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Katherine Goodbar

INTERVIEWEE: Katherine Goodbar (KG)
DATE: October 18, 2000
LOCATION: Dallas, Texas
TRANSCRIBERS: Lacy Goldsmith and Robin Johnson
REEL: 2112 and 2113

Please note that the recording includes roughly 60 seconds of color bars and sound tone for technical settings at the outset of the recordings. Numbers mark the time codes for the VHS tape copy of the interview. “Misc.” refers to various off-camera background noise, unrelated to the interview content.

DT: My name is David Todd. I’m a representative of the Conservation History Association of Texas. And it’s October 18th, the year 2000. And we’re in Dallas at Katherine Goodbar’s home and she’s been nice enough to spend some time with us to talk about her work teaching about the environment and advocating protection of the environment and acting as a steward for some very special pieces of the environment here in Texas. And I just wanted to take this chance to thank you for spending some time with us.
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KG: It is a pleasure.
DT: Well thank you. I thought we might start with a little conversation about your childhood or early days when you might have had some of your first exposure to the outdoors and an introduction to some of these ideas about the environment.
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KG: It’s really difficult to know how an interest begins. You go back and back in your mind. And you can’t find a beginning. I grew up in Wichita Falls. And I was an only child and there were no other children in the neighborhood. But there was a big vacant lot next door that the city never mowed. And it was full of tall grasses and wildflowers. And I spent a lot of time over there trying to make dresses for my dolls out of pedals from wildflowers. So, I don’t know, maybe that’s where it began. My family were all city people and were not—not outdoor people at all. So that was not a contribution. But maybe that’s how the—the first seed finally was put in place.
DT: Sort of a germ of an idea early on.
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KG: Yes.
DT: Later on, you were raising your own children and I understood went on a number of camping trips and even caving trip and I was wondering if you could tell about some of those outings.
DT: Maybe we could resume, if you could tell about some of your outings with your family.
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KG: When my children were ten, twelve, and fourteen, we got very interested in wild caves. And we went off and we joined a grotto in Dallas. And it was very active. And about at least two weekends a month we would go out to pursuing some cave that we had heard about. The girls liked—we all enjoyed it. It was a family hobby. And they liked it a whole lot. But my son from the time he went in his first cave, he said, “This is what I’m going to do the rest of my life.” And he meant it. And he has not looked to the right or the left since then. He is still—well he works for the Bureau Land Management, he’s Senior Tech—Technical Specialist of Cave and Karst Resources for the Bureau Land Management for all the United States. So he is very much involved with caving now and the protection of caves and conservation. So, yeah, we had a good time. But all the caves were in wild and wonderful places with different kinds of vegetation. And I kept wondering what those plants were and what those rocks were. And so if, of course, if you wonder hard enough, you find out. So I spent a lot a long—a lot of time trying to find out the identity of some of the rocks and the plants that we saw. And actually not having any idea that they were—any of that land was ever in danger of disappearing. Conservation back then was simply not a thing that anybody thought about. There was an abundance of land, an abundance of wild land. And so it really was not an issue then.
DT: And this was in the early ‘60s?
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KG: Yes, it was, oh, 1960 to 65, well he died in 67. So it was up until that time.
DT: Can you describe some of the caves that you went to visit, were they large or small?
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KG: Some of them were just muddy little holes in the ground that didn’t rec—go very far. Some of them were big and impressive. The Caverns of Sonora we did some original mapping and exploring there. And some of them are still not well known. They’re not commercialized, though now peop—more and more people are beginning to realize that the way to protect a cave is to commercialize it. Because you have control. Cavers try to be very, very careful. They’re very secretive about where their caves are so people will not get in and vandalize them. But at the same time, accidents happen. And if the cave is commercialized, then you have control over what happens in them. So one of the ways of conserving a cave now is to commercialize it. But it was a wonderful hobby. It—it kept the family together. We all had something exciting to talk about, to think about. And we enjoyed it a whole lot.
DT: Would each of you have a certain job when you were going into a cave, would somebody lead and somebody follow, would somebody carry certain gear?
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KG: No, we usually went with other people. And yeah, somebody was always in front. That didn’t necessarily mean it was an organized—he was—that person was an organized leader. But, no we usually just went as a group. For mapping, yeah, you had to have assigned jobs for mapping a cave. And somebody had to carry the—the chain, somebody draw the picture. So, yes.
DT: You would take surveying equipment down into the caves?
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KG: Yes. Right now I think the—for a—a new significant cave the idea is that you survey as you go. Now back then, we would—we went to explore. And then we’d go back and survey it. But the rule now is that you survey as you go in. The cave at—I guess the first cave that we ever went to was at Bend, Gorman Falls State Park now. But it was a little fishing camp then. And that was one of the first ones. Cave Without A Name down at Burney was one of the ones that we did some original exploration in and that was fun.
DT: Did some of them have pretty dramatic geologic features or were there cave creatures that—invertebrates that caught your eye? Can you maybe talk about some of your favorite cave outings?
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KG: Well, you never had just a whole of life. You would see little cave crickets, little humpback crickets. But—and millipedes, things like that. But there’s not just a whole lot of life that is visible. Now there’s all—there are all kinds of microscopic things. But you don’t see those. And back then we were not really into discovering the microscopic creatures of the cave. We were just going to have a good time.
DT: Were there threats that are posed to some of these caves continuing as they are or do you think that they’re pretty well protected?
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KG: Fairly well. Occasionally you’ll hear of some vandalism that has happened. But most caves that are of any significance at all right now are gated. And the gates are pretty effective.
DT: Did any of the caves you visited have large Mexican free tail bat colonies or other mammals?
