Places We Protect

The Refugio-Goliad Prairie Project

Texas

Flat prairie under a gray, cloudy sky.
Refugio-Goliad Prairie The Refugio-Goliad Prairie Project contains one of the highest-quality expanses of native coastal tallgrass prairie in Texas. © Kenny Braun

Refugio-Goliad Prairie Project represents one of the largest and highest-quality coastal tallgrass prairie remnants in the state.

Song of the Prairie (6:07) Today less than 1% of Texas' coastal prairie remains intact. Such significant habitat loss has devastated many wildlife populations, like the critically endangered Attwater’s prairie chicken. Watch how we’re collaborating with landowners and ranchers to preserve grasslands and support this species.

Overview

Description

Texas’ coastal prairies once spanned more than 6 million acres, extending from southernmost Texas up along the Gulf of Mexico and into Louisiana. One early explorer of the region described the prairies as, “an unbroken, level, grassy plain…on which a few islands of trees and shrubs were scattered in irregular order.”

Refugio-Goliad Prairie spans 500,000 acres along the Gulf Coast between Houston and Corpus Christi in a triangle bounded by the towns of Victoria, Goliad and Refugio. This expanse represents one of the largest and highest-quality remnants of coastal tallgrass prairie remaining in Texas, which The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is working to protect and restore. Two major rivers—the San Antonio and the Guadalupe—flow through the prairie. Along with their tributaries, these rivers support floodplain forests, which are home to a diversity of ecologically important plant and animal life.

Large stands of live oak, pecan and bald cypress trees provide habitat for native mammals, upland game birds, waterfowl and migratory and resident songbirds. Some of Texas’ largest and oldest cattle ranching operations have long called the Refugio-Goliad Prairie home.

Access

CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC

Location

The Refugio-Goliad Prairie Project

Map with marker: A 500,000-acre expanse of one of the largest and highest-quality remnants of coastal tallgrass prairie remaining in Texas.

Explore our work in Texas

Two Attwater's prairie chickens stand in tallgrass.
GROUSE OF THE GRASSLANDS Although technically a grouse and not a chicken, the Attwater's prairie chicken is the most endangered bird in the state of Texas. © GaryKramer.net

Why This Place Matters

Once upon a time, hundreds of species of plants and animals thrived amid this expansive grassland, but today, less than 1% of this habitat remains. Such a significant loss of coastal prairie has devastated many wildlife populations, including the Attwater’s prairie chicken. As one of North America’s most endangered birds, only a few dozen Attwater’s prairie chickens remained in the wild by 2017. But during the 2021 spring count, populations were found to have reached a near 30-year high with estimates at around 178 birds—a testament to the success of the local conservation community's ongoing management efforts.  

Other rare species that have experienced decline along the Texas coast include the northern aplomado falcon, white-tailed hawk and Texas prairie dawn. However, places where these remnant prairies endure on a landscape-scale offer TNC and its partners an opportunity to restore and revitalize this imperiled habitat type and preserve the species that depend on it.

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Photos from Refugio-Goliad Prairie

Discover the diverse plant life and wildlife in this expansive coastal tallgrass prairie. Tag @nature_tx on Instagram with your photos when you visit.

A closeup of a male Attwater's prairie chicken with its feathered crown pointing upright and its round, bright orange air sac on its neck.
A closeup of a hand holding a brown patterned feather belonging to an Attwater's prairie chicken.
Bright green lily pads with lengthy yellow flowers float in tranquil, dark waters.
Two cowboys on horseback direct a herd of brown and white cattle.
An Attwater's prairie chicken sits on a branch against a sea of orange and brown tallgrass and prickly pear cactus.
Two female Attwater's prairie chickens explore the prairieland, pecking at the ground and tallgrass.
A closeup of five deep red flowers blooming in the sunlight.
Two TNC employees wearing baseball caps stand in a never-ending expanse of green prairie.
An Attwater's prairie chicken stands in tall green prairie grass with brown and white mottled feathers, a bright orange air sac on its neck, and a pointed feathered crown.
A herd of cattle of all different colors munch on browning prairie grass as a windmill turns against a blue sky dotted with cotton-like clouds.
Two men stand among green grass talking animatedly.
PARTNERS IN CONSERVATION TNC Texas staff chats with a landowner at Refugio-Goliad Prairie. Our work to restore the region would not be possible without the help of ranchers & other community members. © Kenny Braun

What TNC Is Doing

Within the Refugio-Goliad Prairie, many heritage ranching operations are helping the region remain one of the most productive grassland ecosystems in North America. Ranchers appreciate the importance of the native grasslands and have helped sustain them for generations. They also realize that conserving this important coastal prairie requires a concerted effort. Through collaborative private-lands projects, landowners are working with nonprofit conservation groups, including TNC, and state and federal natural resource agencies to maintain and enhance this vibrant prairie landscape. These partnerships provide opportunities to leverage conservation efforts in a broader landscape to produce tangible results.

While some coastal tallgrass prairie remains intact, these grasslands need careful management to thrive. As a result, the Coastal Prairie Conservation Initiative (CPCI) was formed in 1998 to restore habitat in the Refugio-Goliad Prairie and maintain the economic viability of agricultural lands. The partnership includes private landowners, the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) and TNC.

The Gulf Coast region historically depended on wildfire to maintain a careful ecological balance. Fire prevents brush and trees from overtaking a prairie, removes dead vegetation that prevents new growth and improves habitat for prairie birds, mammals and butterflies. TNC and others are using prescribed fire to restore the Refugio-Goliad Prairie, while working with ranchers through the CPCI, to help combat invasive species and develop compatible grazing and habitat management plans. Ultimately, TNC's conservation vision for the region includes partnering with and engaging local landowners to restore this coastal prairie habitat while helping species like the Attwater’s prairie chicken once again thrive here.

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Visit

  • Access

    TNC's Refugio-Golid Prairie Project is closed to the public. For more information, contact Coastal Prairies Project Director Kirk Feuerbacher (kfeuerbacher@TNC.ORGor stop by the Refugio-Goliad Prairie office: 3303 US Highway 59 North, Victoria, TX 77905.

    Refugio-Goliad Prairie office phone: 361-572-8711

  • Partners

    Our partners in this conservation area include local landowners, the Coastal Prairie Conservation Initiative (a partnership among private landowners), the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

  • Species

    Learn more about prairie chickens and TNC's work to protect these birds in other states!

  • Resources