Southwest Region
Conserving the Nature of America
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San Andres National Wildlife refuge. Credit: USFWS.
Overview of the Region
The Southwest Region encompasses Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. We work with a variety of partners and other agencies, communities, tribal governments, conservation groups, business interests, landowners and concerned citizens to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and their habitat.
Resource Facts and Figures
  • 47 National Wildlife Refuges
    8 National Fish Hatcheries
  • 1 Fish Health Center
  • 4 Fishery and Wildlife Conservation Offices
  • 7 Ecological Services Field Offices
  • 18 Law Enforcement Offices
 
  • 4 Border Inspection Stations
  • 2 Law Enforcement Designated Ports of Entry
  • 5 Joint Ventures that conserve and improve migratory bird habitat across the Southwest
  • Over 900 dedicated professionals who achieve our conservation work.
  Map of the Southwest Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Map of the Southwest Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Southwest Region Brief History

historical figures from the southwest region

In the early history of the region, Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit priest spent the last 24 years of his life in the area exploring the San Bernardino Springs, now the Southwest Region’s San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge (SBNWR). John Slaughter, rancher, Tombstone sheriff, and member of the Arizona House of Representatives 24th Legislature once owned all of what is now SBNWR, all adjacent lands and named these lands Slaughter Ranch. In the 1870s through 1880s, the Apache leader Geronimo used the lands to cross back and forth between Mexico and the United States and Colonel Theodore Roosevelt stayed at the

Slaughter Ranch briefly during 1897 while recruiting soldiers for the pending war with Spain. In Oklahoma, Chief Quanah Parker, famous Comanche Chief, lived in the Wichita Mountains area when it was still a reservation and helped lobby Congress to get buffalo reintroduced and the Wichita Mountains lands set aside and protected.

Of the 47 National Wildlife Refuges in this Region, three are listed as the oldest in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Those three are Wichita Mountains established in 1901 which hosts a rare piece of the past - a remnant mixed grass prairie; Salt Plains established in 1930 which was used as a breeding ground for migratory birds; and Muleshoe established in 1935 which is the oldest Refuge in Texas.

Southwest Region 3 of the Oldest Refuges
Wichita Mountains 1901   Salt Plains 1930   Muleshoe 1935
Wichita Mountains grasses and rocky hills. Credit: USFWS.   Low waters reveal sandy flats at Salt Plains. Credit: USFWS.   Deer at Muleshoe peak through the tall grass. Credit: USFWS.

Over 900 dedicated professionals achieve our conservation work. We champion diversity in our employees and new hires as evidenced by FWS’s support of the first female Regional Director, Nancy Kaufman from 1995 to 2001, and the first African American Regional Director, Dr. Benjamin Tuggle from 2005 to 2017. The Southwest Region also employs a diverse student base in various career and educational fields. The student employment program is a way to attract talented students to work with the Service and it’s an opportunity for students to continue their education and apply their academic studies to on-the-job experiences.

The Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildife Service engages students and young people in conservation efforts. Credit: USFWS.
The Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildife Service engages students and young people in conservation efforts. Credit: USFWS.

 

Key Habitats and Ecosystems
The Southwest’s distinctive landscapes provide habitat for a wide variety of remarkable native plant and animal species, including 150 species that are protected under the Endangered Species Act. In Arizona, wildlife adapts to exist in environments ranging from lowland deserts to scenic mountain peaks. New Mexico’s vistas intertwine with ancient cultural landscapes accommodating many species sacred to Native Americans.

From the gulf coast beaches to the plains of the panhandle, Texas is home to a wide variety of species including whooping cranes, the Kemps Ridley sea turtle, and the lesser prairie-chicken. Oklahoma’s expansive landscapes include species that represent the historic character of the West, where prairie dogs, elk and bison still roam the plains. Weaving through all of these landscapes are hundreds of species of migratory birds that migrate through the Southwest Region.

Kemps ridley sea turtle laying eggs on the beach. Credit: Shaver, USFWS.
Kemps ridley sea turtle laying eggs on the beach. Credit: Shaver, USFWS.

 

Protecting Wildlife Heritage
National Wildlife Refuges are a unique system of lands dedicated to preserving a rich quality of life for Americans by protecting their wildlife heritage. In the Southwest Region, Refuges protect some of the most varied wildlife and spectacular landscapes found anywhere in the world. Included among Southwestern Refuges are the saguaro-studded Sonoran Desert in Arizona, the coastal marshes of Texas that host flocks of waterfowl every winter, unique species found only in the sinkholes of New Mexico, and Oklahoma caves supporting endangered bats.

American white pelicans along the Texas coast. Credit: USFWS.
American white pelicans along the Texas coast. Credit: USFWS.

The Southwest Region has two major urban partnerships. In Houston, our Refuge program is working with a network of federal, state and local agencies; environmental interest groups; business and corporate partners; and stakeholders to create and support conservation in one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas. In central New Mexico, the new Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge is the first urban wildlife refuge in the southwestern United States, and provides an oasis in an otherwise metropolitan landscape that allows wildlife and people – especially young people – to reconnect to the natural world.

Visitors enjoy the outdoor urban space at Valle de Oro NWR. Credit: © Deanne Nichols.
Visitors enjoy the outdoor urban space at Valle de Oro NWR. Credit: © Deanne Nichols.

The Southwest Region handles a variety of state grant programs, ranging from the more than half-a-century-old Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs, to relatively recent additions such as State Wildlife Grants. Approximately $80 million in federal funding is awarded each year through the nine grant programs to eligible state agencies in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. Thanks to successful partnerships forged decades ago, the public continues to benefit from fish and wildlife conservation, management and restoration efforts in the Southwest.

 

Conservation Challenges
Water is a critical resource in the Southwest. With droughts and water scarcity becoming increasingly severe, the Southwest Region works with a broad spectrum of partners and stakeholders to conserve limited water resources and the numerous aquatic species who rely on them, including many species of native fish, amphibians and reptiles. From the Colorado River to the Rio Grande, from the Edwards Aquifer in Texas to the Gulf Coast, we are committed to finding solutions to some of the country’s most challenging water conservation issues.

Gila trout. Credit: USFWS.
Gila trout. Credit: USFWS.

 

Investments in Fish and Wildlife Activities
The Southwest Region administers nine state grant programs. Approximately $120 million in federal funding is awarded each year through these grant programs to eligible state agencies in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. Thanks to our partnerships with states, tribes and other conservation agencies, these grants directly benefit fish and wildlife conservation efforts in the Southwest, making it possible for people to enjoy their time in the great outdoors.

 

Science Supporting Conservation
Throughout the Southwest Region, we manage our important wildlife and habitat resources on a landscape level through Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC). SHC uses the best available scientific information in an adaptive management framework that integrates planning, design, delivery and evaluation. The Southwest Region supports three Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) that provide scientific and technical expertise to support landscape-scale conservation planning, and promote effective collaboration among our many conservation partners.

The Southwest Region is committed to finding common ground as we work with a variety of partners across our landscapes. We are currently working with partners on a “surrogate species” approach to conservation. Surrogate species are species that distinctly signal the health of specific ecosystems. By applying the surrogate species approach, the Southwest Region is able to coordinate with our partners and focus our conservation efforts in a way that benefits many species.

Every employee in the Southwest Region is committed to conserving our country’s natural resources for the benefit of current and future generations of Americans. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is an agency within the Department of Interior, and our Region is one of eight U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regions in the United States.

Fire crews at work at Aransas NWR. Credit: Jeffery Adams, USFWS.
Fire crews at work at Aransas NWR. Credit: Jeffery Adams, USFWS.

Last updated: October 3, 2018