Cameron County is also home to many other national treasures, including the Palo Alto National Battlefield Historic Park, the South Texas Refuge Complex and the South Padre Island National Seashore. Yet the valley grapples with high poverty rates and a struggling economy, and many communities are looking to nature as a catalyst for economic vitality.

Our Vision

To help boost the County’s nature-based economy, the county turned to The Conservation Fund to develop a Green Infrastructure Vision that will support the enhancement of ecotourism and economic vitality in the Lower Rio Grande Valley through a coordinated strategy that supports investments in natural and cultural resource protection and tourism infrastructure.

In developing the Vision, we worked with local stakeholders to map out a unified approach for attracting people who want to enjoy the outdoors in different ways. The result is a framework for connecting bike trails, national wildlife refuges, state parks, historic sites, kayaking trails, bird watching trails and places to fish. It complements a larger plan to connect recreational trails throughout the Rio Grande Valley and will expand and enhance the region’s $463 million nature-based tourism industry.


Together, we’ve already started making this vision a reality. We recently protected three properties totaling 3,700 acres at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. The land includes more than 4 miles of shoreline along the Laguna Madre, one of only six hypersaline lagoons worldwide and a significant resource for migrating and wintering shorebirds. Since 1999 we’ve protected nearly 30,000 acres at the refuge, home to the endangered ocelot and aplomado falcon and more bird species than any other national wildlife refuge. In addition, donations from the Fund’s business partners have planted more than 365,000 native trees and restored more than 450 acres of habitat at the refuge.

Why This Project Matters      

Across the Rio Grande Valley, we’ve protected nearly 40,000 acres at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Roma Historic District and conservation easements on private lands. The Lower Rio Grande Valley is one of the most biologically diverse regions in North America, but it’s losing ground—literally. Since the 1930s, 95 percent of the native habitat found within the valley has been cleared for agricultural and urban development. This strategic conservation plan becomes even more important as the region continues to grow, and we hope to expand this Vision to the entire Lower Rio Grande Valley.