Piedmonte Wildlife Center in Piedmont, New Mexico, sits on a cliff above a river in the town of Piedon.
For a community that is often portrayed as an island paradise, the area has become synonymous with death and destruction.
“When it’s not being used for fishing, there are birds that are going down,” said Mary Ann Stumpf, a Piedmoont native and former PiedMonte resident.
“It’s an area where the natural habitat is dying.”
The only people in the area who have managed to survive are the Stumpfs, who have a ranch near Piedton that feeds the fish they catch.
But even if they had to survive, they would have to take on the risk of dying from exposure.
In the past, a natural disaster has been enough to kill off an entire species.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, killing more than 400 people, the only thing that was left were about 30 species of fish, according to NOAA.
“There’s a lot of fish that have disappeared,” said Michael Fagan, the director of the Pecos Marine Science Center.
“They’re extinct and they’re gone.”
When the Gulf of Mexico flooded in 2005 and the flooding turned the bay into a dead zone, Piedmons ecosystem was gone.
It is the only one of its kind in the Gulf, but the Piazza is still home to more than 60 endangered species.
Some of them are listed as threatened or endangered on the Endangered Species Act, including the piedmont and greenwood species.
“In Piedmin, there’s a really beautiful bay with a bunch of species that are really endangered,” Stumpff said.
“You can’t imagine what that would be like if it were gone.”
The StumpFans have had to contend with an onslaught of invasive species and climate change as they try to find a way to survive.
“The most devastating thing about hurricanes is that they’re really hard to catch and to keep them out,” Stumpp said.
But now that the Gulf has receded, there is hope that there might be a new hope.
“We’re looking forward to seeing that it’s coming back,” Fagan said.
Piedons ecosystem was once thriving with about 100 species of plants and fish, but by 2050, there will be less than 10 species of birds and fish.
It was only a matter of time before they would go extinct.
“I’ve heard about these things happening before, but I never imagined it to be this devastating,” Stumps father, John Stumpford, said.
The Stumps are among a growing number of Piazzas and greenwoods that have experienced extinction as climate change causes the Gulf to get warmer.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Pica River in New Orleans and flooded the town, killing about 400 people.
The water receded for several days, but it was too late for many Piedsos who were forced to relocate to a remote area in the middle of nowhere, and many of the birds and plants that once thrived there are gone.
“If it had not been for a couple of things, maybe this wouldn’t be the case,” Stumped said.
Many people believe that climate change is the cause of the disappearance of birds, but not all scientists agree.
In 2013, a team of scientists from the University of Hawaii, the University at Buffalo and the University College London concluded that it was the end of an ecosystem.
“At the end, we were all devastated,” said John Stumped, his father’s voice breaking.
“Our ecosystem went, but we weren’t.”
The family decided to do something about it.
The Pied Monte Wildlife Foundation started a nonprofit called Save the Pines to help restore the ecosystem.
They also started a foundation to support the restoration efforts of the Stumps, which has raised more than $1.2 million.
“A lot of these birds have had a very hard time and their populations are declining, so they are at risk of disappearing,” Fagen said.
He added that the Stumps are working on a plan to help them rebuild.
“Now, we have an opportunity to save them and give them a chance to recover,” he said.
This is a developing story.
More to come.