Former First Lady, conservationists team up to promote life in Lake Livingston

New life is being promoted in Lake Livingston through a conservation partnership led by the Lake Livingston Friends of Reservoirs and Texan by Nature, founded by former First Lady Laura Bush.

On Wednesday, Sept. 15, the former First Lady joined students from seven area high schools as they planted American water willows in the shoreline off of Wolf Creek Park on Lake Livingston near Coldspring.

Many of the students, representing Big Sandy, Coldspring-Oakhurst, Corrigan-Camden, Goodrich, Livingston, Onalaska and Shepherd high schools, also were involved in growing the plants that were used in the project, as were the LLFoR members and inmate horticulturalists at the Ellis Unit in Huntsville.

Since 2013, volunteers with LLFoR have planted more than 10,000 American water willows in 18 sites along the southern shoreline of the lake in an effort to promote an important habitat for wildlife and juvenile fish and to improve the quality of the 85,000-acre lake, 70 percent of which belongs to the City of Houston for its water supply.

Bush, in her remarks to the 200 or so people gathered at the event, said the project shows a community working together, another example of Texans pooling their resources for the greater good, a spirit that was on display for the world during Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.

“Yet in the midst of the devastation, and this is what makes me so proud of our state, people came together from every walk of life to help their neighbors in need. The spirit of Texas is alive and well, and our communities will rebuild and become stronger than ever,” Bush said.

“Your restoration efforts help promote water quality to the lake and they provide health benefits to the people of the Greater Houston Area,” she added. “Conservation upstream is valuable for downstream users, especially now in their time of need. So I thank you for your tireless efforts to restore the lake, to serve the people of your community and to conserve our natural resources. You’re ensuring the resilience and long-term health of our lands, and for that I am grateful.”

Most of the large-scale reservoir construction in Texas began in and followed the 1950s. Lake Livingston, completed in 1969 after three years of construction, is the second-largest lake in the state behind the granddaddy of them all – Lake Sam Rayburn, which has 114,500 acres of surface area.

The median age of most of our reservoirs is more than 50 years old, according to Craig Bonds, director of the Inland Fisheries Division for the Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Following the First Lady’s address, Bonds explained that it is crucial to protect the reservoirs the state has since new ones are not being built.

“Many reservoirs support thriving aquatic life such as water fowl, reptiles, amphibians and fish, and I guess love bugs, too,” he said, getting more than a few laughs from the crowd as the bugs were flittering through air around them.

“These fisheries are dependent on good habitat for sustainability. As reservoirs age, water quality can decline. Fishing and water-based recreation can suffer as a result,” he said. “Neither the Texas Parks and Wildlife nor any single entity has the resources to fully address these challenges alone. Public-private partnerships are and will be crucial to taking care of the lakes we have. One shining example of a community-driven grassroots partnership is the Lake Livingston Friends of Reservoirs chapter. This chapter is forming partnerships to leverage national, state and local support with the goal of propagating and planting native aquatic plants, specifically American water willow, throughout the shoreline of Lake Livingston.”

Other benefits of the plants are that they will lessen erosion and attenuate wave energy, Bonds said.

Wednesday’s event was supported and underwritten by the Trinity River Authority. TRA Board President David Leonard, a resident of Liberty, said the volunteers and organizations are creating a legacy for future generations.

“TRA couldn’t be more proud of the young people who are investing in their community, learning skills and going beyond the benefit that they provide to Lake Livingston in planting the American water willows. We thank you very much. This plant is a key to maintaining the ecosystem of the lake and making it a place where communities and families will continue to enjoy for years to come,” Leonard said.