Southwest Region
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Bees and butterflies on flower
Southwest Region Highlights HotTopics

group supporting delisting of johnston's frankenia

From Left to Right: Ricardo Romo, President of University of Texas - San Antonio; Cheryl Jefferson, U.S. Forest Service; Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director, Southwest Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Ivy R. Taylor, Mayor of San Antonio, TX. Credit: Katie Latta/USFWS

Mayors For Monarchs

Update: City of San Antonio Steps It Up For Monarchs

April 29, 2016
Mayors of towns and cities across America are pitching in to help save the monarch butterfly from possible extinction. One of our partners, The National Wildlife Federation, has created the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge that helps cities take specific actions to benefit this iconic species. More than 100 mayors are already on board.

Today, Mayor Ivy Taylor from San Antonio, Texas received accolades from Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region for being the first Mayor to agree to take all 24 Actions outlined in the Pledge! In addition, Ricardo Romo, President of the University of Texas San Antonio, signed the Monarch Pledge demonstrating the University's commitment to partner with Mayor Taylor and the San Antonio community in protecting the monarch butterfly. Thank you Mayor Taylor and President Romo!

Mayor’s Monarch Pledge

Save the Monarch


group supporting delisting of johnston's frankenia

L-R: U.S. Fish and  Wildlife Service Southwest Deputy Regional Director Joy Nicholopoulos, Jose Dodier Jr, (landowner, and TX State Soil and Water Conservation Board Chairman), Dawn Gardiner, Robyn Cobb, and Ernesto Reyes (all FWS Corpus Christi Field Office). Photo credit: USFWS.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Zapata County Soil and Water Conservation District and Local landowners Celebrate the Delisting of Johnston’s frankenia

April 2016
Yesterday, we had the opportunity to join the Zapata County Soil and Water Conservation District, local landowners and other partners to celebrate the delisting of Johnston’s frankenia. We started the day with visit to Chairman Jose Dodier’s property to see firsthand the work being done to conserve and protect this unique plant. Our visit was followed by an awards ceremony to recognize the landowners who had helped make the recent delisting of Johnston’s frankenia possible.

Learn more...


fire fighters

USFWS firefighters Noe Garza from South Texas Refuges Complex (left) works with award-winner Derrick Nahill from Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge to assess damage to the Refuge’s perimeter fence, where supports were washed out by flooding of major creeks in May 2015. Photo credit: USFWS.

Fire Staff Recognized for Safe Response to Flash Flood

April 2016
A group of seven wildland firefighters stationed at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma were recently awarded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Fire Safety Award for sustained safe performance during flash flood recovery efforts in May of 2015. 

The Oklahoma/North Texas Fire District operations staff at the time of the flood -- Aaron Roper, T.J. Lowder, Darren Proctor, Howard Boss, Steven Natho, Kimberly Frey, and Derrick Nahill – are professional wildland firefighters who respond to wildfires on the Refuge and elsewhere in the country, and help meet other Refuge management goals.

Learn more...

Read more about Refuges' Fire efforts


A pair of whooping cranes

A pair of whooping cranes find refuge at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Photo credit: USFWS.

And The Survey Says..." Whooping Crane Population at Record High!"

April 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed analysis of aerial surveys of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane population, the only surviving wild population of whooping cranes in the world. Preliminary survey data indicated 329 whooping cranes, including 38 juveniles, centered on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. The survey shows an upward trend in whooping crane abundance over the last five years and the highest ever documented for this population. Whooping cranes are one of the rarest birds in North America.

Learn more...
Learn more about the refuge.


Vamos a Pescar

April 2016
​He may not like broccoli, but he loves to fish. And it's a love former President George Herbert Walker Bush hopes to share with his Vamos a Pescar Education Fund. The fund was created by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation ( ), and seeded with $125,000 from Bass Pro Shops founder, Johnny Morris. Texas Parks and Wildlife is among the inaugural recipients which will use funds to promote angling and conservation in under-served communities.

Read a short news report explaining the fund and its purpose.


netting silvery minnows

Texas Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office biologists pull a seine in Big Bend NP looking for Rio Grande silvery minnows. Credit: USFWS.

Stepping Twice into the Same Stream: Terlingua Creek at Big Bend

April 2016
Can you step twice in the same stream? Read about the habitat and minnow conservation work of the Texas Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office.

Learn more...




Sprague pipit

Sprague pipit. Credit: USFWS.

