INTERVIEWEE: Ned Fritz (NF)
INTERVIEWERS: Sandra Skrei (SS) and Craig Damuth (CD)
DATE: June 17, 1999
LOCATION: Dallas, Texas
TRANSCRIBER: Robin Johnson
Note: numbers refer to time codes for the VHS tape copy of the interview. “Misc.” refers to various off-camera background noise, unrelated to the interview.
SS: I’d like to thank you for inviting us into your home to share your memories of TCNR [Texas Committee on Natural Resources] and NAPA [Natural Areas Preservation Association]. I kind of want to go back to the beginning so the first thing I always like to find out about people is can you trace your passion for nature back to one incident or one kind of period in your life or how did you get interested in nature?
NF: At first it was the Boy Scouts that really helped the most. However, I did live on the edge of Tulsa, Oklahoma when I was seven years old, moved there from Philadelphia. Strictly buildings in Philadelphia. I was near downtown and in Oklahoma on the edge of town next to a beautiful ravine with some great trees, fishing, especially catfish in the creek and so I immediately started to drift down there. It’s a interesting question as to whether people genetically turn towards being in nature or whether it’s a matter of past training. But in Philadelphia I practically never visited nature except to walk to a golf course occasionally. And so there was little background in my activities that would have caused me to love nature so much. I just, in Tulsa, I immediately gravitated toward the woods.
SS: Did you go exploring on your own when you went out to the outskirts?
NF: Oftentimes on my own or I would—there—there would be other kids that I would induce to go down there with me.
SS: Do you think parents nowadays would let the kids go down to the river like that on their own or…
NF: Yes, of course, I love for kids to have that opportunity.
SS: Yeah, okay. So when you…
SS: See that’s what I used to do to is I’d go to a park—I’d go to a park and turn over rocks and wade through the creek and do all that but I was by myself and I don’t think my…
(tape blanks out)
SS: How would you describe the very first proactive thing that you did for nature and the environment? What was your first action?
NF: Well the first thing that pops into my mind when you say first is I wrote a poem about “I Wish I Were a Robin” and this was published in the Tulsa Daily World when I was eight years old.
SS: Do you remember the poem?
NF: I wish I were a Robin far over I would fly from the Alassid(?)—I would go from the Alassid cabin to Frosty Eskimo—to sultry Eskimo, I mean, Mexico, there we go, etc. it went on for a while…
SS: Did they pay you when they published it or…
NF: Oh no. Oh no pay. It was a pleasure just to have some writing in the newspaper at the time.
SS: Especially at 8. Did you continue writing or was that your…
NF: Oh I loved writing, yeah, always have.
SS: That’s right. You’ve had several books published too. But what—did you do any—like what was your first fight for the environment?
NF: The first real fight—the next thing comes to my mind, I was a bird lover and when we first organized the coalition that then turned into Texas Committee on Natural Resources and the legislature, we—we fought for and obtained the Bird Protection Statute that’s still in effect in Texas. All birds are protected in a sense, at least on paper, except the certain crows, starling, house sparrow.
SS: And was that a state statute?
NF: Yeah it’s a state law.
SS: So that—was that before or after the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that gave Federal Protection to the birds?
NF: That was long before.
SS: Before that so it could have almost been a model for the—for the migratory—remember what year that was or…
NF: About 1966.
SS: ’66? Okay.
SS: When you first started becoming active, what…
SS: So when you first started doing things with the legislature and fighting for the environment, what were the ground rules then, what were the laws that you had going for you that—or ones that we have now that weren’t in place like the Clean Air Act or the Endangered Species Act or the…
NF: There were practically none then. In 1970, the Congress passed the Nat—the National Environmental Policy Act and we filed the first suit that—in the nation and, of course, the world under that Act. That is, I say, we—the Travis County Audubon Society filed it to protect a Red Coc—I mean, a Golden Cheek Warbler habitat from the golf course that the Texas Parks and Wildlife had signed up to donate at the request of the State Senator from the Meridian region. And we won that lawsuit. We blocked the golf course and saved the Golden Cheek Warbler habitat.
SS: Were there any—was that seen as strengthening NEPA or were people afraid that—that there would be repercussions against NEPA or what do you think…
NF: No, actually at that time it was before the big money had developed a full control of our environmental legislation and activity and so, at that time, it was just the people’s spirits and wishes and the—the people were, I think, largely for us. I didn’t have any real criticism, even the State Senator then became nice and friendly although he had lost his struggle. It wasn’t so vital to him as it was to us that we save that area or ruin it.
SS: And is the area still protected that you are aware of today?
NF: It’s still protected.
SS: Is that Meridian State Park or…
SS: What kinds of things do you think younger people, from children to young adults, take for granted now that—that you didn’t have working with you when you were getting started.
NF: We now have the Federal Statutes on Air Pollution and Water Pollution which are very helpful. And so they can take that for granted up to a point namely, how well they are enforced and how well they cover all the types of development that the big industry keeps trying to put across, especially those that do not want to spend any money for environmental protection.
SS: What—what were things that you proposed or fought for that people then thought were really radical, crazy, extremist ideas that are now everyday, commonplace taken for granted almost?
NF: Well one of the first things that we fought for that had even greater opposition was to attempt to get Texas to adopt a State National—I mean State Environmental Policy Act which would require the state agencies on state funded matters to set forth Environmental Impact Statements telling everyone what the potential damages would result from various types of development that were not federally funded. The federally funded ones are protected to an extent on the National Environmental Policy Act. And the point that is very important in this is that the citizens have input. In general, the citizens have been able to express their environmental concerns about things and that helps to offset the industries’ general disregard for the environmental aspects if they would cost more money to the industry.
SS: What do you think is the difference between someone like yourself when you see something that you don’t like and you do something about it, regarding nature and the environment, and someone else just sees the problem and shrugs and says oh somebody else will take care of that? What do you think gives you the—the impetus to fight and make a difference?
NF: I think that love of the environment is a very helpful spur toward protecting the environment. If someone grew up in the city or even on a farm that was totally plowed every year, why that person might not have quite the love of nature that the some of us who struggle for the environment have. But some people even without the—a love of nature still are deeply concerned about the harmful effects to a person of breathing polluted air or drinking polluted water.
SS: What do you think makes the difference between you as an individual that will stand up and go to court, go to Congress, go to the newspaper, whatever it takes to get your message out, what gives you that fortitude?
NF: I think that some people are just more eager and—and bold and vociferous than others other and I happen to be in the first category.
SS: Okay. What I’d like to get is a chronological history of the environmental issues that you’ve been involved with that has led up to and through TCNR. So the first was the bird law that you talked about. Was that your first environmental…
NF: Yes and then another important development was in the early 1950’s when I was asked to attend the Audubon Conference down in the hill country, near Kerrville and they had experts there like Roger Tory Peterson who gave the background of environmental activism and—and showed why if we don’t protect the ecosystems why then it’s going to be a detriment to humanity as a whole. And that really fired me up. I came back to Dallas and, with the help of some of our birdwatching friends, we formed the Dallas County Audubon Society. And that—from there on it expanded. I—I was practicing law but the more time I spent on environmental struggles, why the less time I had for practicing law and so finally along in the 1970’s, why then I just left the—my law firm and settled at home and began to devote practically full-time on the environment which included filing some lawsuits for the environment.
(break in tape)
SS: Before you went to that Audubon meeting in the ‘50’s, had you been enjoying nature but not doing much of anything and that inspired you or is that what changed you from being an enthusiast to an activist?
NF: I had been practicing law very heartily and was a trial lawyer and that took up virtually all my time except that I had just moved into this house with this yard so that proves that I already loved nature because this yard was left—and I bought it for the purpose of leaving it in a natural condition.
SS: How long before you had to fight to keep it in a natural condition?
NF: Oh it was several years—people—we were the fourth house out of twenty-four now on the street and everybody seemed to like nature too for a while but then somebody came along somewhere, maybe in an adjoining street which is more crowded, and they reported me, I never did know who it was, the City wouldn’t tell me, to the City for letting things grow too much. So they sued me under the weed ordinance.
SS: How long did it take you to fight that court battle?
NF: Well that just took a couple of weeks or so. We asked for—at first, we showed that the charge had not been written properly and so we won that. They didn’t know how to do it really. And then second time, we showed that the charge was improper so they dropped that. And then the third time, they got it right so we asked for a jury and we had a jury trial.
SS: About what year was that? Do you remember?
NF: No, but I’d say it was in the ‘50’s.
SS: In the ‘50’s?
SS: Was that—that was before the bird—the bird protection act then here in Texas?
NF: Yes, it was before we got that.
SS: Okay. So after you worked on the bird—bird law and then the Texas Environmental Policy Act which—did that ever get passed, was that ever put…
NF: No, no that was defeated—actually withdrawn when the majority of business elected legislators opposed it and withdrawn without our agreement for it to be withdrawn. The—the state senator just withdrew it. And so then we went onto other things.
SS: So which other things did you go onto? What was your—remember what your next issue was or your next battle was?
NF: Well before too long, we—well the next battle was the successful bird case to save the Golden Cheek Warbler habitat. And then we got into the saving of wilderness in the National Forest in Texas which was a great and inspiring battle because we had the Republican Congressman on our side, Congressman Steve Bartlett, and we had the Democratic leadership, especially Congressman Siberling who was the chair of the subcommittee in the United States House of Representatives. He was from Ohio and then we had the support of Congressman John Bryant who really filed the bill who was a first-termer Democrat from the Dallas area. So we had the opposition for a while of the Democrat from the—where the National Forests in Texas are, down in Southeast Texas, but with Congressman Siberling, a wonderful man from the famous Siberling tire family, on our side why we actually induced the Congressman from Southeast Texas, Charley Wilson, to come around and let us go ahead with it. He did reduce it some here and there but we wound up with five wildernesses in East Texas.
SS: What are those wildernesses called today? What are the wildernesses called today?
NF: Oh, they’re called—Upland Island is the largest of them, Indian Mounds and—and let’s see, Big Slew(?) and Little…
SS: Are these all within the National Forest?
SS: They’re all wilderness areas within the National Forest?
NF: Yes, there—there are five such wilderness areas in the National Forest of East Texas. And I did write one book about them too.
SS: What was the name of the book?
