For twenty years, American Forests has worked in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the fertile delta of the Rio Grande River, where the climate, vegetation and associated wildlife create an ecosystem unlike any other in America.
Native Texas, or Tamaulipan, thornscrub forest once covered much of the valley, featuring dense and diverse brush habitat that is now challenged by fast-growing urban sprawl and profound new threats including the potential construction of new border walls.
The habitat continues to be home to a diverse group of wildlife and plants, including more than 500 species of songbirds and 300 species of butterfly, 11 threatened and endangered species like the ocelot, and abundant populations of game species. But the future of these animals is dependent on the future of thornscrub forests, which have been so aggressively cleared for agriculture and development that less than 10 percent of the original thornscrub forest remains.
Together with the South Texas National Wildlife Refuge Complex, American Forests is working to reverse this trend by replanting thornscrub forests on lands where agriculture is challenging due to water availability. Our technical expertise and financial contributions have helped to plant more than 2 million thornscrub trees over 4,266 acres, linking together remaining patches of thornscrub forest into a more complete, connected habitat network for birds, ocelot and other wildlife species.
American Forests launched the Thornscrub Conservation Partnership with other non-profit and community organizations working on this vital effort. This partnership will coordinate private sector investment in thornscrub restoration, linking our projects together, and work together to advocate for stronger public policies and funding.
Despite some strong scientific analysis, including a federal recovery plan for the ocelot, there is no comprehensive plan for how to restore thornscrub forests across all ownerships in the region. American Forests will take the lead in developing a new Thornscrub Recovery Plan that uses science to target where thornscrub restoration can best benefit wildlife.
American Forests’ policy team is also working with Congress and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to increase federal funding for thornscrub restoration.