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Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge gets federal support to expand

Sandhill cranes gather at Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge.
Wyman Meinzer
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Sandhill cranes gather at Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge.

Four National Wildlife Refuges across the country now have support from the federal government to expand, and Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge, which spans across the Texas-New Mexico border, is one of them.

That’s good news for the sandhill crane and lesser prairie-chicken.

Jude Smith heads the expansion at the Muleshoe and said that even though it has been around for almost a century, it has had few opportunities to expand in that time. That is because the boundary set by the federal government limited potential growth.

“We were turning down potential conservation endeavors that we could put on the ground for wildlife and wetlands,” Smith said.

The new plan from the Department of the Interior allows for the refuge to expand up to 700,000 acres in the Southern High Plains of West Texas and Eastern New Mexico. The protected area is home to many sandhill cranes, pronghorn antelope and lesser prairie-chickens.

Smith said the process is still tricky – landowners can back out of a sale pretty much at any time.

The money for expansion comes from funds that rely on duck stamps and leases on federal land.

“So the funds are there, but the competition and learning how to get everything into the system is going to be the hardest part,” Smith said.

He also said grasslands are fairly inexpensive to manage.

This land is part of the more than 700 million acres of Central Grasslands that span from Canada to Mexico, but have mostly been lost.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners. 

Megan Myscofski was a reporter with KUNM's Poverty and Public Health Project.
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