The Prettiest Texas Environmental Atlas You Might Ever See

Ariel view of Mariscal Canyon in Big Bend National Park.
Ariel view of Mariscal Canyon in Big Bend National Park.
Courtesy of David Todd/The Texas Landscape Project

While engaging in the laborious five-year book project that resulted in The Texas Landscape Project: Nature and People, co-author David Todd marveled at Texas’s long history of environmental fisticuffs.

“I was really struck by how many conservation efforts were going on way before I was born and before the environmental movement, whether that’s Rachel Carson or Albert Leopold,” says Todd.

“Charlie Goodnight, who was portrayed in Lonesome Dove, was one of the people that saved the buffalo from the 1890s through the early 1920s,” says Todd. “Big Thicket was established in 1974, but there were efforts to turn the area into a nature preserve back in the early 1930s.” 

The Texas Landscape Project is a companion tome to The Texas Legacy Project: Stories of Courage and Conservation, an interactive website and oral-history book, published in 2010, that includes 62 narratives from statewide Texans on environmental issues and nature stories. Texas A&M  University Press published both books.

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“The earlier book was based on oral history with idiosyncratic lives and works and stories,” explains Todd, an Austin-based environmental attorney and executive director of the Conservation History Association of Texas. “We thought that the second book would be the flip side. Instead of auditory, it would be visual.”

The book, co-authored by Jonathan Ogren – a cartographer, a lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin, and the founder of Siglo Group, a land planning and environmental assessment firm – features topics on land, water, energy, air quality, wildlife and a grab-bag section that ranges from explorations on urban sprawl to the impact of billboards on everyday life.

It also informs the reader with narratives and visuals on environmental issues, such as subsidence along and close to the Texas Gulf Coast, that continue to ugly up beautiful Texas. According to a U.S. Geological Survey map that’s published in The Texas Landscape Project, some land areas in Houston have sunk by more than six feet in the past 100-plus years, because of groundwater misuse by oil corporations and utility companies. 

The Prettiest Texas Environmental Atlas You Might Ever See
Courtesy of David Todd/The Texas Landscape Project

The beautiful atlas-style book is stacked with 300 full-color, high-resolution maps and 100 photographs and charts. The data and maps were pieced together from more than 170 sources, ranging from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Texas governmental bodies to Texas’s appraisal districts and other naturalist organizations, such as the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.

“Essentially, it’s a map book, where people can look at and think about their neighborhood community as it relates to the environment,” says Todd.

At 7 p.m. Monday, July 18, David Todd and Jonathan Ogren will discuss The Texas Landscape Project: Nature and People, at Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet. Admission is free. Call 713-523-0701 or check out brazosbookstore.com.


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