Ocelot Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

About the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge ReLeaf Project:

American Forests and Friends of the Wildlife Corridor are partnering for the 18th year to continue reforesting areas of Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge to improve wildlife habitat. This year’s project is planting approximately 20,000 trees across 226 acres.

Global ReLeaf supports the restoration work that forests like this — and the communities that depend on them — need in order to thrive. Since 1990, American Forests has brought ReLeaf to forests in all 50 states and 45 countries, planting nearly 50 million trees in the process.

ReLeaf Location:

Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Reserve, Texas

Key ReLeaf Activities:

  • Planting 20,000 trees across 226 acres
  • Establishing corridors to connect fragmented wildlife habitat

Why This ReLeaf Project?

This project is reconnecting forest fragments by reclaiming agricultural land to bolster habitat for wildlife in one of the most biologically diverse places in North America. Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley is home to more than 530 species of birds, 40 percent of North America’s butterfly species, 1,200 plant species and 17 threatened or endangered species, including ocelot and jaguarundi.

Creation of the corridor also benefits the region, which has a growing ecotourism industry. In 2011, nature tourism in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, which includes some of the poorest counties in the U.S., had an estimated output of $460 million and supported more than 6,000 full- and part-time jobs.

Why Ocelot and Jaguarundi?

Since the 1970s, ocelot and jaguarundi have been endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Both big cats can only be found in the Southwest along the U.S.-Mexico border. The ocelot population had dwindled to less than 50 before a recovery in the last few years to around 80 to 100 ocelot in the U.S. Ocelot and jaguarundi habitat is made up of dense, thorny shrublands, which became rarer and rarer in the Southwest as they were converted to agricultural purposes.

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