New Information Shows Sprague’s Pipit Does Not Require Federal Protection

April 2016
The Sprague’s pipit is a relatively small, brown striped, perching bird that nests in the ground and breeds in the open grasslands of the north-central U.S. This songbird performs the longest known territorial flight display, and migrates south for the winter. Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced this native bird no longer meets the definition of a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Read additional information on the Spague Pipit



gulf coast group

Shown left to right: Bill Uihlein (Assistant Regional Director Science Applications US Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region), Paul Souza (Assistant Director Science Applications U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Bill Bartush (Gulf Coast Prairie LCC Coordinator), Cynthia Edwards (SECAS Coordinator), Cindy Dohner (Regional Director U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region), Dan Ashe (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director)
Credit: Laura Maclean, USFWS.

The Changing Gulf Coast

March 2016
Have you ever wondered how sea level rise and urbanization affects the Gulf Coast? You are not the only one, in fact a group of scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, universities, federal agencies, and other organizations came together to answer this very question. They are known as the Gulf Coast Vulnerability Assessment Team. In fact, the Team is doing such great work that they were recently recognized with the 2015 Sam D. Hamilton Award for Transformational Conservation Science. The award recognizes individuals and teams who are working on big picture conservation challenges, developing collaborative partnerships, and going beyond geographic and organizational boundaries.

Congratulations Team Members!
Bill Bartush, Cynthia Kallio Edwards, John Tirpak, Rua Mordecai, and Steve Traxler from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region; Blair Tirpak and P. Soupy Dalyander from U.S. Geological Survey; Amanda Watson and Mark Woodrey from Mississippi State University; Joshua Reece from Valdosta University; Megan LePeyre from Louisiana State University; Laura Geselbracht from The Nature Conservancy.

Learn more about the Gulf Coast Vulnerability Assessment
Learn more about the award


Dan Ashe, Dr. Benjamin Tuggle and Senator Heinrich attend ceremony for Valle de oro

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe announces the additional funding. Photo credit: J. Jobs, USFWS.

Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge Celebrates Conservation, Culture, and Community Receiving $1 Million in Additional Annual Funding to Expand Community Engagement

March 2016
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe and U.S. Senator for New Mexico Martin Heinrich announced today that Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) will receive $1 million in additional annual funding to engage urban communities and youth in conservation and outdoor recreation. The Refuge, located in Albuquerque’s South Valley, is only five miles from downtown and is already engaging the local community through conservation, environmental education, special events, environmental justice, and partnerships. The additional funding will be used to create and expand opportunities for the Refuge to connect with families and youth through conservation, culture, and community.

We put together a clip of USFWS Director Dan Ashe making the big #1M4ValledoOro announcement last week. If you haven't heard the news watch the clip to see what #1M4ValledeOro means. Hit us back with your response by uploading a video to Facebook or Twitter and tag it with #1M4ValledeOro.

Learn more...
Learn more about the Refuge
Urban Wildlife Conservation Program



Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior, addresses the crowd for the Trinity River Trailhead Ribbon cutting

Secretary Jewell addresses the crowd at the Trinity River trailhead ribbon cutting ceremony. Photo credit: USFWS.

U.S. Secretary Sally Jewell Celebrates Partnerships at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge

March 2016
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) President Richard Trumka, members of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff, and a variety of partners and volunteers to officially open the Palmer Bayou Boardwalk at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge in Liberty, Texas. The 500 foot long elevated boardwalk, which includes an observation deck, will connect the city of Liberty with Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge allowing visitors to experience the bayou and more than 13 miles of trails to view wildlife and enjoy nature.

Trailhead ribbon cutting

Trailhead ribbon cutting. Photo credit: USFWS.

In partnership with the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, union members from the Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council built the boardwalk and observation deck, volunteering their time and expertise for the project.

Learn more...

Learn about Conservation Work Projects



Top photo: American Burying Beetle; bottom photo: Southwestern Willoe Flycatcher

Top photo: American burying beetle. Photo credit: © Jay Pruett. Bottom photo: Southwestern wilow flycatcher. Photo credit: Jim Rorabaugh, USFWS.

Service Announces Initial Findings on 29 Endangered Species Act Petitions

March 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has completed initial reviews of 29 petitions to list, delist or reclassify species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Thirteen of these petitions to list species and two to delist species do not present substantial information indicating that the petitioned actions may be warranted. The Service will take no further actions on these petitions. The 16 substantial findings (including six Southwest species) in this batch represent only the first step in a rigorous process by which we will ultimately determine whether the species warrants listing, delisting or reclassification under the ESA.

Read additional information...





New mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse

New Mexico meadow jumping mouse trapped during survey efforts on Bosque del Apache NWR (June 2014).  Credit: Stacey Stanford/FWS.