NF: The name of the book was I could get it right there—let’s see—I’ll—I’ll go get it…
NF: Oh yes, it was called Realms of Beauty by the University of Texas Press published it.
SS: And what was Congressman Wilson’s original opposition to the bill? Why was he opposed to it?
NF: Well I—any Congressman from Southeast Texas is dominated by the timber industry and the timber industry was already opposing wildernesses in the—any National Forest in the United States practically and with them, since they control the authorizations and the financing of the United States Forest Service, why that agency joined in opposition to it by testimony and so forth.
SS: And why did they not like the wilderness areas?
NF: Because they wanted to cut everything and in the wilderness they’re not allowed to log and sell our precious remnants of our natural ecosystems.
SS: And were there other forests already that had wilderness areas within them when you started this?
NF: In the United States, there were lots of them. In fact, we were coming along toward the end of the establishment of major wildernesses or somewhere in the middle of it perhaps, yeah.
SS: And what was the next battle after that or the next struggle or the next issue?
NF: Well that went on to where we recognized that—that the Forest Service was using very destructive methods inside the rest of the National Forest which was the major part of them. The wildernesses were—in Texas, for example, were only 35,000 acres out of 523,000 of loggable timberlands in the National Forest of East Texas. So we started to protect the rest of them too and the way that we did that finally developed into a bill in Congress to stop any of the (?) logging which is clear-cutting and related methods and to require them to use low impact logging in the National Forest. That bill went on and has been filed and refiled, Congressman Bryant was the first to file, for now four or five times, two years every reelection we’d file again and it has never passed yet. In fact, things have gotten worse in the Congress because the anti-environmental people or rather the people that are paid by big industry, the timber industry in this case, have obtained more and more domination in Congress and in the presidency. Our wilderness bill was—we had no problem from the presidency but now why there—I’d say since Reagan, we have had because the timber industry has contributed so heavily to presidential campaigns that any president from here on, until we have campaign finance reform, will be subject to timber industry pressure because he took their money to win his election.
SS: When you filed the wilderness bill who was the president? What year was that?
NF: Let’s see. It passed in ’83 so I’d say that Ford—no—that—I think that Carter may have been the president.
SS: So how many times did you have to file the wilderness bill before you got it passed?
NF: Just once. That was the remarkable tribute to Congressman John Bryant who got it passed his first effort and to Congressman Don Siberling who helped to put it through. And also to Congressman Steve Bartlett who actually took some considerable criticism from certain fellow Republicans who were totally bought by the timber industry.
SS: Did you do anything with the Congressman Bush? Did you work with him on any bills?
NF: Yes, we did and he was pretty helpful and he—he was for our wilderness bill and it was partly in his district too, come to think of it. So he was helpful but the big business got rid of him.
SS: Got rid of him? Got rid of Congressman Bush how? His support or got him out of Congress?
NF: They—they got Congressman Brooks out of Congress.
SS: And what about George Bush?
NF: George Bush was the—the most helpful Congressman of the year before that John Bryant took over and got the bill passed. George Bush of all things, as a Congressman, came out for the biggest wild—wilderness bill—Big Thicket Bill, I should say. Biggest—one of the Big Thicket National Preserve of all of the Congressmen. He came out for 150,000 acres of pre—for a Big Thicket National Preserve which did not pass. The Big Thicket bill took several efforts to get through and finally Congressman Wilson who had been for 36,000 acres went on up to 75,000 acres approximately and that’s what passed then and since then it has been enlarged by a few thousand acres.
SS: Do you remember what time—what years those were—was that after the…
NF: My recollection is that the wilderness—that the Big Thicket bill passed slightly before the wilderness bill, two or four years before the wilderness.
SS: And how did you get access to the different Congressmen that you were working with? How did you win them to your side or…
NF: Well that was part of this energy business that you mentioned. The way that we got access was we just went and talked to them and usually we would get somebody to join us to talk to them from the locality of that particular Congressman. And an example of that is when Senator Lloyd Bentsen was the Senator and we wanted him to take—to support the wild—the Big Thicket Bill in the Senate side and we met him in a high—at his office, sort of business office I think in a high building in Houston, way up toward the top of it and we had some of, at that time, why he was just running for the Senate and some of local supporters from the past were up there with us and that’s when he agreed to come out in his campaign for a Big Thicket Bill. And Senator Ralph Yarborough had been supporting the Big Thicket until then and Lloyd Bentsen then took over and got it through as Senator.
SS: So that was actually a campaign issue for him, he was able…
NF: Yes it was. He committed himself.
SS: You think anybody would commit to something like that today?
NF: No, I doubt it because every two to four years why the timber industry has had more and more power in Congress. They have learned as the other big businesses of the United States have learned and now it’s becoming worldwide multi-national corporations, that if they spend enough money in the right way, they can control our supposedly Democratic elected Congress or Parliaments or whatever.
SS: Do you remember your very first visit to see somebody in Washington, D.C.? The very first time you talked with a Congressman or a Senator?
NF: Well I remember going down there in 1970. We—I was working for the National Forest Management Act. And first when National Environmental Policy Act passed in 1970, we began working on the Forest Management Act and I was there working on that when it passed the Congress and sat in the gallery there and watched the—the Senate put—put their version of it through which included a very vital section. Senator Jennings Randolph had been for a bill that would actually limit the extent of clear cutting and the Senator Hubert Humphrey had been for just a broad planning bill that the timber industry loved. And Senator Randolph was—his amendment was up on the floor and it had enough support so that it passed and we got a further protection than just planning protection. We got protection from the actual implementation of the logging. The protection was to save our natural—natural resources from detrimental logging practices under the clear-cutting method. They could still clear-cut but they had to prove that they had taken those measures necessary to protect the key resources like soil and watershed.
SS: Do you think the National Forest follows this? Have you had to…
NF: No, the National Forest does not follow that. It—we proved in a recent Texas victory, if we may jump to that, that it does not follow it.
SS: Would you say that the National Forest Service has been following their management act?
NF: No it has not and we proved that with a long trial before Judge Richard Shell in 1996 and it took him about a year to go through all the evidence from both sides and then to come out with a decision finding that they were not protecting as required, the soil and the watershed. And they were not doing the inventorying and monitoring that they were required to do to see how their method of logging was helping or hurting the environment. They just didn’t do monitoring to check up on it because they knew what was happening to the environment but they wanted to sell trees more than their concern over protecting the environment.
SS: So this was a lawsuit that you brought against the National Forest Service?
NF: Yes against the U.S. Forest Service and the timber industry joined into it, the Southern Timber Purchases Association which is—represents primarily those who buy logs from the National Forest as well as doing other logging business but they have a pretty good control over what goes on in Congress generally on—with regard to U.S. Forest Service activities.
SS: And what did the judge finally decide?
NF: He decided that they were not protecting the soil. They were not protecting the watershed. They were not inventorying and monitoring as required by law.
SS: And what did he tell them to do or how did he rectify…
NF: He just—he said I’m going to enjoin you from any logging until you comply with the existing statute which says that you have to protect the soil and the watershed and you have to inventory and monitor.
SS: So have you seen the National Forest Service make an effort to start doing this or what’s been the impact on the National Forest Service?
NF: The impact on the National Forest Service of the judge’s decision was to see if they could find some way to get around it. The judge did give an exception as to forest health. They could take such actions as were necessary to preserve forest health such—timber sales if any. And both sides—we in particular, asked the judge to define forest health for fear that they would do everything in the world to try to take advantage of that particular exception. And before we even had a chance why they were—appealed the decision and that appeal has just finally been argued last month in New Orleans before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
SS: And when you do this appealing process, are you actually the lawyer that’s presenting the information or do you use other…
NF: In—in the appeal at—at my age and with so many other things to do why I asked Mary Van Kerrebrook of Houston if she would represent the—both Texas Committee on Natural Resources and the Sierra Club which was a fellow party in the lawsuit and would make the brief and oral argument. And so far, she has done both very well.
SS: Okay. So we’ve talked about—the question I’d like to go back to though is do you remember your very first face-to-face encounter with a Congressman or a Senator in Washington, D.C., what that was like getting in to see him and how you felt and…
NF: I remember an early con—conference with the Senator Yarborough and particularly with his aids who were great men including Jim Hightower. That was over the Big Thicket. And they were very cooperative and worked hard to get a good Big Thicket Bill through but, as I mentioned, it—they—the opposition got rid of Senator Yarborough but his successor carried it on through Senator Lloyd Bentsen and won the Big Thicket Bill for us although not as big as we had wanted and we would still like to have the Big Thicket expanded.
SS: There’s still property you think is worth saving to add to the Big Thicket?
NF: Yes, there are.
SS: Did you have any special entrée with Congressman Bush, George Bush?
NF: Yes, a great (?) and environmentalist in Houston had Congressman Bush and me over together and that’s when he agreed to a 150,000 acre Big Thicket National Preserve.
SS: Had you known him before?
NF: Yes I had. I had known him—I was a instructor of Aviator of young student aviators in the Corpus Christi Naval Base and along comes one whom I consider outstanding in several ways. He was a—the first one who had really talked with me on a level of—with deep insight about the flying and how to do it and so forth. He was a good student but—his name was George Bush and he was one of the youngest graduates of the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station into where he could become a pilot and a officer. And one of the things that I remember about him and it’s written up in a biography of his life—of his naval life, in particular, is that I wrote in my assessment of him that he was very good flier but he tended to keep his right wing lower than his left.
SS: Did he remember you as his instructor when you had dinner in Houston those years later or…
NF: Well I—I did see him at one of his election gatherings later on. I was very fond of George Bush all the way through and he— I mentioned to him about that and he thought that was a good humorous occasion there that we would think—that in the book to the author, he had said I would like to meet that (?) Fritz. He had—to meet him again, you know, and we had met again by that time.
NF: By the time that the book was out.
SS: So when—after—you were also working on local issues in Texas besides the National Forest with Kuka(?) Reservoir and on the Sulfur River.