0:10:27 – 112
KG: Not any large colonies. There were, excuse me, a few—few bats at Gorman Falls cave. I think—we never did run into bats at Sonora. No, there were not a whole lot of them. But there were a few. Dramatic incidence, I guess, Cave Without A Name was one of the funniest. We did not have the children with us on that trip. And you go to the back of Cave Without A Name and it ends in a creek or a river that runs—underground river that runs through. And so there was other cave on the side that we had heard about, had never been there. So we decided we were going to find that. My husband was in front. And the ceiling kept coming down. And the silt kept getting deeper and deeper and I kept thinking, “If I take one more step, this water is going to be over my head.” And I took one more step and went bloop, bloop, bloop. Water came up. And so I went scrambling for the top and grabbed hold of his shoulder screaming at the top of my voice. And he sort of dragged me across the rest of the way until we got to the other side. And it was cold. So we scrambled up. And were back there for oh several, several hours. And we never dried off one single bit. We nearly froze. I think that was about the coldest I have ever been. But it was beautiful and they still have not extended the cave to that place. It would be a very difficult thing to get the cave back—a tourist trail back through there, but. One of the old time cavers that we knew way, way, way back then has now bought that cave. And he lives there, Claire Pitman.
DT: Underground?
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KG: No, no, no. No, no. He lives in a little house on top. But he has just written I think his book, Caves of Texas was published just this past year. And we knew him way back in the early days of Sonora. And then of course he did the book on the Big Thicket and so. Those old contacts we still keep up.
DT: Can you talk a little bit about the network of spelunkers, cavers that actually…
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KG: The caving group is a very close-knit group. They know each other nationwide and internationally. They are just as close. I have not kept up with many of the people that I knew before. Because, after my husband died, I simply went to work and didn’t have time to go caving. When you teach school, it’s twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. And that doesn’t leave much spare time. But the cavers visit each other in each other’s caves. And Europeans come here and our cavers go to Europe and they always entertain each other by taking them to they’re—they’re very—very best caves. And they have international publications so they keep up with each other. And I still keep up with a few of the people that I knew then, but not just—not a whole lot of them. Many of them I know I—I keep up with just through my son’s activities. Because he certainly knows everything that’s going on with most of them. And that’s fun.
DT: It seems like they have a sort of culture ethic of exploration. Is that fair to say?
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KG: Yes. Exploring is certainly high on the list. But I think speleology has certainly taken over spelunking more and more and more as time has gone on. In fact, no caver would ever call himself a spelunker. And speleologists are the scientists. And more and more that aspect is being important to all of them. And so.
DT: You mentioned that after you had had a lot of experience caving and your husband had died and you decided to go back and become a teacher. I was wondering if you could talk about some of your experiences being a, I believe, a marine and environmental science teacher at Berkner High school in Richardson?
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KG: I went back to school and got a Master’s Degree from A&M in Education. My first field was Geology. But when I started teaching in Richardson, it was to teach geology, marine science and environmental science and with the idea that all of those are really field studies. And there’s a lot you can teach in the classroom. Certainly you’ve got to have theory and basic knowledge. But to really understand it, you need to get out right where it’s happening. So I tried to get all of my students out on fieldtrips very often so that they could try to apply the things that I had been trying to teach them in the classroom and recognize them. And it was fun. It was a whole lot more fun than teaching static things.
DT: I understood that you even went to the ends of getting a bus-driving certificate so that you could take some of these students on trips. Could you explain what sort of places you’d take them to and what you tried to teach them on these trips?
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KG: (speaking over David) Well, we had some really unhappy experiences trying—with bus—school bus drivers who really were not interested in what we were doing. And it just didn’t work out well at all. Okay, we’re not going to put up with this anymore. So I can drive that bus just as well as he can. And twenty hours of bus driving training later, I began to take them where I wanted to take them. Somewhat to some people’s amazement one time I had taken my geology students to east Texas to one of the strip mines that was there. And we drove down into the mine; it was on a Sunday when nobody was there. And we drove the school bus down into the mine. And of course, it was very, very dusty and it was very hot. And we drove back into the bus compound. And the next day the man called. There were coal icicles made out of coal, stalactites out of coal hanging down from the back of the bumper and so he called. “Mrs. Goodbar, where did you take that bus?” “Oh,” well, anyway. We had some good trips. We—the geology students I regularly took them to the Arbuckle Mountains. And we camped there and pursued rock strata one on top of the other on top of the other until they began to realize differences and how you could tell differences.
DT: [inaudible] road cuts in the mountains?
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KG: Yes. And then other off road places that you find out about through other people’s field guides. The University of Oklahoma at Norman has some very generous people who are willing to share their field guides. And so if you look at those you find some really good places. The environmental students—I had an environmental club and we took some really good fieldtrips, all planned to try to incorporate the things we’d been studying in class. But—oh we went to LBJ Ranch and the park there. And it was one—that was a year when we had some foreign students—exchange students with us. And one little French girl—we were camped there and we were cooking dinner. It was a year of a terrible, terrible drought. The deer would come up and eat bread out of the kid’s hands they were so hungry. There was simply no grass there to eat. Well, we were standing around cooking dinner and all of a sudden this armadillo comes running through the campground. And our little French girl screams and jumps up, “What is this animal?” And she had never seen anything that looked like an armadillo ever before. So—and she had never seen cotton growing. So it was fun. We stopped and let her pick cotton for a while, but.
DT: What were some of the environmental themes that you were trying to show on trips like the one to LBJ State Park?
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KG: I have no idea what I was trying to teach them at that point. We—I don’t know, I don’t remember.
DT: Well you mentioned cotton, I was curious if one of the things you were trying to show was how cotton has changed the land, you know, the soil erosion or sapping the nutrients. Was that part of the lesson?
