Valley Proud Environmental Council

Harlingen

Known for its lush landscape and subtropical greenery, the Lower Rio Grande Valley is a vibrant region with more than 1 million residents. Eager to protect the natural beauty and environment of the area, Valley Proud Environmental Council, also called Valley Proud, has forged partnerships in 27 communities in its four-county region of deep South Texas. That hard work has paid off not only by conserving natural resources but also by enhancing economic development and tourism—the lifeblood of the region.

Through the dedicated efforts of a 15-member board and two part-time staff, Valley Proud forges partnerships to promote its public education and awareness projects. It brings together private and public organizations in activities and events aimed at improving quality of life for area residents. Valley Proud’s successful grassroots initiative relies on the spirit of volunteerism in hundreds of diverse individuals, many of them leaders in agriculture, media, business, industry, city and county government, and local communities.

One of Valley Proud’s activities is an interactive and educational puppet show that uses entertainment to teach environmental responsibility. Popular with kids, the Captain Crab Puppet Show features characters such as Sasha the Seagull, Diego the Dolphin, and Patrick the Pelican that encourage students to recycle and prevent litter. The show has reached more than 30,000 students at 120 different campuses. Area billboards, a television commercial, and signs at beaches drive home Captain Crab’s message to area residents and visitors, reinforced by an advertised fine of up to $2,000 for littering.

Another Valley Proud effort, Project Río Reforestation, has mobilized over 15,000 volunteers to plant more than 220,000 native tree seedlings on 750 acres of land. Valley Proud works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify appropriate tracts of land, and then gathers, transports, and feeds an army of volunteer tree planters. They have organized successful events at 20 different sites since 1994 and continue to search for new locations. In addition to the plantings, Valley Proud has developed a 28-page tree guide in English and Spanish, an Arbor Day Planning Guide, and two native plant brochures.

Valley Proud also actively promotes recycling by providing the Point Isabel Independent School District with recycling containers, publicity, organization, training of campus staff, and coordination with the local recycling center. At Port Isabel High School, an enthusiastic cadre of students ensures that recycling bins are available for—and being used by—all classes. The students gather and consolidate the material for transport to the Port Isabel Recycling Center. They are readily capable of giving fellow students and teachers an impromptu lesson on the benefits of recycling. Similar efforts take place at the three other Point Isabel campuses: Derry Elementary, Garriga Elementary, and Port Isabel Junior High. In 2010, the schools collected 17 tons of paper and cardboard for recycling.