West Texas oasis provides for a wealth of rare and endangered species
By Clay Carrington
At first glance, Diamond Y Spring Preserve in West Texas looks like typical lowland desert country. Grassy shrublands stretch off into the horizon, broken only by distant limestone mesas. But take a closer look at the nearly 4,000-acre preserve in Pecos County and you’ll find a hidden world of freshwater springs and lush marshes, known as ciénegas.
Look closer and you’ll find an actual rare and fragile oasis in North America’s largest desert.
Diamond Y Spring Preserve protects one of the largest and last remaining ciénega systems in West Texas and conserves a suite of natural freshwater features, including peripheral springs, outflow creeks, and marshes within Diamond Y Draw. These lands and waters are home to creatures found nowhere else on Earth, in an area surrounded by active oil and gas production, making Diamond Y Spring Preserve one of Texas’ true natural treasures and a model of practical conservation partnerships.
The preserve provides critically important habitat for the Leon Springs pupfish and the Pecos gambusia, both federally listed endangered species, as well as the threatened Pecos (or puzzle) sunflower, four other globally rare plants and a suite of rare aquatic invertebrates.
Once common throughout the Pecos River basin of New Mexico and Texas, the small Pecos gambusia—a relative of the guppy—is now found in just a few locations within its historic range. Both the Pecos gambusia and the Leon Springs pupfish depend upon the regular flow of spring water and consistent water temperature for survival. For the pupfish, Diamond Y Spring Preserve is its only remaining natural habitat in the world.
The companies involved with energy exploration and extraction around Diamond Y Spring Preserve have worked cooperatively with the Conservancy to reduce threats to the preserve and its natural communities. Strategies focusing on land management and threat abatement strategies—including restoration of former oil well sites back to native vegetation—have lessened the impact of energy production and transportation, and proven that conservation and commerce can happen in concert with each other.
The permanent protection of Diamond Y Spring Preserve’s delicate natural system preserves a critical piece of Texas heritage and helps ensure the last of these rare species will survive another day.
To learn more about our conservation work, including other places we protect, visit nature.org/texas.May 13, 2011