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KG: (talking over David) Well, certainly things like that we did. We tried to take advantage of everything that we passed that had anything to do with their learning more about their environment. We took trips to the Big Thicket. And they certainly understood why the Big Thicket needed preservation. We went to—we went to Oklahoma, up to Sulfur Oklahoma to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area where they could actually see travertine forming as it came out—water came out of springs and. I’m trying to think of some of the other trips we went to. And a lot of the places we went, if you stayed in parks, they had naturalists there. And it was always, I thought, much better to let their naturalists take the kids out an—because they could—well they were simply more familiar with them than I was. We went to Caddo Lake so they could see the bayous, went canoeing. We hauled our own canoes to Caddo Lake. And camped there for that weekend, put the canoes in. And these kids had never canoed much before. So as we were going up the bayou, we were going into the wind, and they were paddling just as hard as they could paddle. “Ms. Goodbar, how much farther is it?” “Oh, huff, puff.” “Well now keep on going because, just think, when we get up and turn around and start coming back, you’ll have the wind at your back.” We got back up into wonderful places that opened up with lily pads and duck weed and the flowers in bloom and Spanish moss hanging and they were just, oh, they took rolls and rolls of pictures. And then we turned around and started back. Then wind had changed direction. And God love them, they had to paddle against the wind all the way back. But, anyway, it was a good learning experience. They found out about a few muscles they had—they didn’t know they had and all that—that mowing—rowing.
DT: I understand you also went down to the coast, is that right, with maybe the marine science classes?
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KG: That was, yeah, those were the marine science students. And we would start out and go to Port Arthur. And then come down the coastline looking at salt marshes. And we went to McFadden Wildlife Refuge and Sea Rim and then we came all the way down the coastline and finally wound up at Surfside where we usually could find one of the shrimpers on one of the big shrimp boats who was willing to take us way out. And that was highpoint of the trip, of course. And they did it. It cost them an enormous amount of money. The amount of gasoline or fuel that it takes them to go out for a whole day is enormous. But they had a story to tell. It seemed that they wanted the kids to realize what their problem was, that every—so many people who had come back from Vietnam were buying up little shri—little boats. And they were shrimping up close to land. And they would always give us the whole life cycle of the shrimp that they came into the bays there to spawn. And then as they got old—the shrimp got older, they would move farther and farther and farther out. And the big shrimp were way out. And there was so much shrimping happening up close to land that there was nothing left for them—none of the big ones were left. They would put out those huge arms on the boats. And then they dumped everything right in the middle of the deck. And the kids could go through it. And, sure enough, there were very, very few big shrimp in there. But at the same time, we had brought along our formalin and jars and all of our collecting equipment. And so we got to make collections to bring back for our classroom and that was fun.
DT: Brown shrimp and white shrimp and pink shrimp?
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KG: Not many shrimp at all. No just other things that they brought up.
DT: Any surprises that you collected over the years?
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KG: Don’t think so. Soda pop cans, that was not a surprise.
DT: No turtles or anything?
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KG: No. No turtles. But anyway, they were good learning experiences. Many of the kids went on—well, okay, the only ones that I have really kept up with are the students that did go on and pursue either geology, marine science or environmental science and certainly not all of those—those. But I know that some of them did and.
DT: What sort of impact do you think your classes and these fieldtrips might have had on their lives?
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KG: (speaking over David) Oh, I think that being there and getting out of the classroom to see what it really is, is the thing that—that captivates them, “Hey, this is wonderful, this is what these people do, I want to do this to.” So, yeah, I think fieldtrips are enormously important in helping kids see whether it’s something they’d like to do or not like to do. I’m certain that many of them decided, “Hey this isn’t for me, I don’t want to do this. I’d rather sit and do something in a building.” But—but the ones that were bent in that direction anyway, it probably was a deciding point. Early on, some of the peop—some of the kids who went on and majored in environmental science and got degrees had a difficult time. Because there were not that many jobs open. And so a couple of boys that I know of who majored in environmental science had to go to work doing something—did something else. And so far as I know, they never did get a job in environmental science. Things are much better now. And by the time I retired from classroom teaching in 1985, jobs were much easier for them to find. And now many, many openings for environmental students. So, things are much better.
DT: Were you teaching at the time of the first Earth Day? How did that work into your—how was that regarded down here?
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KG: Oh Yes. Let’s see, I was teaching in Junior High before I had gone to Richardson. It was an enormous effort on everybody’s part. Every—well okay, this was what—this was in the ‘70s, yeah, and things were much worse in the ‘70s than they ever have been since. People were dying from air pollution here and in England. And all of a sudden the population sort of woke up to what was happening. And there was a fervor about conservation that we haven’t seen since then. I think because the situation hasn’t been that bad since then. But I also had an environmental club at Junior High. And boy, they were in to everything. They were planting trees, they were collecting newspaper, they were putting toilet—bricks in their toilet tank. They were, you name it, and they were doing it. So the first Earth Day everybody in every organization, whether they were—it was an environmental organization or not, had something to do to celebrate that day. It was—had an enormous impact, many, many, many groups involved.
DT: How do you think the attitudes of students have changed since the late ‘60s, 1970 era?
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KG: Well in one way—after that the crisis went away. Then air pollution was not bad like it had been before. There was much more concentration on water purity, on—and people began to—began to be aware of the fact that some land needed to saved. And so gradually the pressure was down. It was there. It’s simply something that they were all aware of. But there was not that terrible crisis, “We’re all going to die tomorrow if we don’t something about it.” Many, many, many students now are still not aware. And I think it’s because so much concentration in this part of the country an—it may be everywhere, I don’t know, has simply been on technology, the advent of what, computers? Too much time spent watching television. They’re just not out and about. And they’re not—not nearly as aware as kids were before. Because they spend their time on other things. The important thing now is, “Are you computer literate?” And that’s pretty much what the direction they’re all focused on.