NF: Yes, we have long worked on the rivers. We—the general trend in the rivers is that the water hustlers buy control of the rivers because they make a big profit out of it and so we filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps way back concerning they wanted to build a huge dam called the Cooper Dam there on the Sulfur River in Northeast Texas. And so the Fish and Wildlife Service people came to me and said that they were not mitigating. The law requires them to set aside area hopefully of at least equal environmental quality for all that they are flooding under—under a lake. We sued them for not mitigating. The outcome of that was that the court held in our favor and enjoined them from going ahead without mitigating and they then had to acquire and did acquire a huge, beautiful area that they have saved from being degraded as—and so then they could go ahead with the Cooper Reservoir on the Sulfur. But that was just one step in our long struggle to save our rivers. The big dams, they want to build them far more than is necessary and they don’t want to go into new methods of supplying enough water to the people so that they don’t have to ruin our rivers to do it.
SS: Was that an activity of TCNR or was that before…
NF: Yeah, that was a TCNR lawsuit.
SS: Let’s go back and trace how TCNR came into existence.
NF: Yeah back in the 1960’s, it became apparent to all of us in the state practically, environmentalists and birdwatchers and others that just having individual Audubon Societies here and in Austin and Houston and so forth or individual city environmental groups was not nearly enough to save the environment. That we—so we formed a coalition in about 1964 of many of the groups around the state and that coalition soon turned into Texas Committee on Natural Resources which then took over a lot of the responsibilities including on the rivers and all.
SS: Would you still describe TCNR as a coalition?
NF: No, because then the Sierra Club formed and other—National Audubon Society formed a statewide group and we worked to get—we—I think we coordinate but we’re not knit closely enough to be called a coalition. Actually they have rules that require them to go through their national organization before they can—the state group can join in a coalition and so we just try to do it by friendliness and cooperation.
SS: So what was the first issue that TCNR worked on?
NF: The—the first one that TCNR wor—we worked on a lot of them but I was thinking that—that bird act was the first one—was one of the first ones and the effort to get a national—State Environmental Policy Act was one. The first succeeded. The second failed. And they never have gotten the decent State Environmental Policy Act and then the rest of it was—the environment is very big, broad field. Nobody really has time to do it all, no one organization, state or national. And so then we got into these particular fights for the Big Thicket and the wildernesses of Texas, both of which succeeded with lesser amounts than we wanted in them, in the preserves. And the—then the protection of our rivers has gone on into the protection of floodplains instead of building—constructing either dams to control floods or levies to hold floods in and then building all kinds of things on the outside of the levies or below the dams while we are in favor of a non-structural approach because the structural approach of dams or levies or ditches to run the water through faster is ruinous to the environment and furthermore, at the—the end result is oftentimes big floods. Almost everybody in the country has heard about dams that did not hold enough of the water, the rain downstream was so heavy that it flooded people down there anyway or that the dam had pro—pro—construction problems and broke or was overtopped or something. Then the levies part of it is similar. It’s—you would have to levy the entire stream all the way up and down. You build levies here and it increases the floods down below because the water comes pouring through faster than usual, spreads out wider than usual down below and so the structural methods are just totally unsound and they are favored by what we call the water hustlers who want to build behind the dam or the levy, buy the land cheap—cheaper than it would have been and then build behind it because now they also get flood insurance which they don’t care
that deeply if the levy is not high enough for the new, bigger rainfall than was ever anticipated. So our solution to it is to buy the land in the floodplain where people are being flooded and pay them enough money, a fair amount, to move to higher land where we don’t have to put levy in to try to protect them and—and actually to subject them to even worse damages than ever as occurred in the 1993 flood on the Mississippi River.
SS: In Iowa, in the northern reaches of the Mississippi up in Iowa and Illinois. Is that the floods you’re referring…
NF: Yes the—that—that whole 1993 incident demonstrated to many people including the head of President Clinton’s committee on that subject, studying it, who was named Gal—General Galloway. And they studied it enough to say that there should be better methods of enabling non-structural approaches to take place and they actually said that the Army Corps methods were biased. They said that three times in the famous Galloway Report—yet—and so the Congress then in 1996 passed a part of their Biennial Water Development Act said the Army Corps must review its present methods of determining non-structural benefits and costs. And guess what the Army Corps has done about that? It started a slight study but it decided that it was going to cost too much and Congress had not allocated enough money for them to do it and so they quit. And they have not yet done it. And the reason that the Army Corps doesn’t do those things is that they figure so far that they are stronger with the support of the water hustlers than without them. In the appropriation of the Congress, just as in the forest business, why the big business of the water hustlers get into Congress and they decide—they—they elect the Congressman first by the campaign contributions and then they decide whether those Congressmen should permit a certain dam or levy or turn to the modern method of non-structural to buy the lands and the floodplains and let them—let nature proceed as it was—has originally involved—evolved.
SS: So have you seen any examples of the Corps buying up the land or putting those into practice or any government?
NF: Yes there—there are some good examples, one of which is in California and one of which is way up the Mississippi and there are—another one is in Arizona and several places but the Army Corps has never attempted to get enough money for that approach because a lot of them are trained engineers and that approach does not require a trained engineer. It requires somebody who will be able to design dams, swells or levies as in the case of the Trinity River in Dallas now which is our big, current effort to make them go forward into non-structure instead of continuing to do the very bad, economic and environmental practice of building a new swell and a new levy along the Trinity River inside the City Limits of Dallas, Texas.
SS: And that’s another battle that TCNR is taking on to stop?
NF: Yes, TCNR has been very active and other—we—as always nowadays—well TCNR works with other groups and so oth—the—the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, for example, had joined TCNR in our objections to the new Army Corps Environmental Impact Statement, the draft Environmental Impact Statement. A horrible thing about this Environmental Impact Statement is that the Army Corps held it off from issuing to the public until after the public had voted on a bond issue to go ahead with the swell and levies. And that vote came out with a 1.6% difference for—in favor of the bonds because the city staff and this—and the water hustlers and others, big business who paid for the bond election in favor of the bond had—did not ever reveal the horrible fact that came out afterwards in the Army Corps Environmental Impact Statement that the combination of the swale and the levies would actually raise the flood level. The swale would swoosh the water out faster from existing levies. The new levee would back it up again by holding it in and it would back up and be even higher level than before we spent a total of $23 million in Dallas money and $100 million approximately in U.S. taxpayers additional funds to come forth with building all these structures down there.
SS: So what will happen to the bond issue and the bond money of the Trinity River when the Environmental Impact Statement comes out?
NF: We think that we’ll hold it up for quite a while and that they will have to revise it. The reason is that the Army Corps draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Trinity River is inadequate in several ways including of all unimaginable things, a total escape from the non-structural alternative by means of saying that they figured out a couple of years ago that it was economically inadequate. And the Army Corps method of figuring out those things is highly suspect as shown by the Galloway Report that says it was biased. For one thing, they failed to give the benefits of a natural flood plane. They don’t give a penny for that because it’s not a sellable item. And they’re used to sellable items including themselves. The non-structural approach has the—leaving a floodplain in natural condition has great values that a group of scientists and economists have figured out how to do and that’s Dr. Constanza(?) and others. And this method comes out with $19,800 an acre minimal value of a natural floodplain left without cutting a swell through the forest, knocking down all the trees as the City of Dallas, present Mayor wants to do, and building levies alongside it and all, alongside the river and cutting a new channel through the river because they built a bridge—I—Interstate 45 bridge was built back when they still hoped to make a navigation canal out of the Trinity River which would bring great profits to the water hustlers. They—the people voted that down all the way along the river in 1973, including a majority in Dallas voted it down. And so then—but they had went—had gone ahead in great confidence because they’d been—the money had been winning all such election campaigns and they built the I-45 bridge as if the river were going to be channelized through one part of it and actually the river still flows through a different part that is lower and has piers on it whereas they had opened up a higher one with no piers for the new channel to go through. So now what the—the—they want to do except they want to go ahead with a bond and they just passed it in the bond program, very obscured, to have the channel built anyway as far as getting under the I-45 bridge and it’s just ruinous to the river for a mile of the river right there. And there are some big trees.
SS: So they want to rechannel the river to take it under the bridge that they built?
NF: To put it under a bridge that they built under the biased conclusion that there was going to be a channel there and the people voted it down.
SS: So what’s the next step on that project?
NF: The next step on that is also that they have failed to—in the Environmental Impact Statement to provide adequate facts on what does happen, the impacts to the environment from building a channel instead of from letting the natural forest remain and the Army Corps is going to have a hard time admitting all of the evils of that. We think that with that narrow a margin in the vote, May 2 of 1998, that we can win over the rest of the people by giving them the—the facts. The number one fact that actually this swell and levy would raise the flood level at—near downtown Dallas and West Dallas and cause worse flooding if the big disastrous flood occurs that often does over the rest of the country and probably always will and the world too. The Chinese flood, for example. And the other one being the actual impacts of putting a channel through and swell too, they have failed to detail the bad impacts on the environment. They say well this swale would just be so wide and so that’s all you have to count on and yet the effects of opening up the forest next to the older part of the forest by the river is very harmful espec—including that wind blow will vastly increase the damages to the older growth and blow down more trees in there as a result of no forest between the older trees and the open space of Cadillac Heights in Dallas.
SS: So do you think it will take—take any Army Corps Engineer to court to get them to pay attention to the…
NF: Yes we have a excellent lawyer who helped us to make another one of our complaints of the draft Environmental Impact Statement and therefore, we are ready if they don’t come through with the—the full facts and details. Under the National Environmental Policy Act, the court cannot decide that one alternative that they rejected would have been better than the alternative that they selected but they have to give the full facts on both sides and, in many instances, this has actually led to federal agencies like the Army Corps say well here are the full facts. Maybe we shouldn’t endorse this particular project on the worse alternative.
SS: Do you think it will take one or several trips to court for the Army Corps of Engineers to start putting more attention or more into the non-structural approaches too?
NF: Yes, I doubt if the Army Corps has the fairness and intelligence to—that environmental intelligence I should say, I don’t want to analyze their I.Q.’s, to make the decision to switch over to the non-structural. I doubt that they have that ability. So far, they have indicated to me that they are very still biased like the Call—Galloway Reports said their review methods were.
SS: Do you think as long as the Army Corps of Engineers hires engineers there will be able to even think of non-structural approaches?
