Gulf of Mexico
National Park Service - Sea Turtle Hatchling Release - Padre Island National Seashore (U.S. National Park Service)

South Padre conservation purchase to protect sea turtle habitat - 6,270 acres of rolling, cream-colored dunes acquired

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — The Nature Conservancy is acquiring nearly 6,270 acres of rolling, cream-colored dunes, criss-crossed with low vegetation and pocketed with pristine tidal flats on South Padre Island, where critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles crawl ashore each spring to lay eggs.

The span of windswept coastal prairies stretches across the island, from the Gulf beach to the Laguna Madre.

The announcement comes just as researchers ready for nesting season, which begins in April and runs through July. The land, in three separate but nearby parcels, is located about 4.5 miles from the end of the main access road north of the city of South Padre Island. The nearly $16-million purchase is described as the largest conservation effort on the island since the Nature Conservancy bought 25,000 acres there in 2000.

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The purchase won’t change the public’s access to the 2.2 miles of beachfront included in the deal — visitors can still hike, camp, fish, swim and drive along the beach — but it will protect the land from development. Like the 2000 purchase, the new property will become part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s adjacent Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

The first phase of the transaction closed Thursday; the second will close this fall. Funding comes from more than $10.5 million in grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, plus $5.4 million from the Natural Resource Damage Assessment settlement from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The settlement is managed in Texas by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas General Land Office and federal agencies.

The span of windswept coastal prairies stretches across the island, from the Gulf beach to the Laguna Madre.

The announcement comes just as researchers ready for nesting season, which begins in April and runs through July. The land, in three separate but nearby parcels, is located about 4.5 miles from the end of the main access road north of the city of South Padre Island. The nearly $16-million purchase is described as the largest conservation effort on the island since the Nature Conservancy bought 25,000 acres there in 2000.

Get the latest travel recommendations from fellow Austinites. Click here to subscribe to our free newsletter

The purchase won’t change the public’s access to the 2.2 miles of beachfront included in the deal — visitors can still hike, camp, fish, swim and drive along the beach — but it will protect the land from development. Like the 2000 purchase, the new property will become part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s adjacent Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

The first phase of the transaction closed Thursday; the second will close this fall. Funding comes from more than $10.5 million in grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, plus $5.4 million from the Natural Resource Damage Assessment settlement from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The settlement is managed in Texas by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas General Land Office and federal agencies.

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