DT: And I guess what you were trying to do as a teacher was to try and give your kids some environmental literacy. Is that fair to say?
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KG: Oh yeah, um huh.
DT: What would be some of the aspects of a kid who you considered to be literate and sort of comprehending of the natural world?
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KG: Well, let me tell me what we’re doing at the Environmental Studies Center that I think ma—it—we don’t know, it may or may not be an important thing. It may—I mean it may or na—may not last, but an idea is presented—concept in the classroom. They have hands on activities. Then the kids are bussed out to this learning center—outdoor learning center. And we show them how that particular concept works in real life. Now they come si—every single year, every elementary student comes from kindergarten through sixth grade. After that, some of the Junior High and some High School stu—teachers bring their students there too. But it’s good because you can teach in sequence an—but how long this influence is going to last? We don’t know. They remember coming but whether it’s had a—a big enough impact to last through their adult life, I have no idea, so.
DT: Some people have I think taken environmental education to task for trying to inject controversy or a certain political point of view into children’s lives. And I was wondering if you ever felt pressure or concern for the parents or from industry leaders over the environmental curriculum?
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KG: No, not from parents or—we never hear anything from industry other than those industries who want to help us. And there are grants given occasionally for particular projects. Of course I always think that it’s people who are very definitely on the side of big business and are wanting to influence other people by accusing education. I don’t know whether that has anything to do with it or not. But we certainly never have any conflict with anybody.
DT: Maybe we could talk a little bit about some of your activity outside of school. I understood that you became concerned and involved in the effort to secure protection for the Big Thicket. Can you tell me about some of your advocacy for the Thicket or for other environmental projects?
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KG: Yeah, this—I was teaching and regularly took my students there. There were so many people who were aware of the fact that the Big Thicket was an area that really needed preservation. And of course the Powwow, TCONR [Texas Committee on Natural Resources] Powwow, met there every—every year. And we went down and got lost one time with Pete Gunter in the Jack Gore Baygall [Unit of the Big Thicket National Preserve]. That was—that was exciting. But all of it was so gorgeous. Geraldine Watson was certainly it’s greatest advocate. That wonderful, wonderful lady who was identifying plants and trying to discover exactly what was there and let the world know. So we were eager to learn. I took students there. And it was a great joy when that purpose was finally accomplished. That I think was the thing that actually got me into volunteering in—for conservation. I couldn’t do just a whole lot about it until I retired from school teaching. Because that takes up a whole lot of time. But I knew what I wanted to do. And the TCONR Powwow, we never missed. I’ve been guiding paw—powwow for something like fi—no more than that, about sixteen or seventeen years. And that’s part of life, that’s the thing you do. You go to the powwow and guide people through the wilderness because it is so wonderful and you want then to see it.
DT: Maybe you could tell us a little bit about your volunteer efforts for TCONR and these guided trips that you would take?
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KG: Well after—let’s see, I guess it was about 1984 Ned—wait a minute, it started before that… okay—okay, TCONR used to have—instead of having regular annual meetings like they have now, they had auctions along with their annual meeting. And so one year we had a meeting out at the Weary’s(?) place in Garland, a gorgeous piece of land. And Ned had called me ahead of time and said he was going to do a very, very different thing, sort of radical. “What is it, Ned?” “I’m going to have lady guides.” I went, “Oh dear.” Anyway, he wanted to know if I would be one of his lady guides. “Yes, yes, I will be a lady guide.” So.
DT: [inaudible]
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KG: Right. Anyway, that was I think how I got into guiding and—at the powwows—wilderness powwows.
DT: And you’d guide for botany and for bird watching I suppose?
0:39:12 – 2112
KG: For whatever is there, plants—in east Texas it’s very hard to see birds. There are so many trees and the birds all hide behind leaves. And so if you could get a glimpse of a bird, yeah, we’d try to figure out what it was. But it’s not really an easy task to identify a bird in the Big Thicket—or back any place in the east Texas wilderness. They hide real well. But to take people through places that are not developed at all, where things are in their natural state, it’s a real joy.
DT: Do you remember some of the impressions of people when you introduce these things to them?
0:39:58 – 2112
KG: No not really. Most people are simply wide-eyed at everything they’re seeing. You go to places where there are little seeps—water seeps. And there are orchids blooming and, “You mean they’re real—that little thing is a real live orchid?” “Yes, indeed it is.”
DT: Jack in the Pulpits?
0:40:23 – 2112
KG: Yeah, Jack in the Pulpits and May Apples and, anyway all the lovely things that bloom in woods. And so more and more you get—you are convinced that land like that needs to be saved and then you realize that there are other kinds of land that are precious too even though they don’t have orchids and huge magnolia trees and that kind of thing, in their own way they are beautiful, maybe they need to be saved. Anyway, Ned started Natural Area Preservation Association. And he called and wanted to know if I would be land steward for two of the each Texas nature preserves, the Trammel Crow’s contribution of the Glades, which is a fresh water swamp. It’s one of the biggest ones north of the coast. And Pope Creek, which is hard wood bottom land, which is still my favorite of all the 42 preserves, so.
DT: Well tell a little bit about it while you’re [inaudible]
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KG: Oh, it’s just wonderful. It’s run by—owned—well Vi [Violet] Hammet and her son Ken have given it. Ken lives there on a slope just above the preserve. He’s got enormous water oaks, river birches with peeling bark, you know how the bark curls up and it’s wonderful, burr oaks, red buckeye. This last trip that we made the red buckeye was in bloom everywhere, just every place you’d look there was these wonderful spots of red. What else? It’s got Jack in the Pulpits, May apples, a creek running through. One of the biggest snapping turtles I ever saw was down in that creek.
