Magazine article American Forests

Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

Magazine article American Forests

Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

Article excerpt

ONE OF THE MOST BIOLOGICALLY DIVERSE AREAS IN NORTH AMERICA sits along the border between Texas and Mexico, where the Rio Grande winds its way toward the Gulf of Mexico. The Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) encompasses no fewer than 11 different types of habitat, including tidal wetlands and riparian forest. This variety has led to a wealth of biodiversity; the region is home to more than 1,200 different species of plants, 500 species of birds, 200 vertebrate species and roughly 300 species of butterflies. Several rare, threatened and endangered species call this region home, including the ocelot, jaguarundi and burrowing owl. The ocelot is particularly dependent on one of the area's native habitats: Tamaulipan thorn forest. In the U.S., ocelots are found only in South Texas, and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department estimates that as few as 35 may remain wild in the state.

Migratory birds also rely on the LRGV during their long trips north and south, and these, combined with the rare birds native to the region, make it one of the favorite destinations for birders in the U.S. The LRGV is part of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, and ecotourism in the region brings the local economy more than $100 million each year.

Over the years, rapid agricultural growth throughout the region has taken a toll on the LRGV--a frightening 95 percent of the native habitat has been cleared away. …

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