[Tape 1 of three.]
EH: --specific. Like species, or certain kinds
of--of environmental-sensitive habitat, or woodlands, they--they
specialize. And, except for American Farm Land Trust and one or two
other organizations, some of 'em farm organizations now--were sort of
left with that field to themselves--the issue of sustainable
agriculture, soil erosion, the set-aside programs and so forth to get
fragile land out of cultivation. In our life time we've seen the
disasters in Russia, when--and in Khrushchev's time they--they plowed up
vast areas in the--the eastern portions of Russia and--destroyed the
country. Lakes are empty, land is unproductive.
DT: And, what do you think about these--some of
these new programs, like the Conservation Reserve Plan, that I think
is--is--was passed in the Agricultural Bill last year?
EH: Well, I think it's an improvement over what
we had, and it--it does aim, over a period of--I forget how many, seven,
eight years--to get out of the subsidy business, and I--I really think
the Government should be out of the subsidy business, and the decisions
about what to plant ought to be made by the landowner.
DT: And what about private responses to soil
EH: What we're finding at American Farm Land
Trust, which is a national organization--it's not very active in Texas,
unfortunately--very active in the New England States, in New York, in
Pennsylvania--very active in, of all places, Indiana, Illinois,
Missouri. They are finding a--a burgeoning interest on the part of young
farmers in ways to increase profits, by using different--different kinds
of plants, and reducing the amount of pesticide, and certain plowing
techniques. I'm not an expert in this field but there's a lot of
interest on the part of youngish farmers who want to preserve their
farm. They don't want to see it washed down the--down the river. They
know they're gonna be under greater pressure from now on, from public
institutions, about the matter of pesticides washing into rivers and
lakes--you know, that problem, fertilizers. And there's real interest in
what we've been able to prove you can do, using less--spending less
money on fertilizer, less money on herbicides, producing a somewhat
smaller crop, and making just as much or more money. So that is catching
on. But as I say, it's mostly the young. The older people buying and so
DT: So, ...
EH: --[laughs], they're not interested.
DT: --Mr. [Earl] Butts's dicta about "gotta be
big to survive" may not hold anymore?
EH: It may not--I hope not. [Laughs.] I don't
EH: Well, I'm curious about your--your
education. You'd, I think, gone to Dartmouth for college?
EH: Yeah. Yeah, I took a English major, in
college, which didn't prepare me for much of anything. And it
was--always seemed to be destined that I would go to work in newspapers
because that's what my family was in. And I did. Yeah. [Laughs.]
DT: And I understood that you worked in a
number of smaller newspapers in ...
EH: No. A whole bunch of 'em. Then I came here.
DT: --Texas and New Hampshire and other places.
DT: Was--was conservation ever an issue in some
of these smaller towns or in the ...
EH: Well, in--I worked on the Kansas City
Star for two years and it was essentially a--an
agricultural-based paper. Kansas City--a lot of it, which--there's a lot
of manufacturing in Kansas City but there were also stockyards in Kansas
City. There were agricultural banks. There was the Board of Trade, where
enormous amounts of--of grain were bought and sold, and the hinterland
was--was wheat and corn country. And, the Kansas City Star had a very
good record of worrying about the loss of topsoil, once again--I
mean--well, this was just 1950, so it wasn't all that far after--long
after the Depression. But it was still a major problem and I can
remember they were--they were just propagandistic about new plowing
techniques and green manure, as they called it. You--you don't cut the
whole crop, you plow under a lot of the organic material and so forth.
They were trying to educate their leadership. So the--they were very
good on that subject.
DT: I see.
EH: Ones in New England didn't give a damn.
DT: Well, I was curious if there was a--sort of
cultural differences that you saw from San Angelo to New Hampshire to
Kansas City, and points in between.
EH: Oh, yeah, Kansas City was--was more
interested in--in preserving the value of--of Missouri topsoil and
Kansas topsoil than ...
EH: --than one might've expected. It was
DT: So--I mean, at least, in your perspective
it's more of--what's economically important rather than there being some
sort of ethic or--or a culture of conservation and ...
EH: No, I like 'em all, I like 'em all. It's
terribly fashionable now to--to say everything has to be market-driven.