Critical Habitat Finalized for Endangered New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse

March 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it will designate approximately 13,970 acres of critical habitat for the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse. The designation will elicit Federal agencies’ assistance in the appropriate management of dense vegetation along 170 miles of streams that can support the mouse in New Mexico, eastern Arizona and southern Colorado.

“Critical habitat designation for the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse will ensure that sufficient, high quality riparian habitat is available for the species’ eventual recovery,” said Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director of the Southwest Region. “This carefully determined designation identifies habitat most vital to the survival of the species.”

Learn more...
Read more about the New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse


Visitors at Bosque del Apache NWR watch cranes from the observation deck.

Visitors view wildlife at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in central New Mexico. Photo credit: John Hollingsworth, USFWS.

National Wildlife Refuge System Celebrates 113 Years!

March 2016
March 14, 2016
 marks the 113th birthday of the National Wildlife Refuge System.  From a humble beginning in 1903 when President Theodore Roosevelt set aside tiny Pelican Island along Florida’s central Atlantic coast arose the world’s premier network of lands and water dedicated to the conservation of wildlife. Today, America’s National Wildlife Refuge System consists of over 560 national wildlife refuges encompassing 150 million acres.  Refuges are for people too.  Each year millions of visitors spend time on Refuges enjoying wildlife, hiking, taking photos, hunting, fishing, or simply spending time outdoors.  

 Find a Refuge close to you. 
Learn more...  
News Release    


Louisiana black bear

Louisiana black bear with cub. Photo: Clint Turnage; USDA.

The Teddy Bear is Back: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Delists Louisiana Black Bear Due To Recovery
Milestone highlights successful partnerships between states, private landowners, conservation groups, universities and federal agencies in saving the animal that inspired creation of the “teddy bear”

March 2016
ALLULAH, LA – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced that due to 24 years dedicated recovery efforts by a broad array of partners, the Louisiana black bear — the inspiration forthe teddy bear — will be removed from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The species restoration is a significant conservation success and further demonstrates the value of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Jewell was joined by U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Ann Mills, U.S. Department of the Interior Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Michael Bean, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Charlie Melancon, and other conservation partners at the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana to celebrate the success.

The fabled bear became part of American culture after a hunting trip to Mississippi in 1902, where President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear that was trapped and tied to a tree by members of his hunting party. The episode was featured in a cartoon in The Washington Post, sparking the idea for a Brooklyn candy-store owner to create the “Teddy” bear.

Additional information is available at

New Mexico Jumping mouse

New Mexico Meadow jumping mouse. Photo credit: © Jennifer Frey.

What is a New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse?

March 2016
The Service is seeking to raise conservation awareness for this small mammal. The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse (jumping mouse) has seen major population declines due to habitat loss and fragmentation across its range. It lives in thick riparian areas along streams from southern Colorado to central New Mexico and eastern Arizona. The jumping mouse is a small mammal that hibernates (sleeps) about 8 or 9 months out of the year and is only active 3 or 4 months during the summer. In this short time, it must breed, birth and raise young, and store up enough fat supplies to survive the next year’s hibernation period. These small furry critters only live about 3 years and usually birth 7 or less young per year. About 95 percent of its range in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado is found on federal and state lands. It was designated as endangered under the Endangered Species Act on June 10, 2014. Critical habitat was proposed for the species in June 2013.


Mass Bobwhite Quail group

Officials from Mexico and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tour the facility. Photo credit: USFWS.

Las Asociaciones Internacionels Brillan!
International Partnership Works to Save Endangered Species

March 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and Mexico are working together to save the masked bobwhite quail. Near extinction, the last wild birds were found in Mexico in the 1970's and 80's and were gathered to begin a captive breeding program in the United States. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now partnering with Africam Safari in Mexico on a new breeding facility that may help recover the species. This week, officials from Mexico and the Service toured the facility and celebrated this important partnership.

Learn more...
Africam Safari


American Burying Beetle

American Burying Beetle. Photo credit: Jay Pruett.

Service Proposes Amending Industry Conservation Plan for the American Burying Beetle

March 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces the availability of a proposed amendment to the American Burying Beetle Industry Conservation Plan (ABB ICP). Originally approved in 2014, the ABB ICP provides the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma a streamlined Endangered Species Act permitting process for activities that may impact the American burying beetle (ABB). Since approval of the ABB ICP, the Service has had significantly fewer than anticipated requests for permits and as a result, only a small fraction of the 32,234 acres of authorized “take” under the ABB ICP have been issued. In the interest of providing industry with greater certainty while continuing to ensure the conservation of the American burying beetle, the Service is proposing to amend the ABB ICP to extend it for three years (through May 20, 2019). Public comments will be accepted until April 7, 2016.

