Resting on the banks of the Rio Grande, marking the border between Mexico and the United States, South Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Refuge has become a vital, biodiverse haven for many insects, animals and native plants. Its complex ecosystem supports 1,200 varieties of native plants, 300 butterfly species, 417 species of birds, 44 reptile species and 45 different mammals, amongst them, the rarely spotted ocelot.
Much of the land was once used to grow crops and raise livestock but, as a consequence, has severely degraded over time. In the years since, this degraded land has come under the protection of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), who have taken active measures to restore this area for the benefit of its animal constituents.
The Refuge’s biodiversity is immense. Forming part of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, a network of wildlife viewing sites throughout the Texas coastal regions, which has become an attractive destination for the nature-loving public. With less than 40 ocelots left in the US, Land Life Company is excited to be working alongside the USFWS towards the cultivation of this beautiful big cat’s native habitat.
Prior to Land Life Company’s involvement, the USFWS’ 1- year goal for reforestation efforts was set at 350 hectares. Since we started work in the region two years ago, we have already helped restore 265 hectares. On average previous reforestation efforts observed a 30% survival rate with certain instances marking rates as low as 6% due to the harsh conditions. Introducing new designs and planting approaches, we have had a preliminary survival rate of more than 85%, far surpassing the 75% we initially expected.
Land Life Company has managed to achieve such exceptional results because of our innovative, technology-based approach. Using a combination of drone and satellite technologies we are able to map out a planting approach tailored to the area’s specific geographic conditions, raising seedlings that will be able to withstand its dry summers and low precipitation.
Thus far, the project has generated over 100 work for youth volunteers, indicating the community’s palpable enthusiasm for this area’s conservation. Our project has also received massive support from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), whose graduate students use the site for research and monitor the project’s performance.
Together with UTRGV a new seedlings’ nursery will be set up. In the first year, this nursery will have a production capacity of 100 thousand seedlings, with scaling potential to 1M plants over the next 5 years. Land Life Company looks forward to continue working alongside our partners – the USFWS, the UTRGV and a growing community of youth volunteers via American Conservation Crews – towards the reforestation of this biodiverse native ecosystem.