DT: How big?
0:42:37 – 2112
KG: That big. And he had a really ugly disposition. He was not happy about having us there. But I think I have—I know I have never been there that I didn’t see something that I had never seen before. And I go twice a year, every year since about 1984. And every single time I’m going to see one plant that I’ve never seen there before. Oh, in a really wet year, there are many, many, many—well I can’t think of the name of the plant right now. The white tails that hang over, anyway I’ll think of it in a minute. After this interview’s over I’ll remember the name of that plant.
DT: [inaudible]
0:43:33 – 2112
KG: Oh yes, but there’s whole fields of them. And it’s really lovely.
DT: NAPA [Natural Areas Preservation Association] has, I think you said 43 preserves now, can you describe what sort of examples there are, I suppose you have some native prairie, is that right?
0:43:51 – 2112
KG: They are all—they are so different.
DT: Bottom lands [inaudible]?
0:43:54 – 2112
KG: Yeah.
DT: Maybe you could tell us some stories about a few of the examples.
0:44:00 – 2112
KG: Kachina Prairie is in Ennis. And it’s owned by the City of Ennis. And there was a very far-sided lady—oh it was one about the third one that we ever—third preserve we every had. And she simply insisted it was on city owned land by Lake Clark. And she insisted that that land and those grasses had to be protected. And so the—she talked them into giving us a conservation easement on it. And I think a few years later when I first came in, they were not too happy about having that easement. They thought they needed baseball diamonds. But we had taken good care. We’ve advertised the prairie. We have burned the prairie a couple of times. We have helped all of them understand the value of tall grass parries and how important it is to save them and how rare they are and now they are—the city is very, very proud of their prairie. So that’s wonderful. Farther down, we—well, we have about four preserves in Nacogdoches that are typical east Texas beauties, just wonderful, wonderful land. And then down toward the coast we have a piece of land on Adams Bayou that is a swamp. It’s a cypress swamp. And it’s really lovely. And then we also have another fairly large tract there, about 200 acres that is all in cypress and coastal growth. Natural Area Preservation Association is really interested in trying to preserve all of the hardwood bottomland along the Trinity River. We have several preserves along there. One of them is close to Huntsville and it’s one of the few preserves that we have ever bought. We have—we have our preserves—many of them have been given to us. We have about half preserv—about half the preserves we own in fee simple and half of them we have conservation easements on. But that is one of the few places that we have raised enough money to buy. And it’s nice. It’s just what you’d expect bottomland along the Trinity River to be. It’s got all—surprisingly it’s got palmettos. I didn’t expect them to be up that high but they are.
DT: What else do you see there?
0:47:01 – 2112
KG: Oaks, elms, pecans, walnuts.
DT: Any Red Cockaded Woodpeckers there?
0:47:14 – 2112
KG: Not right there. Now in east Texas, yeah, we see those on several preserves there. And that—that’s good. Central Texas, we have—well the la—each part of the country has land that is so typical of the growth in that particular part of the country. And that’s one of the things that we look for. There is a lovely preserve right along the lo—Noland River that Vivian Malone and her family gave—gave us, 144 acres along the river. And it’s upland black land prairie at the top. And then it grades down to wonderful tall trees along the river. In—up by Sherman, we have a delightful little prairie [the “North Texas Wildflower Prairie”] that—it’s only about 35, 40 acres. But Carol McCarter gave it to us and it’s got wildflowers, oh my, it has wildflowers everywhere. And so we called it Carol’s Wildflower Prairie. We go farther to the west and Claude Albritton has given us an easement on a canyon down by Tarpley. And it is very impressive. In Kerrville John Galley who used to be President of Texas Parks and Wildlife has given us—well we now—since John died, we own his land there, which is a series of box canyons. His widow, Karen, still lives there. But the box canyons are really nice. They’ve got big old, old ash junipers. There are too many ash junipers in that whole part of the country. But these are old and big and they’re holding all those slopes dow—holding the soil and the slopes down. And so we’re not even thinking about removing those. We probably will take out some of the ash junipers around—smaller ones around the Spanish oaks and some of the other hard wood trees so they—they have a chance too. Bud Baird, Roland Baird family have given us an easement on their family ranch in west Texas. And it still is a working ranch. So we have some really good examples of parcels in different parts of the country that are very typical of what land in that part of the country should be.
DT: Maybe you could help me get a better picture of NAPA. It sounds like unlike to the nature conservancy which is looking for very large tracts and often specimens that are extremely rare. It sounds like NAPA is more interested in smaller pieces and pieces that might just be representative of a different kind of eco region. Is that fair?
0:51:05 – 2112
KG: That’s absolutely true. We are certainly not insisting that there be an endangered species. And we certainly don’t insist that the land that we have to have enormous acreages. However, we do recognize that fragmentation of habitat is a really big problem. We would love to connect some of our preserves to other lands close by. It’s one of our big goals, if we could ever make it happen. Not very many wild—kinds of wildlife are going to be able to earn their living on 30 acres. But still in all, I think it’s important to have examples of plain vanilla whatever place you are. How is land in that part of the country supposed to loo—look? Children coming up are being engulfed by development. What did it—what—what did it used to look like here? And so we think that’s important.
DT: You also mentioned that some of these tracts that you’ve bought or been given are actually protected not in fee simple, but by something called a conservation easement. Can you explain how that works?
