WHARTON COUNTYTexas  (KIAH) – The Texas San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge added almost 5,000 Acres of Coastal Bottomlands Forest on the Texas Coast. The refuge, home to some of the only forested wetlands adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, gained 4,628 acres of Columbia Bottomlands habitat.

The new land will be known as the McNeill-Peach Creek Unit, is the largest contiguous “old-growth” forest tract remaining in the Columbia Bottomlands that had not yet been conserved. It is also the first refuge tract in Wharton County.

The opportunity to conserve nearly 5,000 acres of Columbia Bottomlands habitat is unprecedented. We are grateful for The Nature Conservancy and other partners who helped us acquire this unique tract, which has been a priority since the Austin`s Woods Land Protection Plan was approved in 1997.

Amy Lueders, Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

In addition to being a major migratory stopover and resting area for Nearctic-Neotropical migratory birds, Columbia Bottomlands habitats support resident reptiles, amphibians and mammals like swamp rabbits, white-tailed deer, red-eared slider turtles, and wood ducks.

“The newly acquired tract safeguards critical plant and wildlife habitat in a region that is rapidly developing,” said Suzanne Scott, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Texas. “The Nature Conservancy is pleased to continue its role in collaborative partnerships within the Columbia Bottomlands and protect additional old-growth forests and wetlands.”

San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1968 to provide wintering habitat for migratory waterfowl and other bird species. Because of its significance to waterfowl and migrating birds, the refuge was designated an Internationally Significant Shorebird Site by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.

While managed for the benefit of wildlife, the nearly 70,000-acre refuge is also a place for people to enjoy nature and the outdoors through wildlife watching, photography, hunting, fishing, and environmental education programs.

To learn more, visit https://www.fws.gov/refuge/san_bernard/.