NF: No, because some of the people on our side are engineers now. Some of our best advisors including a hydraulic—hydraulic engineer for the lawyer whom we have hired in Houston named Jim Blackburn. And so we have—their engineers are capable of saying it should not be closed in by levies or that a swell need—does not have to be dug through the trees. One of the big engineering factors of the Trinity River is that between the existing levy they could dig deeper and let the water flow out through there faster and that would lower the flood level. Instead they put the swell downstream through the forest. Be—if they built the deeper conveyance basins between the existing levy, there is no forest there. The Army Corps has managed to make sure that all the trees were wiped out between the existing levy.
SS: And you’ve worked on other projects on the Trinity River, haven’t you? With TCNR or…
NF: Well I wanted to mention the real basis for our love of it, namely the—that it is bottomland hardwood forest which is a vanishing type of ecosystem in Texas and in the—the United States and now in the world. And this is a great attraction to people coming into Dallas to see such an area especially when the city finally recognizes it and publicizes it and makes it available on tourists—tours of Dallas so that we think that the great Trinity Forest will be wonderful for everybody outside of Dallas as well as for all those inside Dallas who love it. We have had a walk into—called the Texas Buckeye Trail into the forest in the Great Trinity Forest in Dallas for twenty years and many, many people have gone. Last year Congressman, former Congressman Alan Stillman, Republican who helped us to win the vote against the bonds back in 1973 and he had not yet been elected and he—that was his camp—one of his campaign slogans to stop the navigation canal but mainly for economic reasons. It was an economic as well as a environmental disaster and he came to our last Texas Buckeye Trail walk that’s in March of every year and everybody is invited to it and everybody usually enjoys it. Sometimes the Army Corps lets water out of the dam upstream just before our walk and we have to wade through a part of it there because the water’s of the Trinity have risen that much further. But either way, you get to see a lot of big and beautiful trees and the—there’s a good variety of smaller plants and of animals in the forest, especially birds. The Trinity River—great Trinity Forest ha—in migration time has almost all the birds that come through the Texas mig—Eastern Texas migratory pattern. For example, it has, I think, all of the migratory thrushes and, in wintertime it has all winter long, it has the hermit thrush. In spring, it has the wood thrush and the gray cheeked thrush and the other thrushes of—that migrate through Texas, Swaintzes(?) thrush and so forth.
NF: (?) against the heavy trend toward human extinction that big money and its payees constitute why we, environmentalists, need to be pretty aggressive and combative.
SS: What do you think are some of the barriers for having more conservationists working together instead of…
NF: Well that attitude is probably the main one and also we are—have to be individualists because the newspapers are also bought by big business. They run the ads. Big business keeps them going and so most of the newspapers except the New York Times which I just finished getting to read for a week, which was very pleasant up in New England, the other newspapers tend to suppress our environmental positions and arguments. In the Trinity River Bond election, the Dallas Morning News ran practically none of what I’ve been saying here. They in—we had to run ads to bring any of it out and that’s been the custom of the Dallas Morning News for many years. They will not run anything that I say anymore even I recently wrote a letter to them congratulating them for an editorial which came out for the first amendment which would have reduced logging in roadless areas. And they didn’t even print this letter congratulating them. And they didn’t follow up at all for the first amendment either and so they—they probably had contacts from the timber industry saying you’re mistaken about that editorial (?) but, in any event, the top boss of the Dallas Morning News actually has been proven to interfere in some of the writings of his reporters on the Trinity River bond before the Trinity River bond election and to try to shut them up which he substantially did.
SS: It’s gotten worse since the other Dallas paper closed down too, is it better…
NF: Oh yes, the reason that we won the 1973 election so handily was that the Dallas Times Herald which then existed gave our side as well as the other side. The Dallas Morning News has always been terrible on the Trinity River. It has always suppressed our side, the environmental side and even the economists who showed that the levies and the swell would cost a tremendous amount of money that would be wasted on account of still raising the flood level upstream but the only way it would make money is for the big industries that advertised in the Dallas Morning News and they’d have to run the city elections and including the present mayor. So the Times Herald made the difference, I think, in 1973. If the people hear both sides well then they favor the environment.
SS: Why don’t you talk a little bit about the Trinity Barge Canal and the history of the opposition to the barge canal along the Trinity?
NF: All right. Back in 1973, why the water hustlers promoted and got the Texas Water System then which was—had a different name, the agency in charge, and—and the—a lot of the local elected officials who were already being elected by money and it’s moreso now but they got them to favor constructing a navigation canal from the Gulf of Mexico all the way up to Dallas with a big docking area up here to make it cheaper for businesses to ship goods like timber from down there up to here. And they got the authorities to put that on a bond program for 17 counties involved. And the 17 counties voted it down because we had intelligent leadership like Republican Congressman and Alan Stillman and other big leaders, mainly at that time, Republic leaders. They had to—had an office over here in Highland Park in Dallas and Fred Agnes was one of them who later became the—a Chair of a big committee in the Texas House of Representatives. And other fine Republicans, the party leadership at that time was on our side. So we won the election and they dropped the navigation canal and the state has been far better off since then because of it. The Trinity River below Dallas has some very important and—and representative bottomland hardwood forests and, at one place at least, there is a bluff that’s almost straight up for 100 feet or more and on top of that is the upland hardwood forest representative that we are now working in Natural Area Preservation Association to save and then down below that is another area—generally there’s still vegetation along—old vegetation along the Trinity River downstream from Dallas which would be damaged if they build a swell and levy because the water would rush through faster and spread out further downstream. But when you get down as far as close to Huntsville well then there is a beautiful tract of land along Lake Livingston. They’ve already ruined everything under Lake Livingston which was a magnificent forest but there’s still some
of it left on the edge of Lake Livingston and George Russell has just purchased about 900 acres of that. And that—he is preserving okay. The purpose is not to develop it but to preserve it. And his father deserves credit for that too because his father’s money goes into that also.
SS: Who’s his father?
NF: Kenneth Russell.
SS: Do you want to talk about him or…
NF: Oh yeah. He’s—he started this international video business. He was a professor at Sam Houston State University and started that business and then got into it full-scale. George got into it with him and does more of the work now than his father does and more of the expansion and so those are two great environmentalists of Texas.
SS: What’s the company called?
NF: It’s called International Video Corporation or something like that. That—and I meant to mention when I mentioned about George Bush, you asked me how I reached George Bush. The name of the lady who brought us together was Terry Hershey who is a great leader of the environment in Texas.
SS: I think I’ve been hearing a lot of your victories were because of Republican Congressman or Republican representatives. Has that been true?
NF: Well that—that is no longer true. The big business has taken over most of the Republicans now but I’m proud to say that on our bill, we have a bill, the Bryant bill, that we file every two years in Congress, we have always had bipartisan support and the Congressman who is in the Republican main sponsor of the bill this year is named Congressman Shays of Connecticut. He is a great all around Congressman and the Congressman who, Democratic Congressman, who sponsors on the forest committee itself is Congressman Hinchey of New York.
SS: How do you think—what do you think is the key to reaching Republican Congressmen and politicians on the environment?
NF: The key to it is to have campaign finance reform. Right now, we can reach some of them who are above being bought by campaign contributions. But the others are increasing year by year because the Republicans donors just increase their money year by year and pick the right elections to win. When the National League of Conservation Voters backs, well it really doesn’t back a candidate, what it does is opposes the dirty dozen who are selected for their poor environmental voting records in Congress, why then they almost always elect the opponents to the dirty dozen because a lot of us give money to the opponents of the dirty dozen and help to balance the scale there. But—but we can’t do that on a national level for Congressmen everywhere as business does. Business buys the majority and it now has the majority and I’m afraid that even the current Democratic President has long favored the people who have contributed heaviest to him. So we need campaign finance reform and that would eliminate the discrepancy between what business can put in and what the average citizen can put into a campaign. I personally favor complete reform which is where, like in England where the government itself puts out the money and puts it out on basis to where you don’t have someone putting money in there in order to gain personal or company financial benefit.
SS: Would the government support opponents then or would that favor incumbents? Would that system favor incumbents over the…
NF: Yes it would favor them indirectly. The—the incumbent wouldn’t get more money but the incumbents name is better known. And so it would be slightly harder to oust the incumbent but I think that could be made up for by better education. We would continue to publish the voting records and so if the incumbent had a bad voting record, why then the citizens in general would unite against him.
SS: Did you work on Red Cockaded Woodpecker issues with TCNR also or…
NF: Yes I would like to talk about Red Cockaded Woodpeckers. The Forest Service has a goal throughout the south of replacing hardwoods almost altogether with pines. The reason for that goal, one might guess, has to do with money. Pines sell for higher prices than, in the south, than hardwoods do and therefore, they would like to have pine plantations. They practically eliminate hardwoods. Now then when it came to Red Cockaded Woodpecker habitat, Texas Committee on Natural Resources, the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society filed a lawsuit in 1985 opposing the clear-cutting of land in and around Red Cockaded Woodpecker nesting habitat. And we finally got to try the lawsuit in 1988 and the court stopped clear-cutting within, not only the immediate habitat, but within 1200 meters of that habitat which is where the Red Cockaded forage. And so the Red Cockaded Woodpecker, after we won the lawsuit and the Red Cockaded Woodpecker started to increase. So then the Forest Service with its typical mental process toward logging decided that in Red Cockaded Woodpecker habitat, the birds preferred not to have midst—hardwood midstory. They had an expert to come out with a study that barely showed a little bit—a little bit more Red Cockaded Woodpecker occupation where there was a little bit less hardwood midstory. But that story was flawed in that already the Forest Service had been logging—removing midstory, I should say, for many years, more than ten years prior to this decision. It had been claiming that the Red Cockaded Woodpeckers preferred for no logging and the study was made finding that there were fewer hardwoods in the Red Cockaded habitat. Naturally why there would be fewer if they had already removed the hardwood. And the scientists, so-called, that is the Forest Service paid employee who decided this, who lives in Texas and works in the Texas National Forest, never did say or study whether they had already been—the hardwoods had already been removed from that particular area where there were more Red Cockaded. Well the Red Cockaded stay put. They dug—it takes them a couple years to dig a hole in a tree for their nesting and raising young and spending the night even. And so they naturally would be there whether the midstory remained or the midstory was removed. And so the study is totally flawed for failing to relate back to the actual history, the removal history in that—those stands. Yet the Forest Service loves that because it reduces hardwoods when they remove midstory and ultimately the older ones die and sometimes they actually have been known to kill them before—in—in a certain period of years.
