The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has awarded a third six-figure grant to the 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 dollars raised by BRI, doubling the impact of the grant. The recently approved $250,000 grant was preceded by two similar grants in 2018 and 2019.

This year’s project will continue brush management activities in the Marfa and Marathon grasslands of West Texas to improve grassland health and provide habitat for pronghorn and migratory grassland birds. Brush management will be conducted on 5,000 acres of brush-invaded grassland. Once the affected areas are treated, BRI researchers will monitor response to treatments and develop region-specific science-driven management recommendations.

“Our work to restore grasslands in the Marfa Plateau and Marathon Basin is critical for improving habitats for pronghorn, wintering grassland birds, and other grassland-dependent species,” said Dr. Louis Harveson, who is the Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., BRI Endowed Director and Regents’ Professor of Wildlife Management at Sul Ross State University. “We are grateful that NFWF and their industry partners have made a significant commitment to the conservation of the borderlands region, and we are also thankful to the private landowners who are facilitating this important research.”

Restoring grassland habitat involves changing the vegetation community from brush-dominated communities to open grasslands with higher diversity and quantity of grasses and forbs. Improving the health of the grassland ecosystem will help pronghorn and grassland birds. In addition, there are other expected benefits such as higher water infiltration and reduction of soil erosion, which will benefit many more wildlife species.

“Healthy ecosystems are the backbone of any successful wildlife management practice and these research projects will provide the information necessary to making informed land management recommendations,” said Dr. Carlos (Lalo) Gonzalez, who is Assistant Professor of Natural Resource Management and the Nau Endowed Professor in Habitat Research and Management at BRI. “We’re hoping we will have some results to share with land managers through graduate research projects that are currently underway, which will be completed later this year.”

The grant is funded through NFWF’s Pecos Watershed Conservation Initiative, which supports conservation projects in the Pecos River Watershed, an area that extends from eastern New Mexico into West Texas and comprises 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 Pecos Watershed Conservation Initiative is a partnership between NFWF, Apache Corporation, Chevron, Marathon Oil, 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.