That's almost entirely true. [Laughs.] But there are other
considerations and--they've always interested me, too. I really got into
the business of conservation of the kind that you want to talk about,
when a great friend of mine, J.P. Stephens, who was a textile tycoon,
and a great friend of Connie Hager, would come here to Rockport every
year and now--his daughters and my wife were together in the same
college in Vermont. And, they knew my wife very, very well, so we always
saw them. And, we'd go bird-watching with 'em, and so I was very, very
inexperienced in bird-watching. They were superb bird-watchers, and
wonderful people. And Jack Stephens was sort of the leading light on the
National Audubon Board. And ...
DT: What time was this?
DT: What--what year was this, roughly?
EH: Oh, that'd be about '58, '59, something
like that. And so he nominated me for membership on the--on the board,
and a--another member of the board, Johnny Hanes, from the tobacco and
textile family in North Carolina, called me up and we talked about it
and I said I'd like to do that. And that was the way I got--I got into
it. And then toward the end of my term--I think you could have three
three-year terms in those days. Toward the end of it, they got into kind
of a crisis, and--they needed me to--to be something important that I
was in no way qualified to do. And I did it, [laughs], and it--evidently
it kind of worked. And then I went off the board, I believe. And
then--no, maybe I didn't. Maybe it was just then that they decided they
had to have somebody who would commit to be chairman of the board
for--at least one or two years. So I told the then President--that's the
C.E.O. of Audubon, they call him president. His name was Carl
Buckheister, B-U-C-K-H-E-I-S-T-E-R. He's a very well-known man in the
conservation--very popular man--conservation movement, and he and I went
down to a ranch my brother and I owned in the Big Bend. And we drank a
lot of whiskey and we talked a lot about conservation, and--the upshot
was that, feeling totally without qualification, I said yes, I would
become chairman of the board of the National Audubon Society, which had
always been--almost entirely centered and focused on Greenwich,
Connecticut; Manhattan; Plainfield, New Jersey--[laughs], I mean, all
the rich suburbs of the northeast. And I didn't know--I had no
connections up there at all. But they said they needed somebody and I
was--I was available. So I did it, and I did it for five years, and it
was a great experience for me. I--I loved every minute of it. Elvis
Starr was the--was the President of the Society during most of my time,
and he and I sort of went out together. Pete Peterson, the ex-Governor
of Delaware, came in. And, that was the way I got into the Conservation
Movement. Now because that heightened my interest, I--particularly the
association with--and I suppose the only other Texas director of N.A.S.,
National Audubon Society. N.A.S. in Corpus is National Audubon Society
but mostly it's Naval Air Station. And so, [laughs], ...
DT: I see.
EH: Well, when--I won't use N.A.S. Clarence
Carter, who was, I believe, the first head of the Welder Wildlife
Refuge, a center--I think it was just to kind of get him off the ground
then. And if he wasn't the first, he was an early director, and I think
it's fair to say that he, being former head of the Fish and
Wildlife--and I'm almost sure that's true. If he wasn't head, he was
very close to being the head, and he--there's no doubt about this--he
was Rachel Carson's mentor. He encouraged her to write Silent Spring,
because Silent Spring--was not a popular book at the Department of
Interior, as you can very well imagine. I mean, if--she was very
critical of--of the use of pesticides and the attitude of federal
agencies and the indifference of the nation as a whole. And he said,
"Write your book, let the chips fall where they may," and she did. Well,
Clarence made me more aware of local issues in conservation than I would
have been otherwise. He lived over here at Sinton and knew all about it.
Another friend who helped me was a man named Hans Suter, S-U-T-E-R. Hans
Suter was born in--I don't know, what's the opera house in the Amazon?
You know, the--the town.
DT: First the ...
EH: Manaus. I think he was from Manaus, and of
Swiss parentage. He became a chemical engineer or something like
that--chemist, anyway. He worked at--he worked at Celanese--which is now
Hoecht--at the Celanese Research Laboratory, which is right outside
Corpus Christi. And he was an ardent, very well informed, very
articulate, hard-working conservationist, who I don't think ever raised
his voice in a--in a meeting where opposing sides met and tried to work
things out. He had a wonderful personality for being a spokesman for the
Movement and so forth. He had a--some sort of an accident and was--was
on, I suppose, total disability--and anyway, he didn't have to work, and
he had a living. He was also married to a chemist or a physicist who
taught at the college level. Her name's Pat Suter and she's still here.
Hans Suter, at my invitation, began what probably was one of the
earliest conservation newspaper columns in the state, certainly was the
first one down here.
DT: Was that in the early '60's, maybe or ...
EH: It was in the '60's, yeah. The date will be
in that book that--all the dates--that Mrs. Suter can provide for you.
