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August 2009 cover image Franklin Mountains

From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

He always spoke for the trees — the sweetgums, the longleaf pines, the bur oaks, the shagbark hickories, the white oaks and the water oaks. He spoke for them all, all of the time. It is an appropriate epitaph for the late Ned Fritz, one of Texas’ most prominent citizen conservationists and forest advocates, who passed away at the ripe old age of 92 late last year.

For those unfamiliar with Mr. Fritz, one has to look no further than the lands and waters of the Big Thicket National Preserve, the laws promulgated by the Texas Wilderness Act and the National Forest Management Act, and conservation organizations now known as the Texas Conservation Alliance and the Texas Lands Conservancy. He was a driving force behind the creation of all of them. Mr. Fritz, an attorney by profession and an avowed environmentalist by avocation, was an indomitable force in Texas conservation circles for the last three decades or so. And his passion, unbridled to be sure, was the preservation of nature.

As you will read in the accompanying article by Wendee Holtcamp, Mr. Fritz accomplished much and inspired many. Not that he cared much, however, but to be fair, he also angered more than a few along the way. His willingness to litigate and his outspoken views for wilderness preservation and against clear cutting, prescribed fire and other commonly employed forest management tools made him an unwelcome guest in more than a few East Texas timber camps, sawmills and Forest Service offices. I myself recall at least two occasions in which he took me to task for my advocacy of management techniques that he felt were inconsistent with letting nature take its course.

But that was just Ned. He was living proof of the old aphorism, “If you aren’t occasionally making someone mad, you probably aren’t doing anything.” So, whether one agreed or disagreed with Mr. Fritz’s positions or actions, one could never accuse him of lying behind the log.

Fortunately, Texas is full of impassioned conservationists who aren’t content to lie behind the log. You can find them heralding the importance of private lands stewardship, the future of our bobwhite quail, the need to get children in nature, the protection of recharge zones atop the Edwards Aquifer, the conservation of our seagrass meadows, the health of our rivers and the virtues of our parks, open spaces and greenbelts.

Some are carrying rod and reel, and others a shotgun, a day pack, a camera, a set of field guides or a pair of binoculars. Some are atop a kayak or mountain bike and still others are behind the wheel of a pickup.

Ours is a big state with a lot to care for. We need them all.

Thanks for being one of them. Texas wild places and wild things need you more than ever.

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