SS: Kill the trees or kill the—the Forest Service has been known to kill them, what did you mean by them?
NF: The—the hardwoods—the Forest Service wants to reduce hardwoods. The—because then they can grow more pine. The Red Cockaded Woodpeckers nest only in pine and so they’re built—they have fabricated different so-called studies and opinions to say that we—they have to get rid of hardwoods. And then also they have fabricated the theory that the more they burn, the more the Red Cockaded Woodpeckers like it. Prescribed burning is setting fires in places. Well the Forest Service is now setting fires in almost all potential pine habitat more frequently than lightning fires occur. Now how do we know that? Well there’s only been one study by an outsider on the fire—natural fire frequency in the—in the Southern Pine and hardwood forests. And—but that study showed it and—from tree rings where the tree ring shows that a fire has occurred. The Forest Service has made no studies of natural lightning fire frequency in the south. Certain scientists outside the Forest Service generally have made studies in other parts of the country which were not funded by the timber industry or the Forest Service which show a natural fire frequency up to 80 years, 120 years, down to 25 years is the smallest that they found natural fire frequency. That was in the western hills of California, west of the Sierras. And so the Texas proceeding and all through the south proceeding to burn every two or three years in Red Cockaded Woodpecker habitat is very flawed practice. Originally the burning—a couple studies were paid for by the Tall Timbers Institute in Florida and they—they found that certain species do well with lots of fire. Of course, certain species do better with—with more frequent fire and do worse with infrequent and other species do worse with more frequent fire. And the—among the species that do worse, for example, are azaleas which die. Sassafras trees die from frequent fires and ultimately practically all hardwoods die from frequent fires. The Forest Service not only wants to do this in Red Cockaded Woodpecker habitat but everywhere where they want to raise pine which is practically the entire habitat of the south. They do have one or two areas where they don’t in certain places.
SS: Are there some midstory birds that there numbers are…
NF: There’s the red light blinking here…does that mean anything?
SS: Are there midstory canopy birds too that you’re aware of that numbers are falling…
NF: Oh yes, well there are many birds that occupy midstory hardwood trees that prefer to nest in midstory hardwood trees, many species and those species are bound to suffer but the Forest Service has not made any studies of things like there where they’re afraid that it would stop them from burning all the time and from raising more pine and therefore from selling more pine and making more money. Now one reason the Forest Service wants to do this is to make more money for private industry too which really controls Congressmen who control the votes in Congress for how much money the Forest Service gets for—and so for their own salaries sake and for their own power, the more employees you have, the more power you have in the federal government and most governments. Why the Forest Service does what industry ask—timber industry asks them to do. And so the timber industry wants more pine, it makes more money out of it so the Forest Service wants more pine and burn—they—they both like for the agency to burn the—the forest more often to get pine re—and never make a study—a really scientific study of what was the original lightning fire frequency. They give opinions and their opinions are almost always in conformance with their conclusion, pre-ordained conclusion, that they need to burn very frequently and so they just love prescribed burning and they have actually controlled the viewpoint on prescribed burning by their purchases—their funding in forest schools, forestry schools in the universities around the country and almost everywhere where there’s any teaching of this done. Well the timber industry donates heavily and they have wound up with the conclusion and a lot of professors, people like that that get paid by them, that burning—prescribed burning is good for the forest.
SS: Are there any other TCNR projects that you’d like to talk about?
NF: Well I—I’d like to say one more thing about that one then. We are fighting that idea of theirs and that practice of frequent prescribed burning and we have experts now who are not paid by the Forest Service who have really made impartial studies and they are helping us to oppose that including in our lawsuit that I mentioned where Judge Shell(?) has asked them to save the soil and the watershed because frequent prescribed burns, over-frequent, more than nature, change the ecosystem. They kill off the trees and the plants and the animals that need less frequent prescribed—less frequent burning. Just like—like lightning. They evolve in the frequency of lightning fires and they cannot endure the—the over-frequency caused by pres—over-frequent prescribed burning. So the net result is harmful to the ecosystem and we are fighting that, including in our own lawsuit. One of the excuses of the Forest Service for going on logging and—and burning in our National Forest of Texas in spite of the courts’ ruling against it is the concept that this is for forest health. And actually we have experts now who have said that it is not necessary for the forest health to do all this burning but it is harmful to the ecosystem.
SS: Is your activities with the Forest Reform Network, is that part of your TCNR…
NF: Yes, the Forest Reform Network is a National Network that TCNR was very active in forming because of the fact that—that we need to influence Congress more on a national level. Congress, the federal government being national, why any one state organization is not going to have as much influence as the combination of many state organizations. This is a grass roots coalition, more or less, for the purpose of educating people on the right side. The Forest Reform Network does not interfere with…
NF: The Forest Reform Network does not act per se enter into a Congressional lobbying because that—we could only do so much, an organization can, of lobbying, 20% general plus 5% of the grass roots and still be tax deductible. So other organizations do the actual lobbying.
SS: The Forest Reform does the studies or what’s the actual action of…
NF: Well the Forest Reform Network does not even do the study. What we have primarily is a newsletter which keeps people advised and we depend on the local groups including Texas Committee on Natural Resources. The State groups to do the lobbying and also to file the lawsuits.
SS: If I asked you why I should join TCNR, what would you tell me?
NF: I’d say because it is a hard working volunteer primarily group. The—you would have a chance to be active, to volunteer and do certain services if you wanted and you would be contributing to a groups which also employs a limited number of people to help to carry out the protection of the environment and to work to educate the general public on the things that we’ve been talking about. And so this would be a very fulfilling to your feelings and spirit and to the movement if you would be a member and we would love to have you and come to our meetings.
SS: What kinds of things would I get involved with? What would I be doing do you think? What would my opportunities be?
NF: Well, you would have a choice of your main interests. It could be to maintain air quality for the health of humanity, to maintain water quality for the health of humanity, to maintain the flow of rivers and streams and creeks for the good of not only humanity but also of the species that live along these streams which are most all the species of plants and animals that we have sooner or later. For all of the different aspects, even for recreation why we work—wilderness is, in part, recreation. And our efforts to save these lands in their present—in—in their old growth status, their original ecosystem status is so that more people can enjoy going out in the open space which I think and a lot of people think is natural to most, if not all, human beings. You would also have a lot of good friends who are generally very affable and sociable and they would keep you up with all the latest developments in the environmental movement.
SS: If I didn’t have time, why would you encourage me to donate money to TCNR?
NF: Well because the money itself would keep the organization going and help for others who have time to supervise volunteers and to actually perform volunteer services and you could—if we—we have a lot of task forces and you could be on the task force of any of these interests that you want. Although as you have probably heard by now why then our main efforts are in the fields of saving our forests and saving our streams and rivers.
SS: What do you think TCNR has given back to you personally? What have you gotten out of forming TCNR and being a part of it?
NF: Well it’s given me an opportunity to do the service to the extent that I’ve wanted to do it. And that is full speed. You can—if you can get into one of these activities why you are able to move ahead to the full extent of the policy of TCNR and our board usually adapts that policy to what is the present need of humanity in—in all fields, including in the educational field. We’re learning lots of things and one of them that we’re now moving into working on a great deal is the protection of roadless areas that are now in existence. There are a lot of roadless areas that Congress—that the Forest Service has set aside for—that should not be logged and roads should not be built in them. But with the help of Congress, they are—the Forest Service is now beginning to build—to okay construction in some of those roadless areas and thus impair the environment in them. And so we are working now to save those roadless areas in—in Con—in the education of public in general and this—therefore in Congress from being intervened on. It’s not just the construction of roads but the construction of roads generally is followed by logging. They can’t log without building those roads in there. So the protection of roadless areas is a growing need. Now that means no logging in those roadless areas. Now that is only a small part of the total of National Forests in the United States and does not include any sizeable roadless areas in Texas. They have cut and planted too much of it. They have clear-cut and planted too much of it and clear-cutting, by the way I should say, also includes an even (?) logging is a major part of it but now they’re reducing the clear-cutting aspect and just going into other things that they call like shelter wood logging where they save so many trees or other types of logging where they save fewer trees but they save some. But it’s mainly clearing out the whole place and planting pines eventually. If they don’t cut them all now then they cut them all later. And what we prefer and the only way to save the forest from when they’re logged is to use low impact logging which means that you save the ecosystem. You only cut those trees that will be the most likely to die or—or to impair the growth of the ecosystem until the next logging, before the next logging. So you constantly save the best and cut the rest is one way of defining it which the best are most of the trees in the forest.
SS: Do you ever—what would the condition of the world be for you or someone to be able to say TCNR has done its job, everything we could ever say needs to be done has been done. We’re just going to shut our doors and go onto something else. Do you ever foresee that day happening when TCNR wouldn’t be needed?