Learn more...
Federal Register Notice

Public Input Requested

March 2016
Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge), in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, has prepared a draft Environmental Assessment and Compatibility Determination for issuance of a right-of-way (ROW) permit to Praxair, Inc. This ROW is for construction, operation and maintenance of a 24-inch carbon steal pipeline for transport of nitrogen; a 14-inch carbon steel pipeline for transport of hydrogen, within an existing maintained 4.3 mile ROW pipeline corridor, which has 21 existing pipelines crossing the Brazoria NWR in Brazoria County, Texas. Copies of these documents are also available at the Texas Mid-Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Office. The public is encouraged to submit written comments to Project Leader, Texas Mid-coast NWR Complex, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2547 County Road 316, Brazoria, TX 77422. Written Comments will be accepted until 4:30 pm on Thursday, March 31, 2016.

Environmental Assessment
Vicinity Map
Site Map
Biotic Province and Coastal Management Zone Map
Alternative A (Proposed Alternative) Project Map
Alternative B Project Map
Texas Ecological Systems Classification Map
USGS Soils Map
Texas Natural Diversity Database Map
Compatibility Determination


Playa Country Radio: Celebrating 100 Years of Bird Conservation

February 2016
Listen to Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region and Jennifer Duberstein, Coordinator for the Sonoran Joint Venture, discuss passenger pigeons, the roots of migratory bird conservation in the U.S., and the importance of the Migratory Bird Treaty on the latest edition of Playa Country Radio.

Visit the Southwest Region Migratory Bird Centennial page to learn more about bird conservation in the Region.

And to learn more about the Migratory Bird Centennial, visit


monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly on a nectoring flower. Photo credit: Ron Holmes, USFWS.

Monarch Population Shows Improvement, But More Work Needs To Be Done

February 2016
Monarch butterfly population estimates released today reflect a positive turn for the species, but there is more work to be done. In recent years, the monarch population has decreased by 90% due to loss of milkweed and prairie habitat across North America. Although this current increase in population is a positive sign, the species is still struggling and continues to need our help.

Read the Press Release

Learn more about Monarchs...


Dr. Benjamin Tuggle

The Past is the Marrow of Tomorrow
Black History Month is cause for reflection and optimism
Benjamin N. Tuggle, Ph.D.

February 2016
February marks Black History Month. As this month draws to a close, I am reflective in the autumn of my career and thoughtful of what this event means personally and professionally to me, and what I hope it may mean to you.

I offer to you that the past is not prelude. The past is the marrow of tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a collection of all of the days that have come before us. As we work and live out our days we must do so in a manner that is the very best for the future. And above all, I am an optimist. I have faith. We have vanquished the notion that color or creed or circumstances of birth can keep someone from becoming a full participant in American society. I do not dwell on the past. But we must remember the context of our experiences; we must know history—our own histories.

I am humbled by the sacrifices of those African Americans who came before me and as an African American, I have a responsibility to live my life to fullest extent. To do otherwise is a disservice to their sacrifices.

My experience and education have given me knowledge, and as Frederick Douglass said, “Knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom.” In addition to knowledge, I continue to have faith in the future. I believe that even though perhaps it hasn’t always been that way for all Americans, we all can have a full portion of the dream—that American Dream.

Read Dr. Tuggle's Complete Perspective in the Open Spaces Blog


Santa Ana Pueblo

Santa Ana Pueblo. Photo credit: Joe Early, USFWS.

Southwest Region Hosts National Tribal Liaison and Tribal Wildlife Grant Meeting

February 2016
During the week of February 22nd, Native American Liaison (NAL), Joe Early, hosted NAL and Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program personnel from a cross the country. The goals of the meeting were to complete the FY 2016 National Tribal Wildlife Grant (TWG) rankings, provide overview and background on the TWG program, update roles and responsibilities of the TWG and NAL program, to discuss how to improve the efficiency of the TWG program, improve coordination with other programs and initiatives within the Service and over discuss how to improve outreach efforts related to TWG and the NAL program.

The highlight of the week was visiting Santa Ana Pueblo, the Southwest Region's most successful TWG recipient. Participants were given a presentation of various TWG work and tribal conservation initiatives. A field tour was also given and participants saw various project sites that included wild turkey reintroduction, habitat restoration, invasive species removal, climate change effects along the Middle Rio Grande, and how the tribe has used TWG funding overall to cooperatively manage and conserve species of concern to the Service and the Pueblo.

For more information on Santa Ana Pueblo's Department Natural Resources, visit their site at:


Matt Butler

Matt Butler is recognized by the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society. Photo credit: USFWS.

