For more than 20 years, American Forests has worked with partners to reforest thornforest habitats in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, located near the Gulf Coast along the border with Mexico.

Thornforests, also known as tamaulipan thornscrub, are dense and shrubby, with trees that often grow no more than seven feet tall. Despite their unassuming looks, these forests are one of the most biodiverse habitats in the country. They boast 1,200 plant species, 530 bird species, 300 butterfly species, and the only remaining population of ocelots in the United States.

Less than 10% of thornforests remain. Historically, ranching and farming were the main drivers of thornforest loss. Now, development and climate change have become major threats. Restoring thornforests is not only crucial for wildlife, but also for the local ecotourism industry and regional water supplies. Thornforests require less water than irrigated farmland and they help mitigate flooding from the region’s increasingly extreme, erratic storms.

Since 1999, American Forests has planted more than 2 million thornforest trees and other native plants across more than 4,000 acres of former agricultural land in the Rio Grande Valley. We plant according to our climate resilience strategy, a suite of forestry tactics that aim to foster thornforests that can withstand a hotter, drier future.

We’ve teamed up with the Thornforest Conservation Partnership, to create the first region-wide plan to guide thornforest conservation and reforestation. In addition, we collect seed from wild plants to boost the availability and genetic diversity of seeds used to grow native plants for reforestation projects.