Magazine article American Forests

Restoring Thornscrub Wildlife Habitat

Magazine article American Forests

Restoring Thornscrub Wildlife Habitat

Article excerpt

the lower rio grande valley National Wildlife Refuge in southern Texas provides habitat for more than 40 percent of all North American butterfly species, 500 species of bird and 1,200 plant species, along with 18 federally listed threatened or endangered species. Looking for areas with biological diversity? The Lower Rio Grande Valley takes the cake.

American Forests has been assisting projects in this region for 20 years, supporting the planting of more than 2 million trees on 4,266 acres - almost two-thirds of all replantation in the area since 1997. This is no small undertaking, as the Lower Rio Grande Valley is an immensely complex and diverse ecosystem, with four different climate types dispersed throughout the area, as well as 11 distinct biological communities.

American Forests' work in the region has focused on the restoration of Texas thornscrub, which is directly tied to the recovery of the ocelot. Recent droughts, on top of urban and agricultural development, have eliminated much of the ecosystem required to support a successful ocelot population in the U.S., which used to stretch as far north as Louisiana and Alabama, but can now only be found in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Restoration efforts are of major importance because they not only expand ocelot habitat, but also more than 95 percent of the native vegetation found in the landscape remains under threat.

For the 26th year, the community around the Lower Rio Grande has come together to try and restore some of the lost biodiversity. Last fall, through an event known as "Rio Reforestation," 350 local volunteers planted more than 10,200 native plants on 17 acres around La Sal del Rey, one of three naturally occurring salt lakes in South Texas. …

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