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You are here: Home / Publications / Periodicals / Natural Outlook / Summer 2010 / Restoring Lake Tyler's Langley Island

Restoring Lake Tyler's Langley Island

Using TCEQ Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) funds, the Tyler Audubon Society, Audubon Texas, and the City of Tyler have embarked on a project designed to increase the diversity and quality of the habitat on Langley Island, a 70-acre island near the center of Lake Tyler. (Natural Outlook, Summer 2010)

Silhouette of trees on Lake Tyler's Langley Island with birds flying above them.
TCEQ Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) funds will help improve and protect the habitat on Lake Tyler's Langley Island.
Photo courtesy of Andy Urban.

Langley Island, a 70-acre island near the center of Lake Tyler, is a city park that has been maintained as a wildlife sanctuary by the Tyler Audubon Society (TAS) since 1951.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the TAS planted several thousand non-native trees and shrubs to encourage wildlife on the island.

Today, the island is dominated by Florida slash pine and loblolly pine, intermixed with water oak, hardwoods, and dense patches of yaupon holly. Because the dense pine canopy reduces the amount of sunlight that comes through, the understory mainly consists of a thick layer of pine needles.

TCEQ Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) Funds Used for Project

That’s about to change. Using TCEQ Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) funds, the TAS, Audubon Texas, and the City of Tyler have embarked on a project designed to increase the diversity and quality of the habitat on the island, as well as to enhance the educational value of the island for visitors while maintaining its relative remoteness.

The TCEQ SEP program directs penalties assessed for environmental violations toward environmentally beneficial projects such as this one.

Joe Marsey of the TAS, who is the coordinator of the restoration project on Langley Island, says that the initial plans for the island were confined to replacing the signage and conducting a cleanup.

“This money gives us the opportunity to do much more restoration work than we initially were able to do,” he says.

Plan Includes Prescribed Burn and Seeding

TAS volunteer Dan Dawson, a former TCEQ environmental investigator with a background in wildlife biology, suggested they look into conducting a prescribed burn.

“A high-intensity burn will kill the understory, as well as the weaker and younger trees, giving us some nice open patches,” Dawson says.

With input from biologists at Texas Audubon and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Dawson prepared a management plan for the project, which includes planting a seed mix for native pine savannah after the burn.

“You normally don’t have to seed because there’s a seed bank,” says Dawson. “But the island was originally a pasture that was then planted with non-native species, so we don’t think the seed bank exists. Seeding with native species will help prevent invasion by non-native species present on the surrounding lakeshore.”

Project is Designed to Improve Habitat

The overall idea is to make the island as diverse as possible. “If we make the habitat better, we’ll have a better diversity of wildlife,” he says.

Wood duck box with Tyler Audubon Society stamped on the front.
Whitehouse Boy Scout troops 248 and 354 have assembled and installed wood duck boxes around the perimeter of Langley Island.
Photo courtesy of Andy Urban.

Dawson, who conducts quarterly bird surveys on the island, says there are currently around 30 to 40 species of birds common to an urban park environment present on the island. This includes pine warblers, red shoulder hawks, woodpeckers, egrets, and blue herons. The island also supports a year-round cormorant nesting and roosting site.

Mammals on the island include squirrels and armadillos. And the occasional deer.

“I’ve seen deer swimming out to the island,” says Marsey. “It’s a great refuge for the animals.”

To assist with the restoration project, Marsey has recruited volunteers from the Native Plant Society of Texas, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Texas Master Naturalist Program, two Boy Scout troops, and one Cub Scout troop.

Whitehouse Boy Scout troops 248 and 354 have assembled and installed wood duck boxes around the perimeter of the island. Man-made heron and egret platforms, as well as high platforms for raptors, will also be installed.

Through presentations to local organizations, Marsey is raising awareness for the project and for the island itself.

“Community interest and support have increased,” says Marsey. “People didn’t know they could walk on the island. Now they know what a jewel it is and they’re canoeing over there to walk and hike around.”

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