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RIO GRANDE VALLEY

[Please see region's landscape video]

The South Texas Plains consist of roughly 20 million acres of grassland, oak savanna, and brush country that receive between 20 and 30 inches of rain. The dominant brush country includes drought-tolerant, thorny legumes, such as mesquite, huisache, Texas ebony, and cenizo, interspersed among Texas prickly pear, buffalograss, and various forbs. The extreme southern portion of the Plains includes rare examples of Texas palmetto forest within the floodplain of the Rio Grande (once known as the Rio de las Palmas by early Spanish settlers). Eastern sections of the Plains include some saline grasslands and wetland brush areas.

Industry in the South Texas Plains has traditionally been oriented towards ranching and petroleum, but has evolved to support hunting, birding, tourism, and diversified assembly and trade (especially among the maquiladoras of the border zone). The principal cities of the South Texas Plains include Alice, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Harlingen, Kingsville, McAllen, and Sinton.

Major protected areas within the South Texas Plains include Chaparral State Wildlife Management Area (15,200 acres), Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (65,137 acres), Las Palomas State Wildlife Management Area (4262 acres), Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge (76,257 acres), Sabal Palm Grove Sanctuary (525 acres), Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge (2087 acres)

The principal threats to the South Texas Plains include exotic plant invasion (for instance, by buffelgrass and King Ranch bluestem), agricultural land clearing for grazing and cultivation, and habitat fragmentation and residential development associated with the area's rapid population growth. The residential development of colonias, typically without adequate road, potable water, and wastewater infrastructure, has raised public health concerns. Uranium mining and subsequent leachate and hazardous waste disposal in the Kingsville and Panna Maria areas have caused soil and groundwater pollution. Development of maquiladoras in the border zone and discharges of polluted wastewater from these facilities have also been troubling. And in this dry area, over-allocation of the Rio Grande's water, construction of dams for the Amistad and Falcon reservoirs, and erection of levees along the lower Rio Grande's course have severely interfered with the river's historic patterns of flow and flood.

Rio Grande Valley communities are represented in the archive by:

Alamo David Blankinship
Brownsville Merriwood Ferguson
Brownsville Nacho Garza
Harlingen James Matz
Harlingen Tom Pincelli
Laguna Vista Deyaun Boudreaux
Mission Dennis Holbrook
Rio Grande City Benito Trevino
San Ignacio Meg Guerra
South Padre Island Mary Lou Campbell

For more information about conservation in the South Texas Plains, please refer to:

Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute

Coastal Bend Bays Foundation

Coastal Bend Sierra Club

Rio Grande International Study Center

Rio Grande Rio Bravo Basin Coalition

Sabal Palm Audubon Center and Sanctuary

Valley Land Fund

Welder Wildlife Foundation

World Birding Center


 
Conservation History Association of Texas
Texas Legacy Project


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2007