Wide Open Spaces Campaign Launched at Conservation
The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club Launched its Wide Open Spaces Campaign
at the 2001 Conservation Conference on July 21 at Southern Methodist University
in Dallas. The Wide Open Spaces Campaign is aimed at raising public awareness
about the rapid loss of open space in Texas and increasing public support
for the protection of open space for wildlife habitat and recreation. The
2001 Conservation Conference is one of many public education events and activities
that will occur over the next two years as part of the Wide Open Space Campaign.
To launch the Wide Open Spaces Campaign this year's Conservation Conference
focused on the impacts of urban sprawl on open space and the growing need
for a major increase in land acquisition to protect wildlife habitat and provide
recreational opportunities. In addition to presenting the detrimental impacts
associated with urban sprawl and land fragmentation the conference speakers
provided the audience with concrete solutions to these problems. The solutions
presented ranged from statewide land acquisition as a method to protect habitats
threatened by sprawl to the implementation of smart growth alternatives at
the local level that direct development away from open space.
As the keynote speaker for the conference Texas Tech University president
Dr. David Schmidly gave an in depth review of the historic biological
diversity of Texas with his presentation the Nature of Texas. Dr. Schmidly's
presentation focused on how the Texas landscape has been drastically altered
since the 19th century. Dr. Schmidly also discussed how the Texas landscape
continues to be fragmented and degraded by increased growth and development.
Included in the presentation where the "The Ten Commandment of Conservation"
develop by Dr. Schmidly.
The Ten Commandments of Conservation
1. Find a common ground.
2. Develop an adequate information base.
3. Recognize the changing nature of the clientele.
4. Avoid single species approaches to conservation.
5. Focus on sustainable resources and ecosystem management.
6. Strengthen scientific research.
7. Make conservation education a priority for the public.
8. Increase participation of private landowners.
9. Expand protected area acquisition and management.
10. Promote regionally based conservation planning.
Following Dr. Schmidly's presentation was a presentation about the impacts
of urbanization on wildlife habitat by Dr. Louis Verner. Dr. Verner
is a Texas Parks & Wildlife urban wildlife biologist located in the Dallas/Fort
Worth. Dr. Verner discussed how urban growth, which results in increased land
fragmentation, spread of non-native plants, increased levels of pollution
leads to a decrease in habitat diversity for wildlife.
Walt Dabney, state parks director for Texas Parks & Wildlife spoke
eloquently about the growing need for more parkland for both land conservation
and recreation. According to Dabney as sprawl continues and open spaces are
subdivided, it will be increasingly difficult for the state to acquire land
for habitat conservation or parkland because many areas will simply be developed
or land prices will have risen to the point that they are too expensive for
the state consider acquisition. Dabney also stated that the Legislature has
directed Texas Parks and Wildlife to develop a Land and Water Resource Conservation
Plan, which will require an inventory of the land that is accessible to the
public, determine if there is land in the park system that is not needed,
and identify deficiencies in the park system.
Brian Sybert, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, natural resources
director spoke next about the Sierra Club's Wide Open Space Campaign. As part
of the Wide Open Spaces Campaign the Sierra Club will identify "special
places" thought the state that need to be protected for wildlife habitat
or recreation. Once the "special places" are identified they will
be published in a report that will be used to raise public awareness about
the need to protect our state's open spaces and build local support for their
protection. Also as part of the Wide Open Space Campaign the Sierra Club will
be organizing citizens throughout the state to participate in the Land &
Water Conservation Plan that the legislature has directed Texas Parks &
Wildlife to develop.
The afternoon session of the conference was opened by a presentation about
alternatives to sprawl by town planner and urban designer Scott Polikov.
Polikov's presentation focused on mixed-use developments that include a combination
of affordable and higher end housing, shopping centers, work places, and parks
as an alternative to sprawling single use development that radiate out of
Polikov's presentation was then followed by a panel discussion on strategies
to combat sprawl. The panel included Melody Flowers, the National Conservation
Organizer of the Sierra Club Challenge to Sprawl Campaign, Glenn Gadbois,
the director of transportation programs for Texas Citizen Fund, Peter Tyler,
the Chair of the Houston Sierra Club Challenge to Sprawl Committee, and Scott
Polikov. The panel discussion included everything from the planning side
of smart growth to actually implementing plans that develop sustainable communities.
The conference was concluded with a presentation about habitat conservation
in the Big Thicket. Chuck Hunt, Regional Issues Coordinator for Big
Thicket National Preserve discussed past, present, and future conservation
activities in the Big Thicket National Preserve. The Big Thicket holds some
of the richest biological diversity in North America. Hunt stated that the
Preserve suffers from a variety of impacts that include suburban development,
a proposed major highway (US 69) that would span the entire length of the
Preserve, and several proposed reservoirs north of the Preserve that could
reduce river flows, increased oil and gas development, and exotic species.
The Conservation Conference was a great success in that it provided the audience
with extremely useful and interesting information about the impacts of sprawl
on the Texas landscape and how best to protect our state's precious wide open
For more information contact Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club, at (512)477-1729