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I-20 Wildlife Preserve brings nature conservation, education to West Texas

From finding invasive species, to promoting habitat building or restoration projects, the preserve is an oasis of wildlife in West Texas.

MIDLAND, Texas — You rarely see very many trees in West Texas. But there's a special place in Midland that's full of it. It provides a resource to the country, but our community as well.

The I-20 Wildlife Preserve is a riparian forest around a playa. It's located in Midland right off the interstate.

The preserve is about 100 acres. Back in the 1800s, it used to be a watering hole for cattle. In fact, you'll find some of the original posts that are still there. 

The playa provides a source to the Ogalalla Aquifer. It's a groundwater storage reservoir that stretches across eight states including Texas. The playa helps recharge the aquifer.

Director of Data and Communications Mary Sirgo works there to spread awareness on conservation and restoration. 

She recently gave an educational tour to students from Midland Montessori. It's where she used to go to school as a child. But now, she's become the teacher.

"Montessori is where I developed my love for education. To be able to work with students and family is a neat experience,” said Sirgo.

Sirgo helps develop the preserve's educational program. When the pandemic happened, it gave the non-profit an opportunity to expand it into a wide-range curriculum both in-person and virtually.

From finding invasive species, to promoting habitat building or restoration projects, all donations made to the preserve help the wildlife. It gives students the chance to understand why it exists.

"I thought it was beautiful, I don’t see this where I live," said Venicia Rodriguez, a 6th grad student with Midland Montessori. "Probably now that I’m here, I want to be a botany scientist.” 

Sirgo said it's all about preparing future generations to protect the playa's resources.

"To hear kids wanting to get involved is very rewarding and reassuring," said Sirgo. "It makes it worth it.”

The preserve has a challenge grant right now so for every two dollars donated, they get a dollar in matching funds.

Right now, the Jenna Welch Nature Study Center is in the works. It will serve as infrastructure for playa research and it'll host different events, classes, and wellness seminars.

For more information on the preserve you can click or tap here.