0:52:38 – 2112
KG: Yes indeed. With the conservation easement, the owner still—he retains ownership of the land. And a document is drawn up giving very specific details on what can and cannot happen on that piece of land. It includes things—now first of all easements are enormously flexible, each one is written for that particular piece of land and it will—it might say that no roads will ever come through this piece of property or foot trails will go from this point to that point. It tells—usually includes the idea that no vegetation will ever be taken out, no native vegetation will ever be taken out, that—but it gives permission to take out invasive species of both animals and plants. If the owner wants to build a house at some future time or thinks he might, or his children might want to build a house, you say how many acres it’s going to take in, say one acre in the northeast corner of the property. You tell where it’s going to be and how much acreage it will take and what’s going to happen there, a house, barn, garage, whatever. But it gives very specific instructions on what can and cannot happen on the land. It is in perpetuity and it—the land can be sold but the easement has to go with it. So the easement stays with the land forever, no matter what happens to it.
DT: Another question I had was that aside from these legal tools that you use to protect and restore the land, what are some of the sort of hands on tools? Maybe you can tell a little bit about burning that you’ve done or grazing practices that you use or how you remove exotics. Some ideas about that?
0:55:07 – 2112
KG: There have been some concern over burning. We feel like it is a very valuable tool as long as it’s not overused. At Kachina we burned last year. We will probably burn again this year depending on weather, on fuel load, that kind of thing. It had gotten some invasive species that we really would like to get rid of. And—but then, excuse me, for about maybe four years, three or four years after that, we will mow. Now there is a whole new idea that Parks and Wildlife, Jim Eidson and some of the people in Parks and Wildlife are proposing. And they seem to think a well-maintained prairie takes burning and grazing and mowing. And the grazing idea is different and unusual too. Excuse me, they block off a portion of the land, bring in buffalo or cattle, and they have intense grazing for just a very short period of time. So that everything there is grazed right down to the ground and then they get them out and move them to another section. And they say that the grasses come back just beautifully. That they have never been so luxurious as they are after a session like that. But they think that periodically you need to burn and then periodically you need to mow. So they’re thinking all three methods. We’re thinking about that. The problem with some acreages is that you’ve got to have cross fencing in order to put all these animals in there. And putting up cross fencing is expensive. And sometimes it’s difficult to do just simply because of the layout of the land, so anyway. But each of the preserves has a management—or a stewardship committee. And so when we get it, we try to find people who live right there in that area, the landowner or the donor plus neighbors, people who know how that land should look. And then people from our group also on the committee and working together then they oversee what happens there. So most of the management that takes place is really low key. For most places, there’s not all that much that needs doing. Now prairies take a whole lot more managing than any other kind of land. But people working together then determine what needs doing. And they go and inspect the land, monitor what’s happening there, record any wonderful new plants that the birds have brought in or some terrible thing that we need to get rid of right away so.
DT: Can you explain to me the monitoring that you might do on a sanctuary?
0:58:43 – 2112
KG: Well, let’s see. I think I had mentioned hill country land before and the fact that there is a great deal too much ash juniper there. It simply takes over. And so the decision has to be made whether—how much of it to take out and where those trees are. The trees that are going to come out need to be flagged. And then you need to find somebody whose willing to come and cut them out. Now they’re not going to resprout, which is good. But then you have to decide which one of them—ideally you would like to leave them on the ground to put their nutrients back into the soil as they rot. But as you know, cedar doesn’t rot very quickly. And you certainly want the land to be passable. So part of it can be left there but part of it probably needs to be dragged out depending on how much you take—take out.
End of Reel 2112
DT: Ms. Goodbar, I was wondering if you could tell us about the individuals who come to NAPA and say, “I have attractive land that I’d like to protect.” Why do they come to you, how do they respond once they successfully protect the tract?
0:01:52 – 2113
KG: I think people see development really taking over so much green space. I was in Louisville yesterday running some errands with my granddaughter. And I was just amazed mile after mile after mile of apartment houses going up, like boxes stacked one on top of the other. And there’s no end to them. And you turn and go down another street and there’s the same thing. Street after street after street, mile after mile. And people see that happening and for land that may have been in their family for four or five generations, they—they want to keep it. And they’re not sure what their children are going to do. Are the children going to be able to resist the temptation to get all that money that they’re offered to—by a developer? They want to be certain that nothing happens to the land. And so we hear this story over and over. “I see development coming closer and closer to me and I’m afraid.” So that’s one thing. Urban land, people are beginning to look at now. I had a call this morning from a lady in Oak Cliff who said that there is 25 acres in Oak Cliff. It was developed about 15 years ago. It has some 50-60 year old trees, would we please come and look at it and see if we would be willing to take it. Well, of course we have a choice. We’ve got to know that there are conservation values there. So we haven’t been out to see it but we get many calls. And this was a lady who does—she doesn’t own the land. We’d have to get somebody else, the people who do own the land, to be willing to accept and easement on it. But many, many of the neighbors there are interested in keeping it as green space for educational purposes, guided trails for children, that kind of thing. So even little plots of land within a city, people are beginning to be concerned about and.
DT: You mentioned that some developers who have approached you with the idea that perhaps they can develop their land with a higher return if they secure part of the tract as open space and only develop a portion.
