New book: The Texas Legacy Project: Stories of Courage and Conservation, edited by David Todd ’81 and David Weisman (Texas A&M University Press)

The author: Todd, who has worked as an environmental attorney, an environmental scientist, and cattle rancher, began collecting oral histories in 1997, when he realized that many key figures in Texas conservation efforts were getting older. Over 11 years, he traveled around the state talking to conservationists — advocates, farmers, politicians, landowners, journalists, medical doctors, environmental attorneys, scientists, engineers, and agency officials — recording hundreds of interviews totaling some 400 hours.  

The book: Excerpts from 62 of the oral histories are contained in the book. The people featured range from a West Texas grocer fighting nuclear waste to an Austin lobbyist pressing for green energy. They recount the battles they fought for land, wildlife, public health, and for a voice in media and politics. The accompanying website texaslegacy.org provides the complete transcripts of all the interviews, as well as video interviews and maps that show environmental changes in Texas over time.

From chapter one: “Protecting wildlife and the native habitat of Texas is not an occupation for the faint of heart or those lacking nerves of steel. Given the wild and wooly history of the state, with its colorful array of varmints and outlaws, it’s no surprise that many a dispute over the territory ended at the barrel of a gun. But in modern times the outlaws are as likely to be polluters as poachers, and the dispute is more likely to find itself resolved in the chambers of a courtroom. Those who would disrespect the law, from the taking of endangered species to the dumping of hazardous waster, will find dedicated sleuths pursuing their tracks with patience, cunning, and persistence.”