Restoring Habitat


Because 95% of the habitat in the Valley has been cleared, the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge is working to restore a historic plant communities that provide crucial shelter and habitat for wildlife.

An average acre of undisturbed brush in South Texas contains 2,000 plants of up to 60 different species. Through a cooperative farming program, the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge works with farmers to restore habitat. Farmers will lease tracts of refuge land and plant their crops.  Once enough native plants have been grown to replant that site, the farmer helps restore it to native vegetation. Higher priority sites are planted first, while other sites are farmed in order to prevent the land from being taken over by non-native invasive grasses. Cooperating farmers provide native plants, labor and equipment for habitat restoration as payment for their lease. Currently, 13 cooperators farm about 7,600 acres on the refuge and about 400-500 acres are planted with native plants every year. Since 1995, more than 3.2 million seedlings have been planted on over 9,600 acres!

The public also plays a big role in planting native trees and shrubs in the Valley. Rio Reforestation is an annual, volunteer tree-planting event held every fall on the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Volunteers of all ages get involved with this one-day event by bringing their shovels and helping the refuge plant tree seedlings in retired farmland. From 1997 through 2011, volunteers have planted about 198,000 seedlings on a total of nearly 620 acres of the refuge.