SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — From the Gulf of Mexico beachfront to the vegetated dunes and tidal flats adjoining the Laguna Madre, a global nonprofit has been working for months to acquire the last unprotected stretch of land in an effort to secure and safeguard the area.

In March, The Nature Conservancy announced the completion of the first part of its two-phase project.

And this month, the nonprofit closed the second portion of its more than 6,200-acre land acquisition on the Island.

According to a press release from The Nature Conservancy, North and South Padre Islands are the most important nesting habitat in the country for the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, which nests primarily along the Gulf of Mexico.

“These deals are not only a testament to the collaborative nature of conservation in the state,” The Nature Conservancy State Director Laura Huffman stated in a press release. “They also highlight a shared understanding that investments along the Gulf Coast are investments in the ecological and economic future of Texas. And that’s something we can all get behind.”

The newly-protected acres on the Island will be incorporated into surrounding wildlife refuge lands at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

All existing access to the Gulf beach frontage will remain open for the public.

The nearly $16 million acreage acquisitions were funded with more than $10.5 million in grant support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund.

The Natural Resource Damage Assessment settlement from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill funded $5.4 million.

“With the closing of this project, a final 3,200 acres from the Christopher Allison family for approximately $8 million, our collective group of conservation partners can raise our glasses to having helped protect a grand total of 32,000 acres across South Padre, the world’s longest barrier island,” a Nature Conservancy representative stated in a press release.

Nature Conservancy personnel hope to see Kemp’s ridley sea turtles’ numbers swell again so future generations can see the area’s native wildlife.

“Funds for this critical conservation project in South Texas were awarded in 2018 and we congratulate the partners on their efforts to complete this acquisition,” the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation CEO Jeff Trandahl stated in a press release.

“Preserving barrier island habitat along South Padre Island is essential to the overall health of the Texas coast, especially for iconic wildlife species injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill including the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle and numerous shorebird species.”

WHAT IS THE NATURE CONSERVANCY?

• The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization that works toward conserving the environment.

• The organization tackles climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans, providing food and water sustainability and helping make cities more sustainable.

• To learn more, visit www.nature.org