I am passionate about the outdoors and love to share how blessed we are to live in this unique and diverse state. Texas contains a wealth of biodiversity. We are tops in the nation when it comes to the number of bird species (over 600) and reptiles (nearly 150), second in number of plant species (about 5,000) and third in endemism. We’re also first in the number white-tailed deer and migratory game birds like doves. In turn, we have more hunters than any other state. These treasured natural assets are spread out across 168,000,000 acres of land and ten unique ecological regions, over 95% of which is stewarded by private landowners.
Texans by nature are innovative and determined. From this can-do culture, many conservation programs originated, such as the Landowner Incentive Program, the Wildlife Management Tax Valuation, and our system of nature-based highway trails. Texans are proud of our state and the way we solve problems with fierce determination and an independent spirit. Any yet, the conservation challenges facing us today will require everyone working together. Whether we’re talking about combating invasive species, emerging wildlife diseases, or more frequent droughts, only by building bridges to productive partnerships will we succeed. This will be even more challenging because we live in such a divided society today. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I’m reminded of another turbulent time in our nation’s history: the early 20th Century, when industrialization was revolutionizing our country. Economic growth was creating opportunities for millions of Americans, and yet we were not re-investing in our natural resources. In fact, many wildlife species were in serious decline or worse. Out of this age of transformation, emerged two conservation giants: John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt: The ultimate preservationist and the ultimate trophy hunter. These two polar-opposites didn’t always agree on how best to protect and conserve our lands and waters, but they knew that without wild places, America would lose its natural heritage. And so, in 1903, they went on a camping trip, to talk about their different approaches to conservation. I would have loved to have listened in to their campfire discussions, out of which emerged a dream about wilderness in their hearts. One wanted to be a part of it, the other wanted to triumph in it. Both were unwilling to live without it..
If these two characters could find common ground, we can too! Despite the turmoil in the world and our nation, there is a peace available to each one of us. It can be found in nature spaces. We may not know it, but everyone needs silence and stillness. A time to stop, unplug from our busy lives, and together enjoy the majesty of the outdoors. It’s in this tranquility we might find that it’s easier to accept our differences and find common ground.
Texan by Nature’s mission is to connect people with the natural world, in a way that promotes social and economic prosperity… I’m excited to be a small part of that story, one that all Texans can be proud of.