NF: One of my theories and it has not—I have not yet presented it to the board of TCNR is that we must have a revolution in our economic system. As long as big money controls our—the—or even little money controls the natural resources, it is busy exploiting those natural resources. Unless there’s a law stopping somebody from making more money out of a particular forest, for example, or river, for example, or prairie, for example, why then that person will exploit that ecosystem to make more money, more profit from it. So the profit motive has become dangerous, not only to the survival of our—of other species on earth, the tree species, the plant species, the—the animal species because it makes a—it can make a profit killing them or reducing their environment, but it also has been—become dangerous to human beings because, in the long run, human beings need nature to survive. They need natural resources and therefore I advocate that we shift and it takes a long while generally to shift a culture. But I advocate that we shift our culture the way that Jesus Christ and that the leaders of most religions knew that we should shift it 2000 or more years ago and that is to where there is no longer a profit motive determining the exploitation of our natural resources. The only way I think that that can be done practically is by having the government own the natural resources. And, of course, that wouldn’t do any good as long as the government’s controlled by the big developers, the big exploiters of natural resources as it now is. But that would require that we have
campaign finance reform to where the citizens, once again, control the government. And it would take democracies every time because any dictatorship would be likely to go for the money and power of the dictator. So we need democracy to own the natural resources and the citizens to have a big input into it and I could also explain to you that that method would not only enable human beings to survive but would—also would enable the standard of living to increase especially if we have popular—if we learn to control our population. As long as the population continues to increase of human beings, it now being 6 billion or thereabouts and it moving rapidly onto much higher numbers why then we will consume the natural resources at an ever increasing rate to where we will run out of certain natural resources. We are already running out of some natural resources. For example, the sharks in the ocean, from eating them or just outright killing them why we are running out of them. We are running out of salmon, the ocean salmon, both—in both the Atlantic Salmon and those many species in the Pacific because of eating too many of them. We are running out of most of the—of the—of the most edible fish of the ocean. We are running out of now clams, oysters. We are seriously depleting our environment in many, many respects. And then there are—as I pointed out earlier on the pines, we’re running out of many species of hardwoods in order to grow more pines to consume them and have a profit. And so, some day, those hardwoods will be known to be necessary for human survival just like the yew in the west is—has recently been discovered to be the main—source of the main medicine for cancer. And so we are really going against human instinct. The instinct of every species is survival and actually part of that in the past has been to expand the species to where it’s dominant over other
species. Well human beings have too high a brain power to be left to that old tradition of dominance. Human beings have to—are able to kill all the other species that they want and then human beings will die if they don’t exercise that brain power toward helping to maintain the environment that has—in which they have evolved and in which they are now very prosperous and populous. So we need to change the whole human culture and goal toward saving our environment and I think that helpful toward that whole goal is love of other species. A lot of us…
NF: A lot of us love nature as a whole. Many people love parts of nature, certain species of nature. Most everybody loves trees, for example, and it—it seems to me that it fits with the future of humanity that our love be not just for each other, which is very important, but also be for our fellow species.
Very well put.
NF: And so a part of the only way that I see that we can get there is by owning those natural resources and the means of coordinating with fellow species, even if we eat them. I don’t mean that we have to love them so much that we can never eat anymore fish. That’s necessary for our survival but we should not eat so many fish that we extinguish any species of fish or extinguish any—eat so much of any other thing or make so much profit from sawing it like logs that we extinguish the area. It’s absolutely essential to the world that we have enough trees and enough vegetation to utilize—to—to save the carbon and not let it be emitted all over the earth and into the atmosphere where it’s no longer helpful for human beings to survive. We just have to let the environment become far more powerful and profit by money being far less powerful on the face of the earth.
SS: What resource do you think it is that has to become threatened before people like the dirty dozen in congress would…
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SS: What resource do you think will have to be so severely threatened or gone that will bring the dirty dozen type politicians, make them pay attention to what’s happening that will affect a change that will protect our resources?
NF: Actually I think that we’ll need a revolution in human culture so far as protection of natural resources is concerned. At the present, we are exploiting our environment to the extent that we are killing off certain endangered species every year but we are also vastly reducing our ecosystems. Any—at any time, we may discover that certain elements of the ecosystems that we are eliminating now by exploiting our natural resources will be essential to human survival. We have recently learned that the yew tree of the Northwest is vital in helping to cure can—certain species of cancer and this type of thing develops all the time but just the sheer quantity, we are losing—quantity of consumption is so great we are losing the—certain shark species that we’ve been eating too much or killing too much. We’re losing certain salmon species, practically all of them to some extent by abusing our streams and our forests where the erosion is too great for their reproduction and so forth. We are losing species that we don’t know the value of but we’re—the resilient forests are depreciating in such a rate that it is bound to have a harmful effect on our air quality throughout the world. Human beings have an instinct for survival but they also, so far, have been developing technology to such a rapid extent that unless the cultural goals are amended why they will use up all the resources that they eventually will need for—to—just to feed them. We not only need to control the population, self control the population preferably to where we don’t use everything up but we also need to regulate the profit motive. The—the profit motive will use up everything for a lifetime of certain human beings so that they will finally reduce the resources that are necessary for maintenance of the populations that we are building up to reach. I think that the—it’s necessary to control the profit motive, to actually control the ownership of natural resources. As long as you can exploit the resources to increase your profit well then big corporations and even small owners will tend to use them up. Therefore, it seems to me
that we need a revolution in motivation just the way Jesus Christ and Buddha and many other religious leaders said in the beginning. We must increase the—we must increase love of our fellow species and put our natural resources into the hands of the citizens by means of Democratic government owning the natural resources and controlling how much they are exploited in every other way. I think it’s possible to maintain the capitalist system beyond the necessity to put everything into federal or government ownership to keep people from just being able to make a profit unlimited or to have to regulate the use of everything to such a fine extent. The best way is to let the people own their resources and determine, for human survival, how—how they will be preserved instead of exploited to extinction. And this is the goal that human beings will ultimately have to reach to survive and how long it will take them to realize that will depend upon many short-term measures such as what—for government to control the natural resources in a sensible way, the people will have to be back into charge of democracies and so worldwide democracy plus worldwide federal ownership of the particular resources, natural resources essential to survival is a necessary cultural evolution that we need to make. And right now, since sharks and salmon and some species of trees and other species of animals are dying out, I think we have to make it fast enough to call it a revolution, a cultural revolution for democratic ownership of the natural resources.
SS: Would you characterize what you’ve been working towards all your life as being driven by a love of humanity, a love of nature or a love of God or…
NF: Yes, the human beings, I think, have enough instinct for survival to where love of fellow human beings is an essential part of it and now we must honor and respect love of natural resources, maybe in the terms of love of trees or love of certain animals or love of all other species must become a part of our culture, our religion and our means of survival, our economics even.
SS: Anything else you want to say?
NF: Well that’s a long, hard road to bring about. It will require first, since if a government is to own and control its natural resources…
NF: Our nat—the ownership of our natural resources and the intelligent of that ownership the—we will need to have on route at least the campaign finance reform to where no longer can industry control and exploit the natural resources directly or indirectly. We will need true democratic equality and input into our elections or else the people elected will never let us save the environment and humankind will go extinct.
SS: Is that where you’d like to end it for today?
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SS: Have you ever had any book signing parties for it?
NF: Yes, we have had but it’s been a long time ago when it first came out.
SS: When the first edition came out?
NF: Yeah, Um hm. We haven’t had one for the second edition I don’t think.
SS: Were there any other projects that you did with TCNR that we didn’t talk about, that we didn’t mention yesterday? Want to talk about Little Cypress or…
NF: Big Slew, Big Sandy, Little Sandy Creek?
SS: Yeah. The one where the Hunt and Fish Club gave the easement…
NF: That’s a magnificent area but I—I wonder—well I can—I can say what you want. I can say something about it and then you can decide whether that is diplomatic. With them, for me to take—to show what was done there and however they figured very cooperatively in it so I guess it’s all right.
SS: Where’s the NAPA meeting going to be?
NF: That’s going to be here in Dallas. We almost always have it here in Dallas. I think it’s going to be here in Dallas. We haven’t decided the exact—usually during a week—not—not on a weekend.
SS: Do you want to talk about the Texas Scientific Areas Act?
NF: Yes, we got that passed early on in order to be sure that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department saved some areas intact. There’s a great amount of pressure on for putting developments inside of State Parks or any even State Natural Areas as it were. And so we set up this system whereby some would be protected.
SS: You remember about what time that was? What year or…
NF: No I don’t.
SS: Are there specific areas that have been set aside under that act?
NF: Not exactly. What they have done is to virtually save certain areas by just having foot trails and which was satisfactory under the Scientific Area Act provision. But and structures on the edge of maybe where people could get if rained and otherwise they have some areas that are the original ecosystems.
SS: Was it kind of hard to convince some people that it was okay to have land set aside that wasn’t developed? Was there a feeling that if it we’ve got it, we’ve got to do something with it?
NF: Well there are pressures—the ones that acquire it often have the goal of natural preservation but there are pressures if it’s a state agency by people to go in there and build special set-ups for motor vehicle parking and motorcycle trails and various types of usage that it’s hard for the Texas Parks & Wildlife to keep one pretty natural. And that was the main aim of having these areas so that a scientist could still go in and the future generations could still go in there and see what the natural ecosystem really was after humankind continues to develop and develop other areas.
SS: Tell us how you got interested in the Nature Conservancy Project. Take us through the history of…
NF: Yes, I was asked to be the second Chairman of the Texas Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and that was a very fulfilling and educating process and we had a great deal of success. As is my custom, why I turned over the Chairmanship, had someone ready to take over and Dick Shannon, I believe it was, and we elected him for the next Chairman and I became the Chair of Acquisition. And during out tenure why we acquired seventeen areas for the Nature Conservancy and there—then they brought in a state employee to head the office work and so forth. And they had various policies of rather beginning to restrict the areas to larger areas and to areas that had an endangered species on them or other special features. And so there were a lot of areas coming on, just small ones, that we, as a volunteer group, Natural Area Preservation Association could do so we formed the Natural Area of Preservation Association and began to take on those smaller areas and sometimes they became pretty big.
SS: Do you remember some of the seventeen original areas that you acquired while you were there?
NF: Well I remember one of them I’ll never forget and—and that was the Easel’s Cave(?) which is down near San Marcos. And that cave, of course, had the Texas Flying Salamander in it and that was one of the most memorable field trips that I have ever taken when descending down into that cave by rope originally and then waiting there until a Texas Flying Salamander came swimming up the stream and—and roving around and that was a real thrill to be next to a seriously, gravely endangered species in the flesh. It almost felt like a relationship.
SS: Are there other preserves that are very important today that the Nature Conservancy still is managing that you…
NF: Yes, one of them was Ivy’s(?) Wildlife Refuge. Because of various factors why the Nature Conservancy had—had let us go—let the Natural Area Preservation Association go ahead and be the owner of that conservation easement. And then pull full title. Then another one was the original Atwater Prairie Chicken Preserve which we really did through some big, in Dallas, landowners, Clint Murchison so forth, and John Murchison and that one remains there and it’s—you have to have a big area in some cases for the survival of the species but the Atwater Prairie Chicken still survives and it—we really need a lot more space for it and others like that.