0:04:39 – 2113
KG: There’s a whole new development concept that seems to be sweeping the country. We first heard about it from a conference in Flower Mound [, Texas] about a year ago. It’s the idea that a developer with a very large tract of land with very good vegetation, natural land that has not been developed at all, hasn’t had anything happen to it. They take the land and cluster the houses at one end of the land and they all open into the common area, which is under easement and does not have anything done to it other than walking trails. And this is very different. We have never done anything like this before. And I have been talking to other people, one very large ranch, I think 50 thousand acres in New Mexico that—and they’re trying to sell 40 acre homesteads that would all be open onto the rest of the area that is common land and under easement. And the good thing about this is that with land trusts, everybody trusts everybody else, we communicate, we share experiences, we talk about problems and how—how did you solve this. Right now one of the questions is, “Do the house lots themselves come under the easement and if so, how do you monitor.” That would be the real problem. For large acreages, say you have 24 or 50 separately owned lots that were under ea—how would you monitor all those to be sure that they were conforming? So there are problems involved that we have not solved yet. But this seems to be the trend now to keep large parcels of the land natural and then everybody sharing. Now in San Antonio, we do have one that is like that. It is a development, built in a horseshoe with common land in the middle. And so far, everything’s working very well. But it’s—it’s not an enormous acreage like some of those that are being developed right now. And we’ve been approached for some very large ones in southwest Texas but nothing’s happened with them yet. Anyway, it’s interesting, certainly a challenge.
DT: When you say “we” at NAPA, until very recently, you meant volunteers. And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how NAPA has managed to survive as a volunteer-run organization until very recently when you finally had to hire a staff member?
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KG: We are so, yes, I just love to talk about that. For a long time we were the largest land trust in the nation run completely by volunteers. And we have been very proud of our record of being able to maintain ourselves with volunteers completely. Now when we—I think the thing that finally was the straw that broke the camels back, we got a—an easement on 20 thousands in Culberson County. And that all has to be monitored and taken care of. And, at the same time, we had gotten about five other brand new preserves. And we were sort of overwhelmed at our success. So we said, “Hey, we’ve got to have some help, there’s just so much that the people who are working can do. And we have to have help.” So we have hired an executive directive, a very capable one. We’re very happy to have him. And so we have our first paid employee. So, anyway, I think he’s going to be overworked.
DT: Speaking of volunteering, I understand another part of your volunteer life has been with a group called REAL, Richardson Environmental Action League, is that right? And could you talk a little bit about their effort in the recycling arena?
0:09:30 – 2113
KG: Well this started back in the se—seventies too with all the panic was over, “Were we going to survive?” And, anyway, everybody had to do everything. And so a group of people in Richardson decided that they were going to have a recycling organization. Ed Curran was right there at the founding. There was also a group from the League of Women Voters who were in on the original founding. And so they were donated a little space of land and did a whole lot of advertising. And I started taking my students there so because they needed to be in on recycling. It was a very important part of their lives. And so we got a recycling project going at school and went over and volunteered our time to, boy did we ever work. We stacked newspapers. People would come and simply put down newspapers. And, of course they all had to be stacked inside enormous trailers, what 40-yard trailers and stacked to the ceiling so you could get more paper in there before you hauled it off to market. So we spent many, many hours stacking newspaper. And the glass had to be all broken so you could get more glass in the barrels before you took it to market. And the cans had to be crushed. And so we—everything was done by hand and by volunteers. And so, because my students were involved, I got involved and pretty soon I was on the board and have been ever since. Now, our whole goal was to have curbside pickup by the city. And so we kept on managing and stacking newspapers until two years ago when, maybe it was three years ago, anyway very recently, the City of Richardson finally decided that curbside pickup was the thing that they really needed to do. They were being put to shame by the City of Austin who was—has always been way ahead of everyplace else in the state as far as environmental issues are concerned. So anyway, they—by request of the citizens of Richardson, they finally decided, yes, they would do curbside pickup. So that really—our goal was accomplished. Our mission seemed to be over but, because we were all volunteer, we had saved all the money we’d made of recycling since the day we began and we had money. So now we meet quarterly, the board does. And we consider requests for good environmental projects and we give away money, so.
DT: It’s satisfying.
0:12:52 – 2113
KG: Yes, it’s wonderful.
DT: Could be back up and discuss why you and your fellow real founders felt that it was important to recycle. Was there a threat of landfills getting too crowded or was there an incinerator that was proposed? What was the concern?
0:13:13 – 2113
KG: Well the tipping theme was always enormous. And so, yeah, the—there was never any real threat of—once when the landfill needed to be expanded there was some concern about it sort of backing into the land that was owned by the Heard Museum in McKinney. But the—it was just a matter of liners, how they were going to do it. And when those questions were solved, it was not a problem at all. Yeah, the land to put in a new landfill is enormous. The expenses are enormous. And so the city was quite interested in having something that would reduce the amount of material that went into their landfill. So, I’m sure this had a great deal to do with their decision to have curbside pickup along with the fact that we have always worked very closely with City of Richardson and we still do. But I think we convinced them that they were not going to lose money. Now Dallas, because I’ve worked in Richardson, I really have kept up a whole lot more with what happened there than I have with what—what’s happened in Dallas. Certainly their Dry Gulch recycling place has been an enormous success. But I think Dallas was simply afraid that it was going to cost too much, that they were not going to be able to—it wasn’t going to pay for itself. So I think if it wasn’t, we would have heard about it loud and clear. But I haven’t heard anything about it not paying for itself so.
DT: I was actually curious about that same issue. There was an article that came out maybe two years ago that took a lot of recycling proponents aback. And it was written by a fellow who sort of did this clumsy time and motion study and he determined that recycling didn’t pay for itself and that he felt that it was a waste of time and sort of a way to make people feel like they were involved in environmental protection. But it didn’t really make a difference. What do you think about that sort of charge?
0:06:00 – 2113
KG: Well, it certainly does take an enormous amount away from what goes into the landfill. And again, land is just, well the price land’s going for is just sort of mind boggling right now. And so, oh I think the gentleman probably hadn’t looked into land costs when he said that. Because it’s—and we always discovered that recycling made money, we—we had many thousands of dollars to prove that it does. But of course we were using volunteers and doing it on a much smaller scale.
