Texas Conservationists

Cover - Conserving Critters
Lady Bird Johnson

Portrait by Shikler, 1978

"Lady Bird" Johnson

Lady Bird" Johnson was the wife of our 36th President, Lyndon B. Johnson. That means she was once the First Lady of the United States. When she had that job she created lots of programs to protect the beauty of our nation's parks and roadsides.

"Lady Bird" did a lot for Texas, too. She adored nature! From her earliest days growing up in the town of Karnack in east Texas, she loved flowers and the smell of pine needles.

So popular was her nickname, "Lady Bird," that many people didn’t know that her real name was Claudia! When she was just a little girl, a family nurse mentioned that she was just "as pretty as a lady bird" and the name stuck.

Planting Seeds

Lady Bird spreads seeds during the grand opening of the National WIldflower Research Center near Austin on her 70th birthday in 1982.

No matter if you called her First Lady, Mrs. Johnson, Claudia or "Lady Bird" Johnson, this wonderful woman helped conserve much land in Texas so that wildflowers and wildlife could continue to keep their habitats.

John Graves

In 1957, John Graves canoed and camped along part of the Brazos River with his dog. Then he wrote a book about it which he named, Goodbye to a River. He called it that because soon the river would change. Plans were for 13 dams to be built.

Damming a river helps keep water from flowing naturally like nature meant for it to do. Instead the water stays so people can use it. Mr. Graves wanted people to understand what would happen to wildlife and the natural world if the river got dammed too many times. With his book, he showed what life along the river was like without all those dams there.

In the end, the river got dammed only 3 times instead of thirteen. Many say that's because of what people read about in Mr. Graves' book. Mr. Graves continued to teach people many things about Texas nature through his other work. He loved Texas and its nature very much.

Rjoy Bedichek

This photo was taken of Mr. Bedichek in 1947 by Alan Pipkin.

Roy Bedichek

Roy Bedichek wrote a book called Adventures with a Texas Naturalist in 1947. This book helped a lot of Texans think differently about the critters that live here.

He wrote the book after he lived on his friend's ranch in the Texas Hill Country for almost a year. He especially enjoyed watching mockingbirds and wrote a lot about some of their behaviors. Did you know that mockingbirds are our official state bird?

Mr. Bedichek's book and other ways he shared his feelings about nature helped people see Texas in new ways. It made many people pay more attention to the animals that share Texas with us. As people began to notice the animals more they began to enjoy them more.

A big part of conservation is getting people to care about nature. If people love something they care about saving it! Mr. Bedichek helped many people care more about nature and, therefore, they began to work to conserve it.

Ila Loetscher with Turtle - 1

Photos of Ila Loetscher used with permission of Sea Turtle Inc.

Ila Loetscher with Turtle 2

Photos of Ila Loetscher used with permission of Sea Turtle Inc.

Ila Loetscher

When Ila Loetscher moved to the Texas coast in the 1950s she moved into a beach house just behind the dunes on South Padre Island. There she became interested in trying to help the sea turtles find nests in the dunes.

Sea turtles were already facing dangers from things that humans were doing. Ms. Loetscher built a stage behind her house and held "turtle talks" two times a week to help people understand the turtles and what could be done to help them. Visitors would come from all over to hear her talk about her beloved turtles. She loved the turtles so much that she would even hug them!

Soon she became known as "The Turtle Lady" and stories about her began appearing in newspapers, magazines, and on T.V. She created an organization called Sea Turtle, Inc. in 1977 to protect sea turtles. Even though she died in 2000, Sea Turtle, Inc. continues to do the work she started and, thanks to the hard work of Ila Loetscher, sea turtles in Texas and in other parts of the world are much better off today!

Walter Fondren III

Walter Fondren, III

Copyright Fondren Family

Even football players love nature! Walter Fondren III played football for the University of Texas at Austin and was even drafted by the NFL by the Los Angeles Rams. But nature was also one of his biggest loves, especially the Texas Gulf Coast.

In 1977, this Texan founded the Gulf Coast Conservation Association, which today is called CCA (Coastal Conservation Association). His first goal was to protect fish in the part of the ocean close to the Texas Gulf. There, too many red drum and spotted sea trout were being taken and they were in trouble!

Today, CCA protects sea life not only in Texas, but along the shore of 17 states in our country. Because of Mr. Fondren’s hard work, a whole bunch of fish and other sea life get protection today.

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