BROWNSVILLE, Texas (KVEO) – Conservationists in Texas are celebrating after adding 4,800 acres to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).
For the estimated 50 remaining ocelots in the United States, the preservation of their territory is a matter of life and death.
Many of those ocelots call the Laguna Atascosa NWR home, and their stopping grounds just expanded.
The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting America’s land and waters, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have announced that 4,800 acres around Laguna Atascosa have been added to the refuge.
Texas Director of The Conservation Fund, Julie Shackelford, says this land adds to the 240,000 acres the nonprofit has helped protect in Texas.
“Compared to other states, Texas doesn’t have that much public land. About 5% of Texas is available for the public and open land, so anything that we can add is great for habitat and recreation to get out on the land and experience what Texas has to offer,” said Shackelford.
This acquired land helps bridge the gap between the northern and southern portions of the NWR, further helping it serve as a crucial corridor and safe haven for migratory birds and mammals.
The added acreage consisted of two privately owned pieces of land, the 1,512-acre Holly Beach property, and the 3,361-acre Dulaney Farm property.
The Holly Beach property was destined to be a golf course before The Conservation Fund purchased the land in 2016. The USFWS acquired the partial coastal property from The Conservation Fund in June of this year.
Funds for these lands come from multiple federal and voluntary funds collected over time by USFWS.
“[The Conservation Fund] acts as an intermediary, so we can pre-acquire the land until the funds are available to convey them to the National Wildlife Refuge,” said Shackelford.
The Dulaney Farm property, which is currently still agricultural land, was held on to by the Conservation Fund for about a year before the USFWS was able to take over.
The public is not yet able to access the land, however, the land will be restored to its natural thorn scrub habitat that is preferred by ocelots and coastal prairies preferred by the Aplomado falcon.