DT: How did REAL manage to survive the swings in a lot of the commodity prices when it seems like it’s very volatile over the course of the life of REAL?
0:17:04 – 2113
KG: Actually since everything we did was by volunteer, and we banked everything we made, the only costs we had were gasoline to drive it to market. We bummed trucks from other people. We borrowed them to take our product to market and to get those big dumpsters hauled in. And so the ups and downs did not effect us. We had calls from people all over the United States because we were one of the few of those recycling organizations city-wide things that had started up that were able to survive. And they wanted to know how we did it. And they had been run out of business because their paper newspapers were blowing everyplace, their lots were trashy looking and neighbors complained and cities closed them down. And how did we manage to do that? We just had good people. And we made it a point that we never had any blowing newspaper anywhere. And if we did, we picked it up. And so it was just—that it was one of our goals from the very beginning that we were going—out operations were going to be neat and clean. And then people were willing to work hard enough to keep them that way, so.
DT: I’d like to ask a few general questions if you don’t mind. You’ve worked in a number of different areas for environmental education to recycling, to being a steward for a variety of different tracts of land. What do you think some of the challenges or opportunities, is there a flip side environmentally for the next coming years?
0:19:08 – 2113
KG: I get discouraged when I see all of those apartment houses going up. I think the biggest challenge is—okay, let me back up a little bit. When I was looking at all those rows and rows of apartment houses, I’m thinking that in most of those apartment houses there’s going to be a child born. That child’s going to grow up in the apartment house and not know anything at all about the way the real world is put together. They are—they know about computers, they know that there’s a TV there, they know that—they read something about the natural world and animals in books. But as far as actual knowing, they don’t. And to me the biggest challenge we have is education. You know, I think I started out by saying that I think until you get them out into the field where they can actually relate to the plants that are there, the animals that are there, that when you see a little snake wiggling through the grass you don’t have to scream at the top of your voice and go climb a telephone pole. Contact with natural areas, fieldtrips, education, to me that’s the challenge. Because if we don’t do it, it’s hopeless. If you’ve got that many voters who have a choice between voting for industry or voting for natural area for any—any place anywhere, you have to have people who know something about both sides to make any intelligent vote. And right now there are an awful lot of them who do not know both sides. So to me that’s the challenge.
DT: Do you have suggestions of how you can inject more discussion about environmental issues in public discussion? I’ve been following the political debates, as I’m sure you have for the presidential campaigns. And it seems like it’s gotten sort of short shrift. There’s been discussion about a number of topics but very little about environmental issues. Any ideas of how to get this to be a more high profile topic?
0:21:46 – 2113
KG: Not really. I think—I don’t know how to do that. I wish I did. I’m—was—am recently been thinking about the ‘70s when so much got done and so many people became suddenly so aware of everything around them. And it was a crisis situation. I certainly hope we don’t have to have another crisis situation to alert people to the need to know more about the earth around them. That is not a good answer. But I don’t know what the good answers are. I th—I guess keep plugging away in schools, trying I guess get more teachers who are more willing to get their kids out of the classroom with hands on opportunities. That’s the only thing I know.
DT: Are there words of advice that you might give people of future generations? Say the average student that you might have in one of your classes. What would you tell them to try and get them enthusiastic and involved in environmental work?
0:23:03 – 2113
KG: Say, “Come take a walk with me, let me take you out and show you.” I think maybe with their teachers, the same thing, “Come on, let’s take a walk, I’ll show you some things.”
DT: And where would you take them? Is there a special place that means a great deal to you?
0:23:24 – 2113
KG: Oh, any of the ones that are typical of their own area. We could go to a prairie and look at big blue stem that is gorgeous and six feet tall. We could go to eat Texas and look at their wonderful towering magnolia trees or, right around you somewhere there’s some natural land that needs looking at.
DT: Is there a special place that’s your favorite place to go for solace or mental recharge or spiritual connection?
0:24:02 – 2113
KG: If I had enough time to get away and do things like that, I would go often to Pope Creek and north of Longview, Harleton—Harleton. That’s my favorite.
DT: What is that like there?
0:24:17 – 2113
KG: That was one—the one that I described earlier, it’s hardwood bottom land, beautiful, tall trees and.
DT: When did your educational teaching career begin, and what year did you begin teaching?
0:24:35 – 2113
KG: I started teaching in 1967.
DT: That’s about the right time. Did the influence of Rachel Carson’s books mean anything? Did you use your classrooms as a venue for that?
0:24:50 – 2113
KG: Oh yes. Yes. Well actually not when I very—when I first started teaching, I was teaching in elementary school then. And—but certainly we have used Rachel—Rachel Carson’s book in classes, or I did I guess every year we talked about them, read the book over and over and over again.
DT: Would this be Beneath the Sea or Silent Spring or what?
0:25:21 – 2113
KG: Silent Spring. Yeah, it—I guess Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold had the biggest impact on people about that time.
DT: What sort of impression did people take away from those two books do you think?
0:25:45 – 2113
KG: That is was time to get out and do something, to save something. That silent spring was really going to happen unless they became more aware and starting taking action.
DT: Is there any writer today you think in the last five years or in our decade that’s made that kind of a difference?
0:26:13 – 2113
KG: Not that kind of impact. Rachel Carson’s book hit the world wi—like a slap in the face. I don’t think—because it was such a shock, such a surprise, it had an enormous impact. And I don’t think any other writing has s—been able to do that since then.
DT: Well I think that you’ve made an impression on many people’s lives, including ours, and thank you for your time.
0:26:47 – 2113
KG: Well thank you very much for being interested.
End of reel 2113
End of interview with Katherine Goodbar