Wetlands provide important habitat for the animals that use them. Believe it or not, this is even the case in semi-arid regions such as west Texas! The construction of new wetlands at Balmorhea State Park to benefit several species of conservation concern has been completed. This system was designed to provide high-quality habitat for two endangered fish and three rare invertebrates.
Reports state that water began flowing through the newly constructed ciénega in April, and there are now large numbers of juvenile Comanche Springs Pupfish and Pecos Gambusia as well as a suite of other aquatic life including frogs, softshell turtles and a wide variety of invertebrates. It sounds like this wildlife management practice will have ongoing benefits into the future for both native plants and animals of the park and region.
This wetland restoration project began with a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fund design and construction of the habitat. The new wetlands replaced a concrete-lined canal that was constructed in the early 1970s as a refuge for the endangered fish. The original refuge canal has deteriorated to the point that water seeping from the system was impacting the Civilian Conservation Corps-era San Solomon Courts.
The building of wetlands, however, was only part of the job. The overall project also corrected the surface grade around the courts to help protect them from water damaging the adobe walls. The grading work and landscaping, which included planting native plants around the wetlands, seeding native grass and installing buffalograss sod around the courts, was completed in June.
The project was a collaborative effort between Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Department of Transportation, Sul Ross State University, Tierra Grande Master Naturalists chapter, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Congratulations to all of these fine organizations for their continued involvement in beneficial habitat enhancement practices and wildlife management.