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[Please see region's landscape video]

The Texas Panhandle region consists of the 26 million-acre Rolling Plains, which stretch from southwestern Oklahoma south to the Edwards Plateau in central Texas, and the 19 million-acre Texas portion of the High Plains, which extend from the Caprock Escarpment, the western edge of the Rolling Plains, northward well into the Midwestern portion of the United States.

This area receives from 13 to 28 inches of rain, and is dominated by mid and shortgrasses, interspersed with junipers, mesquite and dwarf oak shrubs, and broken by cottonwoods, pecans and walnuts in the river bottoms and breaks. Some 25,000 playas dot the region as well, and form key watering areas for migrating cranes, geese, and ducks. This area is largely agricultural, marked by some of Texas' most famous ranches (the Lambshead, XIT and JA), largest cattle and hog feeding operations, and most extensive cotton and wheat farms. The major cities of the region are Dalhart, Amarillo, and Lubbock.

Significant protected areas include the Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge (7664 acres), Caprock Canyons State Park (16,376 acres), Gene Howe State Wildlife Management Area (6713 acres), Matador State Wildlife Management Area (28,184 acres), Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge (5814 acres), and the Palo Duro Canyon State Park (16,402 acres).

Conservation issues in the region include the agricultural pumpage and decline of the fossil Ogallala aquifer, which is currently dropping at 1.7 feet per year in the North Plains Groundwater District, but stabilizing in some areas due to conversion to dryland cropping and livestock raising. Concerns have also been raised about the extensive use of pesticides in the area's cotton fields, although Integrated Pest Management techniques have dropped application rates since the 1960s, and the Plains area now hosts some 90% of American organic cotton production. Worry over declines and pesticide contamination of the Ogallala were exacerbated by ultimately unsuccessful proposals in the 1980s to site a high-level nuclear waste disposal facility in Swisher County. Other industrial issues in the region involve worker chemical exposure and groundwater contamination at the Pantex weapons plant near Amarillo, and the rise of confined animal feeding operations near Perryton in recent years.

For more conservation information about the region, please refer to:

Amarillo Botanical Gardens

Caprock Canyons State Park

Holistic Resource Management of Texas

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Serious Texans Against Nuclear Dumping

Texas Panhandle Audubon Society

Wildcat Bluff Nature Center

Conservation History Association of Texas
Texas Legacy Project

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