HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge has a new manager. Brandon Jones is thrilled to take over the helm of the largest tract of public lands in South Texas.
“I am excited to be here. It is a fantastic refuge. It really is. It is very unique,” said Jones.
The 113,000-acre refuge was established in 1947 initially to protect waterfowl and has expanded to include Bahia Grande and tracts on South Padre Island.
Jones said, “80 percent of continental redheads, which is a type of diving duck winter here, and I remember reading that as a kid, when I was reading books about it and talking about Laguna Atascosa…so, when it came open I said man that would be an awesome place to check out and explore and so far it hasn’t disappointed.”
While expanding wetlands for waterfowl will be a top priority, another goal will be enhancing and increasing native thorn scrub habitat for endangered ocelots and other wildlife.
“A lot of exciting projects are in the hopper. We are just waiting on some budget numbers to come thru. Everything is ready to go. So, if the funding comes down the pipe we will be able to hit the go button and start doing some of this stuff,” said Jones.
Completion of the Steve Thompson Wildlife Drive for vehicular access and opening Bahia Grande for hiking and biking are also priorities.
Jones added, “I hope by the end of this calendar year, we will be able to at least get the plans done, approved, and out for public review and comment, and hopefully by this time next year for sure it will be open to the public for recreational use.”