By Doyle Irvin, American Forests

The votes are in! This year’s exciting Wildlands for Wildlife campaign featured a competition between the seven regions of the initiative, with the winning region receiving an additional $10,000 investment towards restoration work! When voting closed on April 26 at 10:00 a.m. EDT, we receive 9,525 total votes and the Lower Rio Grande Valley was far ahead of the pack, with more than 6,000 votes. For a while it seemed that the Hawaiian Islands were going to run away with it, but a late overwhelming surge from the Lone Star State sealed the deal. Congratulations, Texas!

Curious what the extra $10,000 dollars will mean in real terms? The ocelot, our feature species in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, lives in the distinctive Texas thornscrub that once covered this region. This forest ecosystem is home to more than 530 bird species, 300 butterfly species and 1,200 species of plants, many of which are endangered — 95 percent of the thornscrub in the region has been cleared for agriculture and urbanization since the 1920s.The additional project investment will help restore 10 acres of Texas thornscrub! American Forests is already restoring nearly 300 acres of thornscrub habitat in 2017, continuing our long-standing commitment to this ecosystem: We’ve planted more than 2 million trees in the Lower Rio Grande Valley since 1997.

We would like to thank everybody for taking part in this year’s competition, and to stay tuned to American Forests for more Wildlands for Wildlife updates.