Passion for Preservation
The Texas Legacy Project
Review by Christopher Dow
A city dweller’s vacant lot… A rancher’s back forty... A hiker’s favorite park.... In Texas, people of all stripes and backgrounds have fought hard to safeguard the places they hold dear when those places are threatened.
To find and preserve these stories of courage and perseverance, the Conservation History Association of Texas (CHAT) launched the Texas Legacy Project in 1998, and since then, CHAT founder David Todd and documentary director David Weisman have traveled thousands of miles to conduct hundreds of interviews with people all over the state. These remarkable oral histories now comprise an extensive archive that records the efforts of veteran conservationists and ordinary citizens to preserve the natural legacy of Texas.
More than sixty of these stories are contained in The Texas Legacy Project: Stories of Courage and Conservation (Texas A&M University Press, 2010), a large-format book richly illustrated with contemporary and archival photographs. “We believe that the passages presented here have value for what they tell about the history of a particular place, time, and cause,” the authors write in the introduction. “Texas in the twentieth century serves as a wide-ranging case study on how the country’s conservation themes have played out.”
The people at the heart of these stories come from all sorts of communities and walks of life, and their causes are equally varied, ranging from a West Texas grocer fighting nuclear waste to a Gulf Coast Baptist minister concerned about environmental health to an Austin lobbyist pressing for green energy. Each one relates firsthand accounts of battles fought for land and wildlife, for public health, and for a voice in media and politics, and their impassioned accounts remind us of the importance of protecting and conserving the natural resources in our own backyards, wherever they may be.
The book includes several maps of Texas showing the state’s ecoregions, major river basins and aquifers, and a lengthy appendix gives a timeline of Texas environmental history from 1729 to 2010.
Reprinted from Rice Magazine, #11, 2011.