I've given mine away or I'd give you mine. Now, where were we? Some of
the issues that came up at that time had to do with--well, one of 'em
had to do with the beautification of--of Corpus Christi and the
elimination of undesirable--of buildings and edifices on--on Shoreline
Drive, which had been created out of--out of the bay bottom. You know,
it's--it's not natural. The--Corpus Christi just sort of oozes off into
the Bay naturally, and in the immediate--in the years immediately before
World War II, Corpus Christi dredged up this boulevard which is about 12
or 13 feet high, and put a huge embankment around it, and called it
Shoreline Boulevard, and if--it was the--the prettiest part of the city.
And commercial interests were quick to seize on it and to put up
ticky-tacky and put up the--oh, cartoon figures that would advertise
your motel and that sort of thing. So, Frances Tarlton Farenthold, who
was a descendant of two or three long-time Irish immigrant families
here, some of whom were fortunate enough to have land with oil in it.
Her--her family had--were--were well connected in the--in the legal
world, here and in Fort Worth and various other places--and Sissy
undertook to organize something called OPUS. I don't know what that
stands for, it stood for something. And they carried on through
litigation--suits against people who--the city was very reluctant to
move against any of these people. Of course they were developers and
they were rich and--and the city--politicians don't have much courage
about those matters. So, it was in the era when you could finally go to
court over things like that--how things looked. And--and Sissy and OPUS
were able to do some wonderful work in cleaning up Shoreline Boulevard
and in getting most of the parking lots, which covered setback areas
that should've been landscaped, legally, [laughs], we'd get a few bushes
planted in those. And, so that was one of the things that was going on
in town at that time. I guess the biggest thing that was going on then
was the effort to set aside some of the--Padre Island, as a national
seashore. Certain interests at both ends of the island--Corpus Christi
and the Lower Valley--had made considerable headway in development down
on the south side, and it to this day is much more developed, and much
better developed, than the north side. One of the--one of the developers
was a Corpus Christi family, big in real estate. And when we--when the
newspaper first came out for turning--acquiring that land for the
Federal Government, and getting them to preserve it as a--we didn't know
what national park, national--we didn't know about national seashore.
But anyway, we--that was the idea, that we would preserve as many miles
of open beach down there as we could. And the--the wife of this
developer ran into me at a club here in Corpus Christi one day at lunch,
and she shouted across the room. She said, "I hear you've bought a ranch
in Bristol County," which we had. And she said, "I hope the Federal
Government comes along and takes it away from you." Well, she's long
dead. But of course one of the--one day we--the Federal Government did
come along and take it away from us, at our invitation. [Laughs.] We
gave it to them. [Laughs.]
DT: She was a seer.
EH: But it was ironic. We've--the news--that
couldn't've been without the newspaper. Now it couldn't've been with a
lot of other people--without a lot of other people, but Padre Island
National Seashore, in my opinion, would not exist if the newspaper had
not early on taken up the--the cry, and stayed with it. And we had
visitation after visitation of people who had the--you know, the long
view of Corpus Christi. "We've gotta develop this, gotta develop that,
and think of how rich we'll all get and how happy everybody's gonna be."
Fortunately that--that didn't happen. The biggest hang-up, oddly enough,
was not in Washington but it was in Austin, because Jerry Sadler, who
was really no friend of conservation, was land commissioner, and as
such, he had to sign off on any deal that was made which involved the
submerged lands, as they were called, meaning the Laguna Madre and the
first--what was it, three leagues or 10 leagues, I don't know how many
leagues--out from the--from the shoreline, which the state of Texas lay
claim to under their--the treaty which brought 'em into the Union. And
he--his slogan was, he didn't want to give up one dime for the school
children of Texas, the school children of Texas, over and over and over
again--the school children. And he opposed, on that ground, the cession
of land, sovereign state of Texas owned, to the federal government for
this seashore. Well, it also had to pass the Legislature, and Jerry
was--this is Jerry Sadler, the Commissioner--was very influential with a
lot of those legislators. It was not a really happy time in Texas state
government, and there wasn't anything to do but for me to go to Austin
and take up residence, and sign on as a--as a lobbyist. I signed the
paper, said I was a lobbyist for the Padre Island National--proposal for
the Padre Island National Seashore, and I was not paid anything and I
answered all the questions. And then I just stayed there, and I stayed
in touch with the members of the House and the Senate, and tried to keep
tab of where the darn bill was, and how much pressure Jerry was putting
on. His--he first showed his strength in a--in a committee. We almost
didn't get out of one of the committees, House or Senate, because of
Jerry. Finally got it out on the floor and Connally, who was
Governor--did not admire Jerry Sadler, and that may have influenced him
to become my ally but he did become my ally, and he and I worked
together. Of course he was working on 10,000 things, I was working on
one little project, but--he was very, very helpful to me, and was--I
think he was quite instrumental in--in changing some votes in the
Legislature. Governor just--may be more influential than the Land
Commissioner but, anyway, we finally got the bill passed, and they--they
had a signing ceremony, and Jerry showed up. We all sort of wondered if
Jerry was really gonna show. He did, he signed, and--I think Wagoner
Carr was Secretary of State. He signed, and John B. Connally signed with
pride I think.