Region 2 Employees Recognized by Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society

Febraury 2016
The Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society met recently and recognized two Regional employees for their outstanding work in conservation.  Dr. Matthew Butler, Biometrician for the Refuge Biological Program, received the Best Technical Publication for his protocol on surveying wintering whooping cranes at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. (Butler, M. J., B. N. Strobel, and C. Eichhorn. 2014. Whooping crane winter abundance survey protocol: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Survey Identification Number: FF02RTAR00-002. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Austwell, Texas, USA).  Co-authors Cynthia Eichhorn is a Regional Data Manager and Brad Strobel is now lead biologist at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.

Jena Moon, Texas Gulf Coast Zone Biologist, was voted in as the Vice President of the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society.  Jena is an excellent selection for the Board, given her hard work, dedication to wildlife management, and effective collaboration with the public, private landowners, state and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations. In her role, Jena is anticipated to promote a positive public image for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society, and the wildlife profession.

Congratulations to both Matt and Jena. 

Read Matt's Publication  


Doug Head

Doug Head in the field. Photo credit: USFWS.

Southwest Region’s Douglas HeadRecipient of Refuge Employee of the Year Award!

February 2016
For the second year running, an employee of the Southwest Region has taken home the coveted Employee of the Year Award sponsored by the National Wildlife Refuge Association.   Assistant Zone Biologist Douglas M. Head II, who works with numerous national wildlife refuges on the Gulf Coast of Texas, has demonstrated innovation and ingenuity throughout is work in the field.  He is involved with restoration projects, whooping crane management, habitat management, and even working with urban youth.  Congratulations Doug on receiving this well deserved Award!  

Learn more about Doug and great things he is doing for wildlife.
Learn About Refuge Biology Work       


African leopard mount

African leopard mount. Photo credit: USFWS.

Federal Jury In Sherman Convicts Oklahoma Man For Endangered Species Violations
African Leopard mount shipped in interstate commerce

Febraury 2016
Yesterday, U.S. Attorney John M. Bales announced that after just over 3 hours of deliberations, a federal jury in Sherman, Texas found an Oklahoma man guilty of committing Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act violations in connection with the shipment of an African Leopard trophy mount from Oklahoma to the Eastern District of Texas.

Learn more...


mexican wolf

Mexican Wolf. Photo credit: USFWS.

2015 Mexican Wolf Population Survey Reveals More Work to be Done but Strategy Remains Viable

February 2016
The Mexican wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT) has completed the annual year-end population survey, documenting a minimum of 97 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico at the end of 2015. At the end of 2014, 110 wild wolves were counted. “These latest population numbers demonstrate we still have more work to do in stabilizing this experimental population and maximizing its anticipated contribution to Mexican wolf recovery,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle.

Learn more...


yaqui chub

Yaqui chub. Photo credit: B. Radke, USFWS.

The Hidden Gem of the Rio Yaqui Basin

February 2016
It could be the title of a movie.  The scene is the southeast corner of Arizona.  The setting looks to be arid and harsh; the word inhospitable may even come to mind.  The plot highlights a place of international convergence of mountains, deserts, water, and wildlife.  But there is a hidden gem there, an ecological wonder unknown to many.   A character filled with undiscovered beauty and unmatched diversity.   No, it’s not a movie, it is a real place called San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge.  

Discover the Refuge and learn how it helps protect this biologically rich landscape.   

Learn more...  


Ocelot in shrubs

A wild ocelot at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Steve Hillebrand, USFWS.

Ocelots Make the Best Valentines!

February 2016
Deemed one of the rarest wild cat species in the United States, the critically endangered ocelot has been protected by the Endangered Species Act since 1982.  Learn more about these elusive felines and check out the five reasons why ocelots make the best valentines!

Best Valentines

Learn more...


Ecological Services Biologist, Dave Smith, Receives National Award for Outstanding Achievement in Rangeland Management

February 2016
Dave Smith, a Fish and Wildlife biologist at the Arizona Ecological Services Field Office – Flagstaff sub-office, was recently awarded the National Award for Outstanding Achievement in National Rangeland Management for his participation on the Wallow Fire Range Restocking Team. Dave worked in close collaboration with U.S. Forest Service staff to evaluate grazing on approximately 18 allotments following damage from the May 2011 Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona’s history. Smith was nominated by USFS staff.

Learn more...


Mexican Wolf Losses
-Two female Mexican wolves die during annual population count and capture operations

Febraury 2016
Two Mexican wolves (F1295 and F1340) died during the annual population count and capture operation this year.  Both will undergo necropsies at the Fish and Wildlife Service's Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, to determine causes of death for each wolf.

