Mexico, many cottonwoods were cut down and cleared for agricultural practices, floodplain and river control projects, and urban and commercial development. Cottonwoods also face threats from invasive species, like the Russian Olive, and from further impacts by humans within the few unique and valuable areas in which the cottonwoods currently reside.
Cottonwoods play an important role in restoring the Refuge’s natural habitat. The Refuge focuses on returning the landscape back to what it would have look like before agricultural practices changed the land, plant, and wildlife species found on the property. To accomplish that goal, we will promote the growth and importance of native plants. These plants are a vital party of the ecosystem, and yet they are being lost at an alarming rate. Native plants are so important that removing them can have devastating chain reaction effects, such as we see with the decline of monarch butterflies after removal of native milkweed species. Native plants are vital for pollinators just as much as pollinators are vital for native plants.
When you visit the Refuge, you may notice crops growing in the fields and you may wonder why they have not been removed. The Refuge still allows farming on the fields, because farming will ensure the fields do not go fallow and that invasive or undesired species do not take over the habitat, which would further reduce the presence of native plant species.
Eventually, the advancement of restoration projects at the Refuge will mean the crops will give way to a vibrant, health, and growing community of cottonwoods and other native plants: a unique habitat which benefits numerous species of wildlife.