SS: Do you think that landowners’ attitudes have changed over the last years about having endangered species on their property? Have you seen a change in attitude towards…
NF: Yes and also problems. The—those that have Red Cockaded Woodpeckers naturally have pines because that’s all in which the Red Cockaded Woodpecker drills its cavity and nests and spends the night. And some of the owners of big pines, big ole pines like that want to sell them. And so a real problem has come up. Sometimes they’d just as soon sell them and let the Red Cockaded Woodpecker try to find some other place to go, which there are very few of. So then when Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbit, came forth with—promoting the proposal of safe harbor so-called why that caused a problem because in that safe harbor he includes, which is a contract with owners of land, private land in which the Red Cockaded Woodpecker survive and then it applies to all—other endangered species around the country. And as for the Red Cockaded why the contracts provide that there will be no change in them and this means that as science finds out new facts about a species, endangered species, why the—the contract could not be adjusted unless the landowner agrees. Oftentimes the landowner is a timber company and they don’t want to agree to anything that might change their approaches. One of the greatest problems of today on timber is that the timber companies want to prescribe burn the pine stands of the south and also they’re trying to do it in the other states of the union and in order to leave the species of tree that brings the most money commercially. Therefore, the prescribed burn provision is now allowed in the contract, the Safe Harbor contract, and it’s allowed forever even though we are now showing that prescribed burns are not best for the Red Cockaded Woodpecker, that their real purpose is to grow pine trees because prescribed burns frequently repeated more often than in nature result in the decrease of hardwoods and the increase of pines which the timber companies learn. So that as we put our—get our point across, educate the American people and finally the congress and thus they’ll order the Forest Service to slow down on prescribed burning which we’re also trying to do in court, why we will have a known change that ought to be
made in these safe harbor contracts. But according to the way they’re written now unless we convince the landowners of this point why they’ll go on prescribed burning for their pines so they can harvest it. They don’t harvest the trees that have the Red Cockaded Woodpecker holes in them but the problem is that—that those trees grow old and then where are the other trees that the Red Cockaded Woodpecker can use not only to maintain its population but to increase its population back toward where it was before we wiped—almost wiped them out with the even edged logging.
SS: You’ve done a lot of work through the courts. Working in the environment, how essential is being successful keyed into being a lawyer, having your training as a lawyer?
NF: As a lawyer I feel that the courts are a better resort now that Congress has been taken over by big money, almost entirely except for what influence the mass of the people can rise up and exert occasionally from a specific cause. The courts although appointed by Presidents who were elected by big money, are oftentimes more independent and they—a part of their appointment came from their quality as fair judges of the laws of the country. And therefore, when we go to them and present our facts and the other sides presents its facts why the courts will see the truth as they did in our recent injunction against the Forest Service for not protecting the soil and watershed.
SS: If a high school came to you and said, Mr. Fritz I want to make a difference for the environment, what would you suggest that I study in school and what should my aim be? What would you tell him or her?
NF: Everything in the field of biology and everything available to successive progress of—of the goal of that particular student in the field of politics.
SS: Would you recommend law school also?
NF: I don’t think so. Law school you have too many fine legal details to work out. If this were a person who was ideally adapted to trying cases in court, we need more of them and so it might be but generally I would say study in the field of science plus in a pragmatic way to where you could be like one of our scientific experts and sometimes even the leaders of our national organizations who have had the scientific background and they know what a serious jeopardy the country is in. They can—if they have management abilities also, they can expand their realm to include mainly management but I would hope that the young people would include biology by all means because the emotional—the knowledge helps one to get close—closer to nature and—and to feel the emotions that will spur one on to fight this extreme menace that humanity has of over-exploiting our natural resources.
SS: If you were allowed to lecture in a forestry program in a college, what message would you like the students to leave with? Like at SFA [Stephen F. Austin University] in their forestry department or one of the forestry departments across the country, what would you like them to hear from you that they may not be getting from their professors?
NF: Some of the main points are one that even edge logging is highly detrimental to natural ecosystems and that you can substitute a type of logging which produces just as much and as—economically just as good in the long run which is we call selection management or low impact logging. The big industry set up with the heavy equipment and the personnel who are mis-trained would—do have some difficulty moving over to that but in other countries, in particular, like Sweden, why they have recognized that selection management is the best way in the long run for the country and society. And so that would be one very important point to get across. Also I would like to get across that the so-called studies on prescribed burning were funded by timber interests for a purpose of growing more pine and therefore, they are flawed from the base. And one day we will have a broader acceptance of the fact that prescribed burning should be limited to the natural fire frequency and seasonality and quantity. The studies are just—scientists are just now beginning to realize that and it’s a matter of getting it spread out to the rest of the country, overcoming what we referred to as the timber industry domination of forestry schools by funding, heavy funding, and they are—the influence that they have on the presidents of the Universities to appoint the right people that will teach what they want to do. In—in a big corporation likes to gain in the short-term and pay the stockholders even if they’re not very widely spread publicly. If they’re themselves, they’d like to get this money every year. And in—in a few short years they could convert to selective management at the beginning of every year but they don’t want to wait for those five or ten years of getting set up into a selection from the pine plantations or the Douglas Fir plantations that they have now developed.
SS: Weren’t you instrumental in getting the Texas Nature Conservancy Chapter started in Texas?
NF: Yes. Ev—as I say, my—a friend of mine was the first Chair and I was the second chair and we got quite a number of smaller, generally smaller areas for the Nature Conservancy.
SS: Did your friend get interested and bring you along or did the two of you see a need and get the program started?
NF: Actually, the way it worked, I didn’t even know him until he said he wanted to start it and asked me to help. And so—he was already pres—Chair of the chapter. And so then I helped him adequately to where he wanted me to take over the Chairmanship the second year. And so it has grown ever since then. When I left the Nature Conservancy leadership because they had adequate leaders and we needed to take over some smaller areas and some areas that did not have the specialties that they wanted because I’m believe in fast expansion of our preserves in Texas and the world, for that matter. That’s the way to be safe is to have preserves where the stewardship committee can—which is a private interest not subject to over-influence by industry can determine what, if anything, can be done in the preserve which, so far in our Natural Area Preservation Area Association policy has been just trails. Now the Nature Conservancy has continued to take good care of its areas. And our relationship is good. They have not only given (?) Wildlife Refuge but also they assign to us the—what I have helped them to obtain, the Maysee Prairie Preserve and—because it’s a small one and we had the local people to keep an eye on it and they didn’t. They mostly were going by large donations and big salaries.
SS: What do you think has been the strongest tool that Natural Areas’ Preservation Association has had to use to preserve land?
NF: I’d say the distinctive—you said strongest…
SS: Or distinctive is okay…
NF: Distinctive tool of the Natural Area Preservation Association is volunteerism. This is an organization that has never hired a staffer of any kind. Executive Director down to just secretary. All the work has been done by volunteers including my wife Jeannie who deserves a great deal of credit for all the support that she has given in all of these ventures and then the other volunteers include wonderful person like Catherine Goodbar who became a president and the current president, Joe Humphrey, and the—a past president, Harold Loffman, and so forth. These have all given up their time and while they were working, they gave of their—they had to work on into the night in order to do the volunteer work of the Natural Area Preservation Association. And then I have remained at—for that organization, I have started off as secretary and have remained as secretary the entire time but the Chairs have done some wonderful leadership. The president—present chair is Joe Humphrey who has been a real wonderful worker in this field because he’s also a land lawyer and he knows how to work out the details of—of both deeds and conservation easements. And we have about an equal number of both. The conservation easement is a great, new development in the field of land trusts and land preservation because the donor does not have to give up the land entirely. The donor can retain the ownership and he just—or she—just agrees to let the land lie and not be developed in any way or with an exception or two here and there. And then actually it has an advantage to the donor of being—we—we—the Natural Area Preservation Association gets tax exemption on all of our conservation easements as well as our fee simple deeds. And the
conservation easement is under a Texas legislatures law that gives tax exemptions to the extent of the value of the easement. The fee simple we get complete tax exemption. Now one of the stories of the Nature Conservancy that I enjoy is that back there toward the beginning, I think it was still in the ‘60’s, we needed a tax exemption for the organization. We didn’t have the tax exemption written into the state law for all such groups, land trusts that are now forming. It was—there was no tax exemption then and the Nature Conservancy was acquiring lands that if it didn’t have to pay taxes on it then it could use the money for acquisition of new land. So I went to an old friend in the legislature who was Chairman of the Tax Committee at the time, named Atwell. And he said, I’ll take care of it. Leave it to me. So the weeks rolled along and the weeks rolled along. Nothing happened. No bill filed or anything. And then toward the end, well he put in a bill under his own name, Ben Atwell did, and told me to come down to Austin one night and they were having a meeting. So then the meeting rolled on. They did other things and so forth. And then toward the end, well he says I have a bill here to give tax exemption to the Nature Conservancy which is a very good organization. Ned Fritz, a friend of mine is here for it, and they deserve it because it’s a save natural preserves. He said, I would like to see it passed so it was moved and seconded and passed. We had it.
SS: Was that the easiest piece of legislation you saw through or…
NF: Probably, yeah but others—other legislatures helped in those days. They were not completely bought in those days. It’s too bad the way things have developed. We still have some but it takes a very strong person nowadays because he’s got to have all the industry paying his opponent every year to try to win—beat him in a campaign. So persons like Lloyd Doggett are an example of strength, integrity and morality and they are a blessing that we must preserve.
SS: If you were to present one Ned Fritz award to the best legislator for the environment, if you had to choose just one legislator or decision-maker that you’ve every worked with, could you choose one to give an award or honor?
NF: It would—that would be hard. I have mentioned John Seiberling of Ohio and I have mentioned John Bryant of Dallas who filed the Wilderness Bill for us and had a wonderful environmental voting record all the time. Lloyd Doggett is the only Texas who has a 100% League of Conservation Voters environmental voting record. And so I would—then others have done things that—Republicans have done things for us that were a lot more difficult because of the general big money preference for Republicans. And so—but if I were to choose three, I would choose those three.
SS: And if you could give the Ned Fritz gag award and have someone never be able to do anything negative for the environment, just taken out of the picture, could you choose one?
NF: Oh boy, that’s around—right now, I think mainly of Helen Chenoweth of Idaho who is an early termer in the United States Congress. She is already the Chair of the Forestry Controlling Subcommittee and a recent instance which turns me against her all the more, although she has been almost unerring in her support for the timber industry, was when the Texas Forestry Association decided that they wanted—they didn’t want to put up with citizen input, including TCNR input, into any of the practices that they—like prescribed burning and so forth, and like salvage cutting which is another cutting form of—of clear cutting or even edged logging we’d say cause they take so many trees out at once that—and then they want to plant pines in their place. So that—when she was called by the Texas Forestry Association and she filed a bill here just recently in which she wanted the congress to say that any national that—there were ten national forests in the bill named with specific areas where they wanted to do salvage operations. And she—the bill says that the Forest Service can decide to go ahead without any citizen’s input on those salvage operations. So this is a threat not only to our forest but to our democracy. And she did it and so right now, why I would probably give her the top honor as a gag.
