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HOME RANGE: Notes on Literature, Nature, Working Dogs, History, Martial Arts, Other Obsessions and Sundry Annoyances by Henry Chappell

Restoring Longleaf Pine

In the course of some other research for an upcoming magazine article, I ran across this nice little video produced by the Texas Conservation Alliance. This isn't anti-logging propaganda, but a case for restoration and sustainable forestry. Back in 2009, I wrote “Saving a Piney Paradise” for Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. Here’s the opening, on the Texas’s longleaf pine forests:

“The dead, brown pine needles on the footpath catch my eye before the green ones growing 50 feet over my head. I pick up an especially long one and lay it on my forearm. The needle extends from the base of my hand nearly to my elbow.
Longleaf pine. It grows in nearly pure stands on well-drained uplands from southeastern Virginia to East Texas. Left to mature, longleaf pines can reach heights of a hundred feet or more. The boles run straight and uniform. Its tough, porous outer layer protects it from hot fires that kill hardwoods and other kinds of pine. Its home — the dry, sandy uplands — burns easily and often.

The first chroniclers in East Texas described giants. Old photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries substantiate their claims: vast stands, open and park-like, and trunks of 350-year-old trees more than 3 feet in diameter.
Early Anglo settlers called the longleaf forests “pine barrens,” and tended to skirt them. Corn and cotton are far less adapted for drawing nutrients from the upland soil than are longleaf pines.

Amos Parker, traveling west of Nacogdoches in 1834, had this to say of the longleaf pinelands:

“Immediately after leaving the town we came into pine woods again; to all appearance, the same we had already passed over — rolling, sandy soil; the trees straight and tall, but standing so far apart that a carriage might go almost anywhere among them. The grass grew beneath them, and we could see a great distance as we passed along.”
A wagon and mule team could easily wend through longleaf forest. As could a skidder. A house built of unpainted longleaf boards will last a century.

Today, only a few good longleaf stands remain in Texas. One of the best can be found here at Boykin Springs.

Along the trail, skinks, warmed by the February sun, rustle in the dry duff. A few sluggish grasshoppers flush. Just like in the old photos, the woods are open, with knee-high grass growing amid healthy, fire-blackened boles.

Mostly, these are vigorous middle-age trees, less than 80 years old. In earlier times, as ancient trees succumbed to red heart fungus, red-cockaded woodpeckers bored into the softened heartwood and made themselves at home.

Perhaps they will again, someday.”

Enjoy the video. Note the red cockaded woodpecker segment around 7:00:

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Another little teaser ...

"Though its fortunes waned during the tumultuous decade following the U.S. war with Mexico, the community at San Antonio Viejo remained largely intact, maintaining continuity with traditional Spanish-Mexican culture of the rancho. Yet the upheaval of revolution and war, and the uncertainty of the Bourland Commission’s adjudication, would soon seem transient compared to the changes about to be wrought by newly freed economic forces, specifically raw capitalism.

In 1852, those forces appeared incarnate seventy-five miles northeast of the San Antonio Wells, in Nueces County, where a Corpus Christi businessman and part-time Texas Ranger named Gideon “Legs” Lewis and his new partner, a young riverboat captain named Richard King, established a rough cow camp above a spring feeding Santa Gertrudis Creek."

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Growth or Plunder?

In yesterday’s Dallas Morning News, urbanists Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox celebrated Texas’s unprecedented urban growth:

“Overall, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston have emerged as the nation's fastest-expanding big-city economies. Between 2000 and 2015, Dallas-Fort Worth boosted its net job numbers by 22.7 percent, and Houston expanded by an even better 31.2 percent. Smaller Austin (38.2 percent job-base increase) and once-sleepy San Antonio (31.4 percent) have done just as well. New York, by way of comparison, increased its number of jobs in those years by just 10 percent, Los Angeles by 6.5 percent and San Francisco by 5.2 percent, while Chicago actually lost net employment.

“And the Texas jobs are not just low-wage employment. Middle-class positions, those paying between 80 percent and 200 percent of the national median wage, have expanded 39 percent in Austin, 26 percent in Houston and 21 percent in Dallas since 2001. These percentages far outpace the rate of middle-class job creation in San Francisco (6 percent), New York and Los Angeles (little progress), and Chicago (down 3 percent) for the same period.”

Not everyone is thrilled.

Cox and Kotkin’s priorities come through loud and clear:

“In fast-growing Cinco Ranch, a suburb built on an expanse of Texas prairie 31 miles west of downtown Houston, 1 in 5 residents is foreign-born, well above the Texas average.”

Eventually, we’re going to run out of countryside to plunder.

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One of these days ...

I know it's out there, the river, but I keep telling myself I need to wait until I'm a better fisherman, or I've done more research, or something. I'm going to regret waiting.

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The One and Only Wyman Meinzer

I'm pleased to have made a tiny contribution to this video about my great friend Wyman Meinzer - the finest photographer and outdoorsman I've ever known.

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