We sat down with Texan by Nature Co-Founder, Regan Gammon, to find out what it means to leave a legacy of conservation. See what she said below!
TxN: Where did you grow up and what is your favorite memory from your childhood?
Regan: I grew up in Midland, Texas. My favorite memories of Midland revolve around the easy-going feel of the West Texas town and the beautiful stars that were painted across the dark night sky from horizon to horizon. The desert’s exterior was barren and bone-dry, but there was endless beauty if you spent the time to enjoy and really look at the vastness and diversity of the Trans Pecos region. I have memories of how harsh and erratic the desert environment and climate could be; the menacing sandstorms and rolling thunderstorms that would subside and reveal the darkest of skies, brightest of stars, and a silence that soothed your soul at night. We were always outside as kids, experiencing the outdoors. Today the world is very different, most kids don’t experience the outdoors, like I did generations ago.
TxN: Where does your love for natural resources stem from?
Regan: I’ve always been intrinsically interested in the environment and my love for it developed gradually over time. I just appreciated being outside and I learned so much from the people around me: my mother was a naturalist in the truest sense; my grandfather had a ranch on Possum Kingdom Lake. The lake and green foliage was delightful and such a stark contrast to Midland. My mother-in-law was a birder and gardener, and my husband, Billy, has always loved the outdoors and enjoys hunting and sailing.
One of the most exciting experiences that sparked my love for nature was when Billy and I moved back to Austin from New York. We went on a camping trip in our Land Cruiser that Billy retrofitted into a camper with our two-year-old son. We went up the Continental Divide, down the west coast, and down into the Baja of California, where we traveled creek beds, took a car ferry to Mazatlan, and ended in Corpus Christi. It was truly an eye-opening experience! I remember saying to Billy, “We are going to do what?!” We left in September 1972 and came back December 1972. We camped out all along the way at state parks and national parks. The beauty of this area is truly magnificent and a must see.
When Laura became First Lady, we started taking yearly trips to National Parks with our childhood friends. The first National Parks we visited were Yosemite and Yellowstone. One of my favorite memories was the year we were going to go to Glacier, but there was a fire in the park and we went to Olympic instead and camped there for two nights. The diversity of the park was beautiful, from the alpine region to glaciers, rain forests, lakes, and the Pacific Ocean.
TxN: What led you to founding Texan by Nature (TxN)?
Regan: Katharine Armstrong, Laura Bush, and I were sitting in my living room, after Laura had moved back to Texas after George’s presidency. We started talking about how beautiful the Texas landscape is and how diverse and special the state’s natural resources are. We thought how fantastic and lucky we all are to live in the great state of Texas. We talked about how so many people are moving to Texas and we asked ourselves, “Do you think everyone realizes how important natural resources are?” We knew that we needed to educate ALL Texans; everyone needs to understand the benefits that Texas’ natural resources provide and needs to take care of them. This spurred the founding of what was then Taking Care of Texas and is now called Texan by Nature. I believe that Texan by Nature will be a lasting legacy that Mrs. Bush has made in the state of Texas and the world.
TxN: What are you most excited about for the future of TxN?
Regan: I am most excited about the potential and the momentum that Texan by Nature is building. I think people in general are paying more attention to the environment, more so now than ever. Because of that, people are becoming more aware of their actions—everything from recycling to the oil and gas companies buying into the McDonald Observatory’s Dark Skies Initiative. Everybody needs to appreciate our natural resources and everyone has to be all in on taking care of them. Conservation should be top of mind, whether it’s doing business or living your daily life.
TxN: What other efforts are you involved in?
Regan: I had the honor of being on the National Park Foundation’s board for 6 years, which was an amazing experience. I wish every American could experience the National Parks because they belong to the people. During my time with the National Park Foundation, I served as Citizen Chair of the Board. This was a life-changing experience. Meeting all the people, park rangers, board, and exploring everything that the National Parks had to offer was incredible.
I also have been involved with Sailors of the Sea Powered by Oceana and served on Sailor of the Sea’s board for 10 years. Sailors of the Sea is the world’s only ocean conservation organization that engages, educates, and activates the sailing and boating community toward restoring ocean health. Oceana is dedicated to protecting and restoring the world’s oceans on a global scale. I care deeply about ocean health and about finding solutions to protecting our oceans.
Additionally, I am a Founder and Chair of the Board for the Texas Book Festival. The Festival was founded in 1995 by former First Lady Laura Bush. It is one of the largest and most prestigious literary festivals in the country. The annual Texas Book Festival features 250+ nationally and critically recognized authors, 20+ venues including the State Capitol, 100+ exhibitors, local food trucks, family activities, and countless opportunities to meet authors and fellow book lovers.
I was also involved with WE Care Austin (Women’s Environmental Coalition), which was organized in 1972 as a women’s environmental coalition to work with Austin-area planners and decision makers toward the development and implementation of a comprehensive development plan for Austin. This organization is no longer in existence.
My husband Billy Gammon helped start and sits on the board of the Wildlife Habitat Federation (WHF), which provides on-the-ground restoration, management, and generational sustainability of prairie habitat for the conservation of soil, water, air and wildlife. WHF is a Texan by Nature Conservation Partner as well!
TxN: What are you most excited about right now?
Regan: I’m most excited about the buzz that Texan by Nature generates and all of the possibilities, potential partnerships, and projects that come along with TxN’s work.
TxN: What is the one thing that you wish every human would know and do?
Regan: I think that every person should try to understand how we fit into the natural world and what our part is; to protect what is precious and to be a responsible steward for our earth’s natural resources.
TxN: What is one book that you would recommend that everyone should read?
Regan: Goodbye to a River by John Graves
TxN: What is your favorite place in Texas and why?
Regan: I love living in Austin and having family here, but one of my all-time favorite places is our property on Cypress Creek in Wimberley.
TxN: What is your biggest hope for the future of conservation in Texas?
Regan: My biggest hope is that all businesses and industry make a commitment to conservation and that businesses understand the meaningful and huge impact that they would make if they did. Everyone can participate in meaningful conservation.
Learn more about Regan and Texan by Nature’s other Board Members here.