Refugio County has a track record of commitment to conservation and environmental issues. Most notable are the Fennessey Ranch, recent inclusion of part of Refugio County in an NERR program, and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
The Fennessey Ranch is part of a legendary 750,000 acre Texas land empire that has remained in the same family for 171 years. The ranch consists of 4,000 acres of abundant wetlands, meadows, natural lakes, riparian woods and brush land and bordered on three sides by the Mission River. The Fennessey is located in the heart of the Central Flyway along a region of the Texas coastline known as the "Coastal Bend." The Fennessey has opened its gates for a wide array of unique recreational opportunities including the following:
- World Class Birding
- Customized trips
- Texas Hunting
- Photography opportunities
- Nature tours
Fennessey Ranch is proud to be a part of Mission-Aransas NERR, the newest and third largest of the NERR programs which aims to promote the sustainable use of the nation’s coasts and oceans through scientific research, education and coastal stewardship. The reserve is also unique in that it is the first in Texas — and the Western Gulf of Mexico for that matter.
As the first reserve in the western Gulf of Mexico, Mission-Aransas adds significant value to the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and broadens the opportunities to study, understand and manage America's coastal ecosystems. The reserve will attract scientists and students from across the nation to study at the site, including up to two national graduate research fellows funded annually by NOAA. NERR designation provides access to federal funding for research and education programs, environmental monitoring and science-based training programs for coastal managers and decision-makers.
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is located in the far eastern part of Refugio County and is one of over 545 National Wildlife Refuges spanning the United States and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the only national system of lands dedicated to conserving our wildlife heritage for today and generations yet to come.
Aransas NWR was originally established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937 as a “refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife…”, “…for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds…” and to conserve (A) fish or wildlife which are listed as endangered species or threatened species…or (B) plants”.
The Refuge Complex is comprised of over 115,000 acres including the Blackjack Peninsula (Aransas proper), Matagorda Island, Myrtle Foester Whitmire, Tatton, and Lamar units. These areas provide vital resting, feeding, wintering, and nesting grounds for migratory birds and native Texas wildlife.
The Refuge is world renowned for hosting the largest wild flock of endangered whooping cranes each winter. Other native species you can see on the Refuge include the American alligator, javelina, roseate spoonbill, white-tailed deer, armadillo, and spectacular wildflowers.