In the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Texas received more than $700 million in restoration funding as part of the RESTORE Act, which directs all fines and penalties resulting from the spill to affected Gulf states. Since its passage in 2012, The Nature Conservancy has analyzed dozens of Gulf Coast restoration plans and worked to ensure the work included in them has a positive and lasting impact on estuaries, watersheds, salt marshes, oyster reefs and barrier beaches—natural features that provide critical habitat to a range of species and help protect coastal communities in the face of rising sea levels and natural disasters.
Enter the Bahia Grande, a large wetland at the southernmost tip of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley. Part of the larger Laguna Madre region, Bahia Grande is one of the most biologically diverse areas in Texas—and one of its most imperiled.
Video: Reconnecting the Bahia Grande
This video highlights the beauty and importance of this special place.
A RESTORE Act First
Working with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Conservancy secured 2,129 acres within the Bahia Grande coastal corridor, at the southernmost tip of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley. It was the first land protection deal in Texas funded by the RESTORE Act, and is also supported by the Knobloch Family Foundation.
The Big Bay
The acreage stretches across the upper end of the Bahia Grande, or Big Bay, and features a mosaic of coastal wetlands, native prairies and brush. The region ranks as one of the highest priority conservation areas in Texas.
A Diversity Hotspot
This area of South Texas provides critical habitat for 1,200 plant species, more than 530 species of birds, more than 300 North American butterfly species, and 17 threatened or endangered species.
100,000 Acres Protected
These newly-protected tracts are critical to restoring Bahia Grande’s extensive tidal bay system; they will anchor a 7,000-acre wildlife corridor that links the Laguna Madre to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. This passageway will benefit a range of wildlife, including the aplomado falcon and the region's nascent ocelot population. It forms the missing piece of a contiguous stretch of more than 100,000 acres of protected land.
Working With Landowners
This type of undeveloped land has become increasingly rare in the Rio Grande Valley, the fifth largest metropolitan area in the state. The Conservancy worked closely with private landowners in South Texas, whose working farms and ranch lands comprise more than three-quarters of this valuable landscape. Some of these families have lived on and worked this land for generations and are committed to ensuring it remains intact and unspoiled.
Safeguarding Texas' Gulf Coast
All 2,129 acres will eventually be incorporated into the adjacent Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and become a valuable link in a chain of public lands and conservation easement properties throughout the Lower River Grande Valley and southern Texas Gulf Coast. Portions of the properties will eventually be open for recreational access for activities like hiking, fishing, birding and hunting.