Energy & Environment

Wildlife Refuge Expansion Will Provide Flooding Defense, Conservationists Say

The refuge acts as a natural barrier against hurricanes and storm surge.

The McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge is seen submerged by Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters in September 2017.

More than 8,100 acres of wetlands are being added to the McFaddin National Wildlife refuge near Beaumont, Texas. Conservationists said the expansion of the refuge will lead to a more storm-resilient Gulf Coast.

The wetlands, once part of the Sabine Ranch, are a natural buffer against hurricanes and storm surge. They're also a winter home for waterfowl and other birds, and the non-profit Conservation Fund said these lands absorbed an estimated 1.5 billion gallons of rain during Harvey.

"If that property were to have been converted to something else or not in wetlands, that water would have been additional water that would've ended up in adjacent cities like Port Arthur or Beaumont,” said Julie Shackelford, Texas Programs Director for the Fund. The group is hoping to raise enough money to add another 4,000 or so acres to the refuge in the future.

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