South Padre Island Preserve

Padre Island is a recreation destination known to beach-lovers and anglers far and wide.

The Conservancy announced on June 28, 2007 that it has donated its 1,500-acre South Padre Island Preserve to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for inclusion in the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. The preserve, on the northern end of South Padre Island adjacent to the Mansfield Channel, provides habitat for rare species including Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, peregrine falcons, piping plovers and brown pelicans. Learn more about why we’re making this donation.

Padre Island is a recreation destination known to beach-lovers and anglers far and wide. One of the longest and least developed barrier islands in the world, it provides habitat for 17 animal species of national or statewide conservation concern. The Laguna Madre, sheltered between the island and the mainland, is one of only five hypersaline lagoons in the world and provides internationally significant habitat for birds, mammals and fish, important to both commercial and recreational fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

What to See: Plants

Five rare plant species are known from Padre Island. They are Cory’s croton, Padre Island dropseed, Texas grass, velvet spurge and Texas sea purslane.

What to See: Animals

Beaches provide nesting habitat for the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the most endangered sea turtle in the world, as well as for loggerhead and green sea turtles. Endangered piping plovers, as well as snowy plovers, reddish egrets, roseate spoonbills, brown pelicans and other birds depend on the island’s tidally influenced sand and mud flats, beaches and dunes. The Texas pocket gopher and keeled earless lizard can also be found here.

This is the world’s most important staging area for rare peregrine falcons in migration. Inshore, the Laguna Madre is the winter home to 80 percent of the Earth’s redhead ducks along with many other wintering waterfowl. The Laguna Madre provides breeding grounds for tremendous numbers of shrimp, crabs and finfish, including black drum, speckled sea trout and redfish.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site  

Padre Island and South Padre Island, the Laguna Madre and the mainland inshore are a haven for a broad diversity of animals, birds and fish, many of them rare. The area provides habitat for 17 species listed as endangered or threatened.

The Nature Conservancy of Texas purchased 24,532 acres on South Padre Island in 2000 from Terrabrook, a national real estate company, in order to conserve one of Texas’ most pristine natural treasures. Once a part of the historic ranches of South Texas, South Padre Island has become a destination for tourists and anglers. Threats to the island’s ecology include increasing pressure and fragmentation from resort development, excessive off-road vehicle use, beach erosion, loss of native plant cover on dunes, and declining water quality conditions in the adjacent Laguna Madre.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

In 2003, the Conservancy conveyed about 23,000 acres of its original land purchase to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for inclusion in Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, with the Conservancy retaining approximately 1,500 acres as a nature preserve to be used for research. Recently, the Conservancy donated this preserve land to the Fish and Wildlife service as well, so it also can be added to the national wildlife refuge. Conservancy scientists and conservation professionals believe the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the best organization to provide the services and personnel needed to protect this critical wildlife habitat.


On the northern end of South Padre Island, the property is bordered on the north by the Mansfield Channel in Willacy County and includes much of the land stretching southward into Cameron County to a point about 10 miles north of the city of South Padre Island. The Padre Island National Seashore is located just north of the preserve across the Mansfield Ship Channel.

Download Fact Sheet

Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes Ecoregion (PDF)


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