• from Borderlands Research Institute •
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has awarded a $250,000 grant to Sul Ross State University’s Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) for a grassland enhancement project in Marfa and Marathon.
The funds will be matched dollar for dollar by private sources, including funds from landowners and other fundraising dollars from BRI, doubling the impact of the grant.
The project will enhance 6,000 acres of grassland habitat in the Marfa Plateau and Marathon Basin adversely affected by invasive mesquite, creosote, tarbush, and whitethorn acacia. These invasive plants can dominate native rangelands, which negatively impact native wildlife, such as pronghorn and grassland birds.
Once the affected areas are treated, BRI researchers will monitor response to treatments and develop region-specific science-driven management recommendations. If results indicate positive long-term benefits to pronghorn and grasslands, then a landscape-level brush management program will be developed to improve the desert grassland health throughout the Trans-Pecos region of Texas.
“This project is an extension of our collaborative work to better understand and manage grassland habitats,” said Dr. Louis Harveson, the Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., BRI Endowed Director and professor of Wildlife Management at Sul Ross. “We appreciate NFWF’s support of our work with landowners to improve habitat for West Texas wildlife.”
The grant is funded through NFWF’s Pecos Watershed Conservation Initiative, which supports conservation projects in the Pecos River Watershed, extending from eastern New Mexico into West Texas and comprising a large portion of the energy-rich Permian Basin. The initiative identifies strategic conservation opportunities and works to enhance and restore the natural resources and wildlife habitat in the region.
“The grasslands of the Trans-Pecos region are an underappreciated biodiversity hotspot and unfortunately they have dwindled to a small percentage of what they once were in Texas,” said Chris West, director, Rocky Mountain regional office, NFWF. “NFWF and its partners in the Pecos Watershed Conservation Initiative are excited to support this project that will advance the conservation of wildlife and habitat by working with ranchers and biologists across the landscape.”
The Pecos Watershed Conservation Initiative is a partnership between NFWF, Anadarko Petroleum, Chevron, Noble Energy, Occidental Petroleum, Shell Oil Company, XTO Energy Inc., and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in New Mexico and Texas.
For more than a decade, BRI has encouraged effective land stewardship of the Chihuahuan Desert. Housed at Sul Ross, the Institute builds on a long-lasting partnership with private landowners, the University’s Range and Wildlife Program, and cooperating state, federal, and non-governmental organizations. Through research, education, and outreach, BRI is helping to conserve the last frontier of Texas and the Southwest.