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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Rebuilding South Texas Brushlands

Region 2, June 19, 2012
A farm field in 2004, a 123-acre block 3-yrs post planting
A farm field in 2004, a 123-acre block 3-yrs post planting - Photo Credit: n/a
Same field, 6 yrs post planting
Same field, 6 yrs post planting - Photo Credit: n/a

Since the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) NWR was established in 1979, refuge staff have been working diligently to re-establish Tamaulipan thornscrub habitat along the Rio Grande River from Falcon Dam to the Gulf of Mexico. With more than 95% of the habitat of the Rio Grande Valley altered by agricultural and urban development, the challenges are many. The majority of the lands acquired for the refuge are in active or abandoned agriculture, and are in need of restoration or enhancement in order to provide quality wildlife habitat. The majority of the 125+ tracts have a direct connection to the Rio Grande River, which is an international boundary with all the associated socio-political issues. To complicate matters further, the entire area is inundated with several species of non-native invasive grasses that rapidly colonize any land that is not plowed or paved.


Despite these challenges, the work of rebuilding native habitat continues. Working with partners such as the Valley Nature Center, Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, cooperating farmers, and grant funding from American Forests’ Global ReLeaf program, over 1.1 million seedlings have been planted on more than 1,640 acres in the past five years, with an average of over 230,000 seedlings being planted each year. Since the seedling planting program began in 1995, over 3.1 million seedlings of about 60 species have been planted on over 9,600 acres of refuge land.

Contact Info: Bob Barry, 309-535-2290, bob_barry@fws.gov