Let’s go back…
NF: But however, I want to conclude that the Chief of the Forest Service, Dombeck testified in the opening of that case. First we had—let’s see, he may have been the first. He testified that they—the Forest Service has adequate authority to go ahead without citizen input under the categorical exclusion rule which is a dangerous rule because it means that, under certain circumstances, the Forest Service can proceed without citizen input and they tend to do that for the good of gross, heavy logging on occa—whenever there’s an excuse like a wind blow in Texas. And so he said they have adequate—they didn’t need this new bill. However, we had a wonderful witness from Oregon who—a woman about to get her Ph.D. in—with a specialty of fires in timber—prescribed burning and so forth. And she testified that there was no evidence that removing all these trees would—no scientific evidence, lots of Forest Service opinion, self-serving opinion that removing these trees would reduce the fire hazard to where it might burn private lands on the boundaries of the National Forest. And she gave lots of scientific authorities to the contrary. So that we, at present, that bill is getting nowhere.
SS: If I were to go to one of the leaders in the Texas Forestry Association and ask them to talk about you, what do you imagine they would say?
NF: Well I think what they would say is different from what they would think.
SS: What do you think they would think?
NF: They would—they would probably say that I was just misguided, that we need the timber industry, we need it for the East Texas economy. And we need to sell all these things without all the problems of complying with various fine toothed laws. And they would probably be thinking that I was a threat to the profits of their companies and the companies that formed the Texas Forestry Association and hire the head of it and so forth.
SS: If I had some land I wanted to protect and called you on the telephone and said, how can I protect my thirty acres of land along the Sulfur River, how would you take me through the NAPA process? What would you tell me? What would we do?
NF: Well for outright acquisition, we need more publicity. There’s a large number of people who will gradually decide to set aside their land for natural preservation forever. But they don’t know about it and they need to know the details of it and what it will do to them before they approach us often. Sometimes, at an early stage, they will ask us but usually they will just sit there and wait for somebody to tell them. And so we need more contacts whoever has the nice big area in East Texas (?) be preserved should do it. I enjoyed the initial visits at the Little Sandy Hunting and Fishing Club over close to the Sabine River, Little Sandy Creek where we found several huge trees, a lot of them were big but some of them were big enough to be champions and where we found probably one of the largest unspoiled ecosystems in the state. And in that situation we got the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to accept a conservation easement which means that the—there will be no further development ever except for the members have their cabins there already and a central building. And the land will be saved for good. And so that will be a place where our children and their children will be able to see it unless the State of Texas, goaded by the water hustlers, manages to put a dam in on the Sabine River down below there which will flood all the lands in between and on into the Little Sandy Hunting & Fishing Club far before such a dam is needed. And hopefully if we develop other accesses to water or limit the population adequately, why then hopefully we will never have to have such a dam. The trend ought to be—include finding out ways to change the salt water into good drinking water more economically but there are some nations that, like around the equator and so forth, which have to depend heavily on the change of salt water to drinking water even now to maintain their populations. I would rather see that happen than to dam up our remaining rivers and streams.
SS: Going back to NAPA, how do you determine if a piece of property somebody wants to preserve, if it’s something you will take on either through acquisition or conservation easement? Do you have guidelines for property when you inspect a property?
NF: Not exactly. We have some tax educational papers that it’s much better to give it outright because you get the full tax deduction, the donor does. And furthermore then there’s hardly a chance of dispute from successors if—that would own the land on down through the years that—under a conservation easement. But a conservation easement, we have had no problem with successors. Usually the children, if they’re the heirs to a certain tract of land that’s owned by the donor and gives a conservation easement why they will honor the conservation easement right on down. And, in certain instances, they are siding along with the main—the present main donor. So—but this—in other states, there have arisen some disputes from an heir who wanted money and so the best—the simplest way is for a fee simple donation, total donation because the donor has the opportunity to sit on the stewardship committee, to visit the land whenever the donor wants and so really if the donor really wants it to be preserved forever why the donor has just as much fun and enjoyment out of it as the conservation easement donor would be and the donor may have a little bit more honor from it because of giving the full title instead of a conservation easement title although so far those have come out about even. They—we’ve had two major instances of—where the donor of a conservation easement decided to give the full fee simple title after several years of making sure that Natural Area Preservation Association was okay and was going to do it the way they wanted it.
SS: So do I have to have land to give to be a member of NAPA?
NF: No, but if you do you’re an automatic member if you want to be. But we have regular $25.00 a year dues and—but we really do—have obtained our funding primarily from some other donors who have given larger amounts and we do have also a fund which we’re building which would ultimately pay by interest income or by stock dividends, whatever—wherever we decide ultimately to have the fund. Right now it’s in interest income. We would—that would be enough to keep running the organization so all the contributions from then on could be for acquisition of land. And I will make—the person that’s very modest about that but—I will mention the name of that person, Craig Damuth…
SS: Probably edit it right out of there.
SS: What sources of funding do you have for acquiring habitat if somebody wants to either have you buy the habitat or what funding sources do you count on?
NF: Our donors can give to whatever they want to give to. One of the main ways to give into the Natural Area Preservation Association is into the endowment fund that was started by one particular donor in a substantial amount and which we are encouraging others to donate to because the ultimate income from that will be enough to help to pay if not completely to pay the expenses of operating the organization. We may someday have to hire personnel to keep a—a lookout over all the areas, even though we have committees in—over each natural area preserve to look at them individually, still there are problems that arise with the government agencies and other things as to how to protect them. So ultimately we may need a lot of money from income from this endowment and we hope that a lot of people will donate to that. And I would like to mention that the donor who started that endowment is Craig Damuth.
SS: Could you describe the kind of work that the stewardship committee does?
NF: Yes, the stewardship committee first comes up with a plan for the area which usually just says that it will be kept completely natural and that sometimes they say if there’s an invading foreign weed that that may be removed for preventive. And sometimes they allow hunting and sometimes they don’t.
SS: Do they allow public visitation?
NF: Yes and the visitation varies. Sometimes the stewardship committee has to give permission. Sometimes the former donor, especially if the donor remains on the property with a house that is part of the easement, for example, or off to the property adjoining it. But the donor almost always gets to participate in who comes in there. If they want, they always do. And so the visitation is handled by the stewardship committee. In a conservation easement, for example, why it—we often—we generally do not have that kind of detail. We say, no more development or development with a house can go here because the owner often has the children who might want to—one of whom might want to live there. Or other mi—minor exceptions but that the donor is somewhere around to look after the land and wants to. And so that’s what happens.
SS: Is there anything else you’d like to say about NAPA?
NF: Well it’s really a very distinctive group in that so far it’s the only one I know of of this size with 30 preserves in its possession and more coming every year that has never spent a penny on salaries to anybody, on contracts with anybody to do things except, of course, printers to put out the annual—the quadrennial—no, the every three months’ newsletter that we put out. And so the volunteers stay with it for their entire lives. It—it’s—there’s probably no one gesture that a person can make in life for saving the environment that—that is more heart warming and fulfilling than saving a particular natural area or set of natural areas because there you can see it, you can enter it, you can be proud of having helped to save it.
SS: Now can you describe the feeling that it gives you to know that your great, great, great grandchildren may be able to go to a place and see it in pretty much the same shape as you saw it and know that it was because of you that they can go do that.
NF: Well, I have to admit that I have some pride in helping to save all these areas. That I would hope that it would be an influence on my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren to help also to save natural areas for the world and for their successor so that I’m—we have in the Catahoula Forest, a big sign int—well it’s—it’s made out of metal. It’s a—a well produced artistic piece almost that says what this forest is and says here are the original donors which are practically all the donors because they’re the ones that we use to buy the land. Sometimes we buy the land although usually it’s donated. And on this sign are the names of Jeannie and me, for example, and I feel a little pride when we go there with one of our children and they see that here this beautiful, natural tract of land was saved partly because of our generosity and our spirit.
SS: And your work, your time.
NF: And—and I might add that that’s where my ashes will be strewn after my death, in Catahoula Forest and we hope to have a special emblem up there to—as—instead of a gravestone to welcome people into the forest. It reminds me, I was deeply moved by visiting the grave of a great poet, Yvonne Ireland(?), and that poet had already given what was to be put on the gravestone and it’s there and been there for generations since. And so that’s—I have written something to go on my gravestone, I mean, on the placard that will probably be put up there in metal for welcoming people to Catahoula Forest.
SS: Do you have it memorized? Do you feel comfortable telling us what it will say?
NF: And with regard to our NAPA endowment, I would like to mention the originator of that endowment fund who however wishes to remain anonymous.
NF: It would say, “Cast a warm glance on earth, on life. Visitor, come in.”
SS: How often do you go visit the preserves because what I’d like to do is for Craig to be able to go with you when you go to some of these preserves and get tape of them and kind of talk about them with you on tape?
NF: Well I visit them when there’s an event there nowadays because there’s so much to do before the end. I have one book, in particular, that I need to write also. I have—have already written one that—looking for publication but the other one that hasn’t been written yet is the book on Revolution or Extinction of Human Being. And the revolution being the move, the cultural revolution towards acquiring all of our natural resources by the people as a whole in democratic government.
NF: Take a long gaze on earth, on life. Traveler, come in. Now you want me to say it more calmly? Second time I can usually say it more calmly.
NF: Take a long gaze on earth, on life. Traveler, come in.
SS: Will you have your name on it too?
NF: Take a long gaze on earth, on life. Traveler, come in.
NF: Yeats, he said, cast a long glance…
NF: A cold eye, that was it. Cast a cold eye on life. Horseman pass by.
NF: Take a long glance on earth, on life. Traveler, come in.
[Epitaph written by Yeats and inscribed on his tombstone:
“Cast a cold eye
On life, on death,
Horseman pass by.”]
End of reel
End of interview with Ned Fritz