The Interagency Field Team (IFT) temporarily suspended capture operations to conduct a review of events leading to the captures and deaths. The techniques, protocol, and drugs used were the same as those used throughout this year's count and last year's count.  F1295 was darted and processed on January 23, released back into the wild and died four days later. F1340 was captured on January 28, and died within minutes of being darted. This year, 13 male and female wolves have been successfully darted, processed, collared and released back into the wild.

Learn more...


monarch butterfly on purple flowers

The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable wildlife species in America. Photo cedit: R. Hansen, USFWS.

City of San Antonio Steps It Up For Monarchs

January 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its many partners have been working diligently to help save the monarch butterfly. One of our partners, The National Wildlife Federation, has created the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge that helps cities take specific actions to benefit this iconic species and the city of San Antonio, Texas is on board! Not only has the Mayor signed this new Pledge, on March 4 the San Antonio Zoo will host the city’s first Milkweed & Migration Festival to help the community celebrate the monarch butterfly and to highlight the signing of the Pledge.

Mayors' Monarch Pledge

Event Information
Save The Monarch


Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery Biologist Discusses Work with Alligator Snapping Turtles and Paddlefish

January 2016
If you would like to hear Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery biologist Brian Fillmore discussing his work with alligator snapping turtles and paddlefish and then Dan Collins, Migratory Bird Coordinator in the Southwest Region, weighing in on waterfowl management and the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial, tune in to Bass Pro Outdoor World Rural Radio, Saturday, Jan 30, on Sirius XM 147, 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM ET

Top photo: Brian Fillmore with an alligator gar, Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery, photo credit: USFWS. Bottom photo: Southwest Region Migratory Bird Coordinator, Dan Collins, with his son on a successful hunt. Photo credit: © Chris Nicolai.

Listen to the Brian Fillmore radio interview on alligator turtles and paddlefish.

Listen to Dan Collins radio interview on waterfowl management.



MRG graduation.

A crew member shares their experience with the group. Photo credit: USFWS.

Middle Rio Grande Urban Conservation Corps Marks Successful First Year

January 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, along with its many supporting partners,

Joy Nicholopoulos addresses the MRG graduation.

Deputy Regional Director
Joy Nicholopoulos provided opening remarks at the celebration. Photo credit: USFWS.

celebrated the inaugural crews of the Middle Rio Grande Urban Conservation Corps Program. 

This new urban youth employment program moves beyond traditional boundaries of summer youth employment. 

The Middle Rio Grande Urban Conservation Corps Program provides local youth with meaningful employment through conservation stewardship work but also focuses on the development of individual participants by providing mentoring, cultural awareness, essential job skills, college prep, environmental education, and outdoor recreation skills.

The Graduation Ceremony highlighted the many conservation projects the crews accomplished this past summer and fall as well as each member’s completion of the Program.  

Learn more...


Ottine dam destruction

Photo credit: USFWS.

Ottine Dam Removal Will Benefit Fish and Wildlife in San Marcos River

January 2016
The much anticipated removal of the 104 year old historical dam located on the San Marcos River in Gonzales County is finally underway. The dam damaged by a storm in 2008 was originally scheduled to be removed in 2012. Removal of the Ottine Dam is good news for the fish and other aquatic species of the river, as well as recreational organizations that sponsor events on this stretch of the San Marcos River. The project is expected to be completed by the end of January.

Learn more...
Watch the Texas Parks and Wildlife video of the dam removal.


Revised Policy Strengthens Collaboration Between Service, Native American Tribes for Conservation of Shared Natural Heritage

January 2016
Native American leaders and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) officials gathered today [January 20, 2016] to recognize new measures to strengthen the agency’s 20-year-old policy guiding government-to-government relations between tribes and the agency. Service Director Dan Ashe signed the updated Native American Policy (NAP) during a Washington, D.C., ceremony attended by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Michael Bean and numerous tribal representatives. The Service manages lands and resources of great importance to tribes.

Learn more...



Rhino. Photo credit: USFWS.

Irish National Sentenced to 12 Months in Prison for Trafficking in Endangered Rhinoceros Horns

January 2016
Department of Justice - Patrick Sheridan, an Irish national, was sentenced in federal court in Waco, Texas, today to 12 months in prison for conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act in relation to illegal rhinoceros horn trafficking, announced Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice  and U.S. Attorney Richard L. Durbin Jr. for the Western District of Texas and Director Dan Ashe of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Learn more...

Whooping Crane

Whooping crane. Photo credit: USFWS.

Jefferson County Man Arrested for Killing Whooping Cranes

January 2016
BEAUMONT, Texas – U.S. Attorney John M. Bales announced that an 18-year-old Beaumont, Texas man has been arrested for federal violations in the Eastern District of Texas. Trey Joseph Frederick was arrested today pursuant to a criminal complaint issued by the U.S. District Court charging him with violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Frederick appeared in federal court this afternoon on the charges.

