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Texas Refuges Hurricane Harvey Update

Whooping cranes at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas | Klaus Nigge/USFWS
Whooping cranes at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas | Klaus Nigge/USFWS

As Hurricane Harvey continues to pummel Southeast Texas, our thoughts are with everyone who find themselves in the storm’s path, especially U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) staff and Friends and volunteers of the refuges impacted. We are relieved to report that all FWS staff affected by the storm are safe and accounted for.

While the safety of FWS staff is indeed reassuring, unfortunately the prognosis for the coastal Texas wildlife refuges is not good. Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) found itself directly in the center of the storm’s path as it made landfall, and we have heard that “catastrophic” damage is expected. The Texas Mid-Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex (comprised of Brazoria, San Bernard, and Big Boggy NWRs), Texas Chenier Plain National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Anahuac, Moody, McFaddin, and Texas Point NWRs), and Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR are also believed to have suffered extensive damage.

Severe flooding has prevented any access to the refuges up until now, although according to the latest reports the FWS will attempt to venture out to the refuges tomorrow morning and begin assessing the damage.

The anticipated destruction at Aransas NWR is especially worrying due to the refuge’s critical role as the wintering grounds for the only natural migratory population of the highly endangered whooping crane. The birds typically arrive at the refuge in October, and once the full extent of the damage to Aransas NWR is known the FWS will be under enormous pressure to ensure the refuge habitat is restored in time.

While refuges in Texas certainly have received the brunt of the storm’s impact, we are also closely monitoring the situation of refuges in nearby Louisiana. So far, no major damage has been reported.

We will continue to provide updates on the status of the affected national wildlife refuges as we learn more information.

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/2017/08/texas-refuges-hurricane-harvey-update/

2 comments

  1. Carol B Popelka says:

    Thanks so much for the update, especially on Aransas. I volunteer with Operation Migration and have for years talked about the need to ensure the safety of the whoopers in the event of a disaster at Aransas. Sadly, worst fears seem to have come true. Here’s hoping the Refuge will be able to sustain its wildlife going forward.

  2. Kimi Fitzhugh says:

    Good news that all staff at safe. Please keep updates posted on all the Refuges affected by Harvey. If volunteers are needed, please post phone number or email for logistics. David and Kimi Fitzhugh, Friends of Tennessee NWR board member.

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