Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


 Sonja Sommerfeld | TPWD


Laguna Atascosa Refuge Expands Acreage

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed a land acquisition of 3,500 acres of former farmland this year for Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge — the latest tract the agency has added to the South Texas refuge as part of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement.

Since the oil spill in 2010, the refuge has grown by about 15,000 acres through a succession of acquisitions large and small, including sales of land that had been passed down through family generations. The refuge hopes one day to complete a coastal corridor, a stretch of conserved land stretching from the refuge to the border.

The wildlife refuge was not directly affected by the oil spill, but Texas has been able to use settlement funds for various coastal restoration projects.

The 110,000-acre refuge is home to the highly endangered ocelot and also hosts the Aplomado falcon, a fast-flying raptor that thrives in grasslands ranging from South Texas into South America. The refuge is a stop for migrating waterfowl, too. Ducks Unlimited estimates that as many as 250,000 migratory waterfowl stop there annually, including pintails, teals, snow geese, redheads and more.

Separate from the oil spill deals, nearly 6,300 acres on South Padre Island were acquired for the refuge in 2019. The preserved wildlife habitat protects sea turtle nesting areas and ranges from beaches along the Gulf of Mexico to vegetated dunes and tidal flats adjacent to the Laguna Madre.

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