,000, $50,000," Lorenz said.

The city of Deer Park plans to allow pedestrian access if the Bayou Land Conservancy can purchase the prairie. Right now, along with personal donations, another corporate and family foundation pledged, they still need $800,000.

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