TEXAS GEMS - Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
Anahuac NWR is a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior
Date Site Established: February 27 1963
Date When Information Last Updated: N/A
Location: Texas, Chambers and Galveston counties, 29?, 36’, 50”N 094?, 32’W
Relative Size: Areal extent of site 34,296 acres
Area of Influence: Galveston Bay, Trinity River and San Jacinto River watersheds
Ecological and Cultural Characteristics
Coastal marsh (fresh, intermediate, brackish and saline), coastal prairie (non-saline and saline), and coastal woodlands
Bald Eagle (T), Brown Pelican (E), Piping Plover (T)
In addition, several State-listed T&E species and Federal and State Species of Conservation Concern occur on the Anahuac NWR.
Wetland habitats provide important wintering and migration stopover habitat for migratory birds including Central Flyway waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds and marsh and waterbirds. Upland habitats including prairie and woodlands are important to many neotropical/nearctic and temperate landbirds, including several sensitive/declining species. The mottled duck is an important resident waterfowl species for which the refuge provides habitat year-round for nesting, brood-rearing, molting and wintering.
Coastal marshes serve as nursery areas for many important commercial and recreational fish and shellfish species including white and brown shrimp, blue crab, red drum, flounder and speckled sea trout.
Tidal marshes are important foraging habitats for many important commercial and recreational Gulf of Mexico fish and shellfish species.
Refuge habitats provide important wintering and migration stop-over habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, marsh and waterbirds, and neotropical/nearctic and temperate landbirds.
Anahuac NWR is comprised primarily low-lying coastal marsh lying below the 5 foot above MSL contour, dissected by three main bayous and associated tidal cuts and streams. Biogeographically, the Refuge is located within the Chenier Plain region of southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas. The Refuge’s southern boundary consists of nearly 7 miles of Galveston Bay shoreline.
Coastal marsh habitats provide important functions of improving water quality in the Galveston Bay estuarine ecosystem, providing flood control benefits, and buffering inland habitats from tropical storm-generated tidal surges. In addition, marshes are extremely biologically productive and diverse and provide detrital input to Galveston Bay, which is the basis for the estuarine food chain.
Uniqueness of Natural Community:
Refuge lands are in conservation status in perpetuity. As examples of the exceptional biological diversity found on the refuge, over 280 avian species and over 500 plant species have been documented.
Archaeological and Cultural Significance:
The refuge contains several shell middens of Paleo-Indian origin.
Current and Potential Use of the Site
Existing or Potential Educational Use:
The refuge’s formal environmental education program serves over 1,200 students on-site annually. In addition, several thousand visitors receive informal education as part of staff or volunteer-guided tours and nature walks, interaction with staff and volunteers at the Visitor Information Station, and special events. Interpretive signs and displays found throughout the Refuge interpret habitats, fish and wildlife, and management activities. Special education events include an annual Fishing Day (National Fishing and Boating Week celebration) and the annual Youth Waterfowl Expo. Researchers from academia (often as part of graduate studies) and the scientific community regularly conduct special ecological, geological and hydrological studies on the refuge.
Annual visitation to the Anahuac NWR exceeds 72,000 visitors. Uses include:
Wildlife observation and photography
Recreational fishing and crabbing
Hiking, canoeing and kayaking
Controlled livestock grazing
Cooperative rice farming
Oil and gas production
The general public enjoys recreational uses described above.
Commercial uses are administered under Special Use Permit. All commercial activities are administered as management tools, with the exception of oil and gas production. Private third-party interests hold mineral rights underlying the Refuge, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must allow reasonable access to valid leaseholders to explore for and develop these minerals.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Interior
Andy Loranger, Refuge Complex Project Leader
Site is a National Wildlife Refuge, a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Anahuac NWR is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with
a primary establishment purpose of protecting and managing habitat
Management is also aimed at conserving native biological diversity
and ecosystem functions, while providing the general public with
recreational and educational opportunities and the scientific
community with research opportunities.
Water level and salinity management, exotic/invasive species control, prescribed burning, controlled livestock grazing, cooperative rice farming, moist soil management, and restoration of native habitats (wetlands, prairie, and woodlands) are among habitat management activities employed. Biological program activities include systematic surveys of fish, wildlife and plant resources and special studies and research.
Existing Monitoring Activities:
The Refuge is currently owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Interior.
Management needs (conservation, monitoring and research) on the Refuge are met through implementation of habitat management, habitat restoration, and biological programs by refuge staff and through partnerships with a variety of local, state, and federal agencies, organizations, academia, industry and the general public.
Threats to Ecological Integrity:
Relative sea level rise (eustatic sea level rise plus land subsidence) is a major threat and is resulting in land loss through shoreline erosion (shoreline retreat) and conversion of emergent marshes to open water (excessive inundation/submergence). Hydrological alterations have decreased freshwater and sediment inflows and increased saltwater intrusion to coastal marshes, resulting in loss of the historically coastal freshwater wetlands while converting the marsh system to a more brackish regime. This has resulted in a loss of native biological diversity and productivity. Loss of freshwater inflows to Galveston Bay due to future upstream water demands (reservoir construction, water diversions) and increasing saltwater intrusion as navigation channels are deepened and widened pose significant near term threats. Exotic/invasive species including Chinese tallow, Giant Salvinia, and water hyacinth pose significant threats to native habitats and fish and wildlife. Threats from environmental contaminants include affects to aquatic resources from accidental spills of petroleum and petrochemical products in Galveston Bay or the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and point and non-point source pollution (organochlorine compounds, excessive nutrients, heavy metals, sediments, solid waste) from upstream sources.
Addressing coastal land loss/erosion through ongoing erosion abatement projects and studies is currently a major focus of state and federal agencies with coastal management responsibilities, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Refuge is being actively managed to conserve the historic continuum of fresh to saline coastal marsh habitats by managing salinities, water levels and providing freshwater inflows where feasible. New research and studies are also focusing on developing management actions to promote vertical accretion of marsh surface elevations to keep up with the rate of relative sea level rise. Shoreline erosion abatement projects, which combine restoration of emergent marshes with rock breakwater and/or oyster reef construction are being implemented. The refuge’s Integrated Pest Management program is implemented to control and monitor exotic/invasive species. Spill contingency plans are in place and coordinated with local, State and Federal spill response agencies, and contaminants monitoring is periodically conducted in refuge waters, soils and fish and wildlife.
Sources of Information