Learn more...


A Calendar of Great Festivals on or near National Wildlife Refuges
Super Bird fests 2016

January 2016
New birder or old hand? No matter. It’s hard not to be moved by the sight of more birds erupting in flight than you’ve ever seen in your life.National wildlife refuges make great bird festival sites because so many of these special places are located along the country’s key migratory bird routes. Many festivals coincide with spring or fall migration. Here are some great refuge bird festivals to catch in 2016.

Learn more...

Johnston's frankenia plat

Johnston's Frankenia plant. Photo credit: USFWS.

Johnston’s Frankenia Removed From Endangered Species Act
Number of plants exceeds 4 million in Texas and Northeast Mexico

January 2016
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the Johnston’s frankenia will be removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants.  Once thought to number less than 1,000 plants, the best available information now indicates that there are over 4 million plants in at least 68 locations throughout southwest Texas and northeast Mexico.  Johnston’s frankenia was listed on August 7, 1984, as endangered.

The Service is also announcing the availability of the Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan for Johnston’s frankenia.  The post-delisting monitoring plan was developed in cooperation with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission, The Nature Conservancy, and Texas Department of Transportation. 

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Federal Register Notice

red tailed hawk

Red tailed hawk in flight. Photo credit: C. Koppie, USWFS.

Rice Farmer Convicted and Fined for Poisoning Birds

January 2016
Southwest Region Special Agent in Charge Nicholas E. Chavez of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in cooperation with U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced that the operator of a Danbury rice farm has entered a guilty plea to illegally killing 65 brown-headed cowbirds and four red-tailed hawks.

Nelson Bulanek, 54, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jason B. Libby today. Bulanek was ordered to pay a $10,000 community service payment to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Operation Game Thief Program and must serve two years of probation.

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SOR signing

Dr. Benjamin Tuggle signs the Region;s SOR with the Gila River Indian Community. Photo credit: Joe Early, USFWS.

Statement of Relationship Signed Between Gila River Indian Community and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Southwest Region

January 2016
On Tuesday, January 5, 2016, a Statement of Relationship (SOR) was signed between the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) Southwest Region.  Signing on behalf of the tribe was Governor Stephen R. Lewis and signing on behalf of the Southwest Region was Regional Director, Dr. Benjamin Tuggle. 

Learn more about SORs and the only Region that supports them...



A remote camera captures a small heard of Sonoran pronghorn at a water hole on Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona. Photo credit: USFWS.

Hopes Run High for the Sonoran Pronghorn

January 2016
In southwest Arizona, wildlife biologists are aiming high for the recovery of the endangered Sonoran pronghorn.  This classic range animal that is capable of roaming 1 million acres for food and water has been on the Endangered Species List since 1967, but hope abounds that it may be headed for a rebound.  The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and its many partners are optimistic good things are in store for this desert survivor.

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gila trout

Retired broodstock male Gila trout caught by Nathan Wiese at Frye Mesa Reservoir, Graham County, Ariz. Photo credit: Nathan Wiese, USFWS.

Excess Threatened Gila Trout to be Stocked for Recreational Angling

December 2015
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will stock approximately 10,000 threatened Gila trout that currently average five inches to waters near Silver City, New Mexico. The stockings are planned to take place during the first week of January.  These fish will grow to the catchable nine-inch range by Memorial Day weekend, the official start of summer.

In partnership with the Gila National Forest, Arizona and New Mexico game and fish departments, and Trout Unlimited, the Service has met recovery stocking goals set for 2015. The trout to be stocked early next year are in excess to those recovery needs and have been made available to support the recreational fishing opportunities specifically allowed for this species under programs managed by the states of Arizona and New Mexico.

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Rancho Sierra

Rancho Sierra. Photo credit: Jennifer Blair, CWB.

Service Approves City of San Antonio and Bexar County Plan to Conserve Nine Federally Listed Species
Habitat Conservation Plan will minimize impacts from development

Over the last several years the City of San Antonio and Bexar County, Texas, in cooperation with the Service worked together to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for nine listed species in one of the fastest growing areas of the country. The HCP maximizes the conservation benefits for the species while providing a streamlined ESA compliance process for businesses and residents to address the impacts of infrastructure and commercial and residential development in Bexar County and the City of San Antonio. The HCP and associated incidental take permit are authorized for 30 years.

Rea additional information, including the Service's Record of Decision (ROD) .
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Federal Register Notice


Oil and Gas

USFWS oil and gas specialist inspects an oil production site at Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Photo credit: USFWS.

