At first glance, the aquatic system at The Nature Conservancy’s Diamond Y Spring Preserve doesn’t appear to be much more than a small creek, deep pool and desert cienega, or marshland, in the middle of sparse and arid grasslands. The truth, however, is much more complex—the rarity of this desert spring habitat and the species it supports make this freshwater marsh one of West Texas’ most extraordinary natural treasures.
At roughly 4,000 acres, Diamond Y Spring Preserve protects one of the largest and last remaining cienega systems in West Texas. It also provides critically important habitat for an assortment of globally rare and uncommon plants and invertebrates, as well as seven federally endangered or threatened species, including the Gonzalez springsnail and five species named for surrounding Pecos County: the Pecos gambusia, amphipod, sunflower and assiminea. Diamond Y also provides the only remaining natural habitat for the Leon Springs pupfish.
The Conservancy purchased the land from prominent Pecos County rancher M. R. Gonzalez, who was motivated to protect the pupfish, Pecos gambusia and the Pecos sunflower. The acquisition was an important first step in minimizing the myriad threats to this vital aquatic system, such as potential subdivision, runoff and soil contamination from various sources, including regional oil and gas production. Working with a range of partners, including the Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lehigh University, the U.S. Geological Survey and Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, the Conservancy has created an extensive water monitoring program to track freshwater springflows, water quality, and the health of the pupfish and other species.
Strong science and collaborative action will help ensure Diamond Y Spring Preserve continues to shine as a proven conservation model for this delicate desert ecosystem.