The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Monday, July 16, 2001

This Special Place
Carol Cullar, Eagle Pass News Guide, July 16, 2001 © 2001, 2003
executive director Rio Bravo Nature Center Foundation, Inc.

Birds? Bats? Snakes? Frogs? Mountain lions and bobcats, javelina and hornytoads! Oh, my! What do we have here? What creatures besides people share this corner of Southwest Texas with us? And what makes this place, our little bit of earth, so special?

Maverick County and this surrounding region of Texas Brush Country belong to a larger area that shares the same climate, geography, plants, and animals. This sharing of similar lifeforms is called a biosphere. Our particular region, the Tamaulipan Biotic Province, consists of two subdivisions: the Tamaulipan matorral (higher forested regions in Mexico) and the Tamaulipan mesquital, which include South and Southwest Texas and Northeastern Mexico.

This biosphere, consisting of some 54,600 square miles, is the size of Illinois. This marvelously important region is home to more than 600 vertebrate species. More than 485 of those species are birds. There are in excess of 1,100 species of plants. Of the 423 species of butterflies in the state of Texas, more than two thirds of them are in the Tamaulipan Biotic Province.

In the Audubon Sabal Palm Grove, more than 900 species of beetles alone have been identified. Located in the far northwest corner of this region Maverick County isn't necessarily home to all the same species found along the Coast, but still thrives with varied plants and animals

This Tamaulipan Biotic Province is the most biodiverse in all of North America AND the most threatened.

Just within the last 30 years this region has undergone vast environmental change. Some of those changes are not caused by humans; most of them are. Humans cannot be blamed for the drought. All the other drastic changes in the region are the result of human influx into what was once a vast thicket of xeric [adapted to very dry habitat] vegetation fed by the fifth longest river in the U. S.

The Rio Grande continues to support these diverse species of animals and birds, but the last 30 years have in the name of progress and agriculture seen extreme changes to this already dry habitat: water diversion; flood control; brushland clearing; population growth; agricultural growth; contamination of water and soil with pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers; removal of carrizo from riverbanks, and more recently the proliferation of factories dumping pollutants into the river.

Habitats for the ocelot and jaguarundi, as well as other threatened and rare species, have been reduced to small isolated islands of brush along streams and rivers. When this chaparral thicket is broken into non-contiguous pockets of brush, it is no longer usable as a migratory corridor for many species. At some point the expansion of human habitation begins to irrevocably damage the irreplaceable habitat of our fellow species.

What's to be done? Whose problem is this? In whose hands lie the solution? Can these issues be left strictly in the laps of large land owners and agriculturists? Local governments?

Is there one single factor that will make the biggest difference for the good of man and beast throughout this region?

Is there anything that I can do as an individual to assure that this precious place and all its inhabitants in all their richness and biodiversity will be here for my children and their children?

The answer is “yes.” And that answer is education, awareness, and involvement. Become aware of what is being done in your area to protect threatened species. Can you name and identify the threatened species inhabiting Maverick County? Are your children being taught to identify all the plants and animals in this region? What are the state laws concerning the protection of songbirds and bats? Are you aware of the status of the Rio Grande? What is its future? Get involved in recycling and water conservation. Become a participant in the efforts to preserve our native plants and animals.


At 1:38 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Are horny toads still extinct? I live in Oklahoma and our childhood memories of having horny toads as pets as children in Colorado springs has been rekindled the last three years as one of our family homes is "horny toad haven" I just want to know if they are still extinct. Thank you. Beth

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