Proposed Improvements to 50 Year-old Regulations Governing Oil and Gas Development on Refuge System Lands

December 2015
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced a proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement to update 50 year-old regulations governing the management of non-federal oil and gas development on National Wildlife Refuge System lands. The proposed revisions continue to allow for the responsible extraction of oil and gas, but require closer adherence to industry best management practices – especially with respect to abandoned infrastructure and debris. The regulations will reduce refuge impacts, including habitat loss and degradation, wildlife mortality and displacement, and other risks to ecological integrity.

Read the news release
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Tony Amos

Recovery Champion Award Recipient Mr. Tony Amos works with one of the rescued injured turtles at the Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute at Corpus Christi, TX. Photo credit: USFWS.

Recovery Champion Award

December 2015
Mr. Anthony (Tony) Amos, Director of the Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK), University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI) has been awarded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Recovery Champion Award for the Southwest Region, presented December 9, 2015, in Corpus Christi, TX. The award is “given annually to a non-service employee who has aided in the recovery of threatened and endangered species.”

Tony Amos has been a major contributor to the knowledge base regarding migrating and overwintering listed shorebirds including piping plovers and red knots. His contributions are not limited to birds however, as he has also been a major partner to the Service and NOAA Fisheries with recovery work related to endangered and threatened sea turtles.

Learn more about Tony Amos' recovery efforts




Photo of project partners at Sevilleta NWR
Project partners (l-r) Kathy Granillo (USFWS), Dr. Benjamin Tuggle (USFWS), Dustin Armstrong (BR), Jennifer Faler (BR), Deborah Dixon (ISC), and Grace Haggerty (ISC).

Partners Lend a Hand for Habitat

December 2015
The old saying “you can’t do it alone” rung true this week as Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in central New Mexico recognized its partners that are helping the Refuge restore habitat for threatened and endangered species along the Rio Grande.

The Refuge was awarded a $350,000 grant through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Recovery Initiative, a program that provides funding to national wildlife refuges to assist in the recovery of federally threatened or endangered species.

To make this project a reality, the Refuge partnered with the Bureau of Reclamation and the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission to restore approximately 60 acres of habitat for the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo, as well many other riparian species.

Learn more about Sevilleta NWR:

Cooperative Recovery Initative:


NAS Report Cover page
Review of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives report cover page

Review of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives

December 2015
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its Review of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives today, which concludes that a landscape approach is needed to meet the nation’s conservation challenges and that the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) provide a framework for addressing that need.

The Academy’s recommendations will further help each organization and agency, including the FWS, engaged in the LCC Network to take stock of progress to ensure that, collectively, the program is efficiently and effectively addressing landscape-scale conservation priorities using the best science available. Read more about the National Academy of Sciences Review of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives and learn more about Landscape Conservation Cooperatives in the Southwest here.


Regional employees enjoy the celebration

Regional employees enjoy the celebration. Photo Credit:Beth Ullenberg, USFWS

Southwest Region Celebrates Its Most Precious Resource. Our Employees!

December 2015
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region held its first annual Employee Awards Ceremony at the Hotel Andaluz in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Employees from across the four state Region were recognized for their outstanding work in conservation. 13 individual and team Awards were handed out in categories that covered safety, scientific excellence, innovation, partnership building, supervision, and more. The Hotel Andaluz provided a perfect setting for the event which was hosted by Regional Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle and Deputy Regional Director Joy Nicholopoulos.

See the Awards Ceremony Program 

Southwest Region Archived News Releases

Search additional archived news releases for the Southwest Region

Wildlife Selfies Trailcam
Southwest Emphasis Areas
Youth and Students
Wildlife Selfies!
The Southwest Region has a brand new interactive webpage; every month new, exciting refuge trailcam photos will be highlighted.  Simply click on the Refuge Trailcam button and enjoy!  And remember…check back often!Visit the Southwest Region's Refuge Trailcam site of Wildlife Selfies!
Our Stories
Women's History Month
March is Women’s History Month. We would like to recognize women in our ranks conserving our natural resources in the Southwest Region. Check back to read more about extraordinary women in conservation.
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Projects Using State Wildlife Grants
​There are many projects using State Wildlife Grants taking place in the Southwest Region.Learn more...
R2 LE Agent Receives Honor Award
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The Arizona Game and Fish Department recognizes two of our employees
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Science Leadership Award
Grant Harris receives recognition for scientific leadership
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Southwest Region's Wounded Warriors
There are eight Wounded Warriors who have joined our ranks.
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Two New Refuges
Two new refuges in the Southwest Region are the 559th and 560th refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
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Last updated: April 29, 2016