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Welcome and Introduction

Welcome to Austin and the 164th anniversary meeting of the Philosophical Society of Texas. Although my home is in Lufkin, the heart of the Pineywoods in East Texas, I chose Austin, the heart of Texas, for our annual meeting because the city can more easily accommodate our large group. I also wanted to give you the opportunity to tour the beautiful and peaceful Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which about 100 of you did yesterday. Mrs. Johnson has inspired me and countless others to love and value our native plant heritage. I would like to dedicate this program in honor of Mrs. Johnson.

I chose “The Land” as our program today because I think that its care is the most critical issue of our new century. We have to get this one right. As Mrs. Johnson has said, the land is the one place where we all come together—it is our home. At the same time, issues relating to the land (which I define as soil, water, plants, and animals) divide us. As a state and a nation, we are searching for common ground, a place where we can agree enough to act and to create public policies that will keep our home beautiful and healthy.

“The Land” seems to be a huge topic, but not nearly as huge as the late Bill Crook's 1995 program “The Oceans” or Steve Weinberg's 1994 program “The Controversial Cosmos,” both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Today my hope is that we will leave this annual meeting with the same sense of wonder about the land that those two earlier programs evoked about the sea and the heavens.

I'm grateful for all of the help that I had for this program. Last night at our reception and dinner at the University of Texas Alumni Center, located on the banks of Waller Creek, which flows past the campus, through town, and on into the Colorado River, we set the stage for today's program with a delightful presentation of readings: “The Land We Know,” organized by our own Liz Carpenter, an author and former press secretary of Lady Bird Johnson. For sharing their stories and songs of the Texas land we know and love, I thank Liz as well as authors Steve Harrigan and Elizabeth Crook, who read from their own books; actress Karen Kuykendall; and songwriter and singer Tim Henderson.

I'm also grateful for the special help that the following experts gave me for this program today: Dr. Robert Breunig, executive director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center; Dr. Steve Windhager, director of the Landscape Restoration Program, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center; Dr. Jay Banner, director of the Environmental Science Institute of the University of Texas at Austin; and Terry Hershey and Jessica Catto, two of Texas's leading environmentalists. I also thank Tom Barrow of Houston for giving us the maps that show the ecological regions of Texas. And, of course, I thank Evelyn Stehling, assistant secretary for the Society, for all of her hard work in helping to plan and organize this program and the events for the weekend.

As we focus on “The Land” today and in our panel discussion tomorrow, we will learn more about some of the most pressing issues we face, how we can best deal with them, and what the future holds.

It is my privilege to welcome and to thank our distinguished speakers. After their presentations, you will have the opportunity to ask questions.

Dr. Robert Breunig, known as Bob to those of us who have worked with him over the years, has been the director of the Wildflower Center since 1997. I was president of the board at the time, and I cannot begin to tell you how happy we have been to have him aboard. He came to us as past director of the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, where he developed his passion for native plants. Bob is a leader in the native plant movement and also a member of the Philosophical Society. Bob will present an overview and also serve as the moderator.

Dr. Laura L. Jackson, of the University of Northern Iowa, will give our keynote address with her answer to the question “What Does It Mean to Love the Land?” Her new book is entitled The Farm as Natural Habitat: Reconnecting Food Systems and Ecosystems.

Dr. Camille Parmesan, of the University of Texas at Austin, has focused her work of the past several years on the impact of climate change in the twentieth century on wildlife. Her work on butterfly range shifts as been featured in many scientific and popular press reports. She will speak on "Global Warming and the Changing Land."

Dr. David Schmidly, president of Texas Tech University, has spent thirty years studying Texas landscapes and natural history. He has authored five major books about Texas mammals, and his most recent book, Texas Natural History: A Century of Change, chronicles the modem history of landscape change in the state and its impact on the fauna. The topic of his presentation is "A Century of Land Use in Texas."

Dr. Libby Stem, of the University of Texas at Austin, will also explore issues close to home with her presentation "Soil and the Edwards Plateau." She applies her specialty of isotope geochernistry to understand earth surface processes both in the modern environment and in the geologic record.

Dr. William R. Jordan III, director of the New Academy for Nature and Culture, is the founder of the journal Restoration & Management Notes (now Ecological Restoration) and a founding member of the Society for Ecological Restoration. His new book is entitled The Sunflower Forest: Ecological Restoration and the New Communion with Nature. He will answer the question "How Can We Heal the Land?"

Andrew Sansom, former director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and now director of the International Institute for Sustainable Water Resources at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcus, will speak on "Texas Land and Public Policy."      

Our closing panel for the day will focus on national policy and "America the Beautiful." Jessica Catto, who brought this distinguished group of panelists together, will serve as the panel moderator. Melinda. Taylor of Environmental Defense; Larry Selzer, vice president of Sustainable Programs, the Conservation Fund; William E. Debuys Jr., who chairs the Valles Caldera Trust in New Mexico; and Pat Noonan, the founder and chairman of the board of the Conservation Fund, will give us a close look at nongovernmental agencies' work on a national scale.

On Sunday morning, Robert Bruenig will serve as moderator for a summary session, "The Future of the Land." Joining in the discussion will be Laura Jackson, William Jordan, Andy Sansom, Libby Stem, Jessica Catto, and Camille Parmesan.

 

I will now turn the program over to Dr. Beunig and our distinguished speakers with my warm welcome and thanks for their participation.