The Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge uses various tools to manage the landscape for the benefit of wildlife.
Managing the Wetlands:One of the primary reasons the refuge was established is to provide habitat for wintering waterfowl and other migratory birds. Focal species such as redhead and mottled ducks, reddish egrets, Wilson’s plover, Rio Grande lesser siren, and black-spotted newts depend on healthy fresh and saline wetlands. Restoring tidal flows is an important management focus, as is the need to provide freshwater sources year-round. Because freshwater is usually in low supply, the refuge is completely dependent upon rainwater, irrigation drainage and surface runoff. Using water control structures, the refuge manipulates seasonal water levels to provide for the greatest variety of uses for dabbling ducks, wading birds, shorebirds, and larger water birds such as pelicans.
Water quality is an issue and therefore a major management objective is to ensure a quality, year-round abundance of freshwater for resident and migratory wildlife. The refuge works with partners to improve the overall quality and abundance of water for wildlife and people. Fire:Prescribed fire is used to reduce hazardous fuels, control exotic and invasive plant species and to maintain or restore important habitats such as the coastal prairie and savannah. Wildfire and prescribed fire effects on southern prairie grasslands and marshlands has been shown to revitalize these habitats by removing dead vegetation and accumulated matter. Occasional prescribed burns also increase the nutritional value of the grass and reduce invading brush.Protecting Native Species:Exotic and invasive plants will often out-compete native plants for sunlight, water and other critical resources. Their food value to wildlife is minimal and because the plants did not evolve here, they have no natural predators. Buffelgrass, guineagrass, Brazilian peppertree, and saltcedar are of particular concern on Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and the refuge is actively focused on restoration through the control of invasive plant species. These species spread in many ways including wind, water, animal movement, or through humans and vehicles. The refuge strives to control buffelgrass and other invasive plants along roads and trails, while Saltcedar has been mechanically controlled on refuge levees and dikes, and cattails have been controlled with prescribed fire. Creating Wildlife Corridors:In South Texas, approximately 95% of the habitat has been cleared. To address this Laguna Atascosa Refuge works closely with its companion refuge, the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, to create a wildlife corridor -- linked habitat that allows wildlife to disperse from one location to another to find food, shelter, a mate and a place to raise their young. Protecting and restoring habitat is a management priority accomplished by purchasing lands or conservation easements from willing sellers and restoring habitat by planting native trees and shrubs.
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The refuge’s location and habitat make it a haven for butterflies and moths -- and those who enjoy seeing them! October and November offer the best times to enjoy the refuge’s butterflies, a documented 130 species.