Riverbend to become first Nature Preserve; Las Palmas to become first Birding Sanctuary;
Recognizes decades of effort by RGISC, Monte Mucho Audubon Society, and thousands of volunteers to preserve and protect these natural areas
LAREDO, TX - Two scenic spots that hug the banks of the river near downtown Laredo will now be recognized for their visits by the rare Amazon Kingfisher and countless neotropical birds, and for serving as a critical wildlife corridor for endangered species like the ocelot and Inland Least Tern.
On Monday night, the Laredo CIty Council voted unanimously to establish these two stunning locations as the city’s first natural landmarks: the Riverbend now becomes the city’s first Nature Preserve while Las Palmas Nature Trail becomes its first Birding Sanctuary.
Council member Alyssa Cigarroa, Dist. 8, who led the motion, said that “our city's unique proximity to the river should be embraced as an ecotourism opportunity—to protect our Rio Grande, conserve its environment, and share the beauty of its wildlife for generations to come."
Cigarroa said that she hopes this will be the first of “many natural landmarks” for Laredo” and pledged to support future efforts by community advocates and environmental experts.
Amede Rubio, PhD, TAMIU assistant professor of biology who serves on the RGISC Advisory Board, called the move “a giant step forward” by the City of Laredo for choosing “to invest in our cherished natural resources.”
“This marks the beginning of a community taking ownership of their ecological identity,” said Dr. Rubio who has conducted ecological research along the river for the past 14 years.
“With this decision comes the task of conservation and restoration of our precious riparian corridor and associated watershed towards a more diverse and functional state,” Rubio said. “Although the task won’t be easy, we must continue to build on today’s victory for our precious landscape and no longer remain the forgotten reach of this river system.”
Tom Miller, former director of the Lamar Bruni Vergara Environmental Science Center at Laredo College and active member of the Monte Mucho Audubon Society, commented further.
“We congratulate the City for recognizing two decades of work by thousands of volunteers and their own efforts to shepherd millions of dollars into these special areas, a designation most certainly overdue but also well deserved,” Miller said. “Rarities of bird and other wildlife have brought nature lovers and researchers from across the continent who now recognize what an important location Laredo has along its truly great Rio Grande.”
Miller said that the challenge now will be to budget maintenance funds and labor, marshal volunteers to work and share this area with others, establish best practices to enhance ecotourism and above all, “to work closely with Homeland Security and Border Patrol to protect these naturals gems from any further degradation.”
Melissa R. Cigarroa, president of the RGISC Board of Directors, agreed and offered a stark contrast between Council’s actions and competing federal interests that have sought to remove public access to these locations and instead destroy them for a border wall.
“City Council’s designations of these ecological treasures as our first nature preserve and first birding sanctuary puts in stark relief exactly what the destructive border wall project would have cost our City,” Cigarroa said.
“The wall would have not only denied Laredoans access to the riverside vega but destroyed these natural wonders into dust,” she said. “These places are why Laredo can never accept false security narratives that threaten our city’s vitality and natural resources. With this vote, City Council creates a roadmap for Laredo’s nascent ecotourism industry.”
Cigarroa thanked RGISC’s partners and city staff for this long-awaited moment, including the Monte Mucho Audubon Society, John Porter with the City’s Environmental Services Department, Tom Miller, and Council member Alyssa Cigarroa, “and for pushing this item to the finish line.”