RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas - In the final report of Richard Moore's series on the Wildlife Corridor, he focuses on the ongoing effort to reforest corridors of native habitat connecting diverse tracts of protected land.
Since its inception nearly 40 years ago, the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge has protected 98,000 acres of native habitat with particular focus on creating a wildlife corridor along the river.
The United States Fish and Wildlife property consists of some 125 separate tracts, and one of their primary goals is connecting these islands of habitat to create a viable wildlife corridor whereby creatures can safely travel from tract to tract.
Kim Wahl is an ecologist with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and she directs a very successful reforestation program.
"We are really focusing on habitat restoration. And recreating this habitat that had existed prior to these lands being cleared. Very specifically what we have been focusing on is building out from existing habitat and connecting to blocks of habitat."
This current reforestation project is taking place near Bayview on 55 acres of former farmland and is linking up two separate forested tracts with approximately 50,000 plants. Biodegradable white tubes protect the seedlings and will greatly enhance survival.
"We are seeing that we can reach success rates of 90 to 95% within a planting site by using those." says Wahl.
Starting in 1984 to address the destruction of 97% of the Valley's native habitat due to agricultural and urban development, the program has already reforested more than 13,000 acres with approximately 6.5 million seedlings.
Wahl adds, "This is not our end point either. This is getting these seedlings into the ground. The end point is going to be decades down the road when the wildlife can fully utilize this site. What is actually most pleasing is to come out a year later, two years later and see these plants flowering, producing fruit, to see the wildlife already using it."