Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you…Satchel Paige
Looking back is a luxury that we can rarely afford. Fermata is a consultancy; we live from contract to contract. The good news is that we stay busy. The bad news is that we rarely get the opportunity to look back over our accomplishments.
Have you ever heard of Kenedy, Texas? What about Falls City, Helena, Runge, or Goliad? Surely you know of the San Antonio Riverwalk? The San Antonio River doesn’t suddenly halt once it passes the Alamo. The river flows south to San Antonio Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The spaces in between San Antonio and the Gulf, however, are relatively unknown even among Texans.
Mission Nuestra Señora del Rosario (established in 1754)
Ted joined a panel of nature tourism experts at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) in Shepherdstown, West Virginia this week. The panel presented and discussed nature tourism and the implications for federal public lands. Joining Ted on the panel were Mike Carlo and Toni Westland of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Nancy Millar of the McAllen (Texas) Chamber of Commerce, with Nancy Zapotocki, Kevin Kilcullen, and Randy Robinson (all of the USFWS) providing behind-the-scenes support and guidance. This broadcast is the first presented in the USFWS Human Dimensions of Natural Resource Conservation series. Here is a link to this 90-minute broadcast. For those interested in additional information and resources related to Ted’s talk, we have added a page to our website with links to a broad collection of papers, reports, books, and presentations.
Fermata began working in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) of South Texas in the early 1990s. Our first project involved developing the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail for Texas Parks and Wildlife in that area. We followed that work with the feasibility study for the World Birding Center, the strategic plan for the World Birding Center, nature tourism strategies for several of the communities there such as Mission, Weslaco, and South Padre, a feasibility study for the new centers at Weslaco and South Padre Island, and interpretive enhancements at Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen.
Early in our work we assessed the economic impacts of nature tourism in key LRGV sites such as Santa Ana NWR, Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, and the Sabal Palms sanctuary near Brownsville. At that time (at least 15 years ago) we estimated an annual impact of $125 million from nature tourism in South Texas. A number of people were surprised by that figure, and questioned its accuracy. How could birders and other nature tourists contribute so much to that economy?
We are Austin based and Texas bred. Shoal Creek is our neighborhood, a slim needle of a creek that splits the heart of Austin into two equal halves. Shoal Creek is dressed Texan, a rarely wet swath of white rocks and cedar trees. To be precise, the white rocks are Georgetown limestone, and the cedar trees are ash junipers. No matter. A Texan would understand.
Like many of you, we are concerned about our place on the planet. Shoal Creek, like so many that we have worked around over the years, is scarred from a history of disinterest and misuse. Our creek flows too little at times, the result of development impinging on the aquifer and springs. At other times the creek flows too much, as rainwater from surrounding neighborhoods rushes to the Colorado River rather than settling slowly into the soil. Our creek is polluted in places, with E.coli counts that spike due to animal waste from pets. In places garbage litters the bank.