DT: This was in the mid '60's, I guess.
EH: I think so, yeah. I can--I'm bad on dates
but they're all in--of record somewhere.
DT: Can you tell me what Padre Island looked
like at that time?
EH: Can--very much as it does today, yeah. But
there were--there were all kinds of rumors in--yeah, in this part of the
world that it was--it was the last undeveloped shoreline in America, it
was just waiting to become a Miami beach. Many of our fears were
overstated because economics did not favor making an 88-mile Miami
beach, and Miami Beach itself is having a lot of problems these days. So
that--that helped somewhat. There were also some interests in Austin who
owned a lot of land at the southern end of the proposed park, and they
were extremely influential in--with the Legislature and with the state
government and so forth.
DT: Supportive or against it?
EH: Against it, yeah. And they were--and I--and
I--I have always thought that they were in large part behind Jerry
Sadler's adamant opposition to the thing but anyway, that's all, you
know, past, it doesn't matter. I haven't even ...
DT: As opposed to ...
EH: --I haven't even heard of those people for
20 years. I don't know whether they're still in town or not.
DT: Was the land for the seashore ...
EH: Privately owned.
DT: --generally condemned or ...
EH: It was all private.
DT: And most of it was condemned? Were there
EH: Oh, yeah, yeah.
DT: --voluntary sellers?
EH: I don't know whether--any voluntary ones or
not, there may've been. It's conceivable that the Jones family, from
Kansas City, which was one of the major landowners ***. They were rich
oil people. Subsequently--they lived in Corpus for a while. Highly
intelligent people, beautifully educated. Art collectors or all this.
They moved to Arizona for respiratory reason--and may be dead by now, I
don't know. But, the--I can--I can supply you with the name of the
family if you'd need it. The Jones connection was the wife, and that's
where the money came from. And I kind of think they--they may've agreed
to sell, without going to litigation.
DT: I see.
EH: Or I think some of the others--we had to go
to--go to court. I'm not sure about that. You know, it wasn't easy, and
it--it took a lot of--a lot of effort. So I was--I was pleased with that
outcome. Now, ...
DT: It was a great victory.
DT: That was a great victory.
EH: Well, I mean, a lot of people contributed
to it, yeah, but it was a great victory, and we celebrated! My word, the
Secretary of the Interior, which was Udall, and Lady Bird, and a bunch
of people came down here, the--lots of Washington types. And we had
a--we've chartered a boat, had a great dinner party--a great banquet it
was--on the boat, and served buffalo and rattlesnake and--[laughs]--a
whole bunch of wild meat. It was fun.
DT: It was fun?
EH: Rough seas that night, not everybody was
DT: A little green?
EH: One of the early conservation fights in
this part of the state was the question of oil--of shell dredging.
Contractors--highway contractors in particular--needed an aggregate.
They tell me that the--the rock begins under Corpus Christi at about 40
feet, and so there wasn't any readily--there just isn't any gravel in
this part of the world. And the most convenient and obviously cheapest
aggregate for highway construction would have been oyster shell. And
this state licensed the--the dredging of oyster beds, to the great
detriment of--of the culture, and to the great detriment of the--the
state of the--of the submerged lands because it--it kicks up an enormous
amount of sediment, which is very slow to settle out. And when it does
settle out, I don't think it's really very good for--for the sea
grasses. But in any event, an early soldier in that war was the late Ben
F. Vaughan, Jr. That's V-A-U-G-H-A-N, who was an early-day chairman
of--I think in those days it was called Fish, Game and Oyster or
something like that. It--it wasn't Parks and Wildlife. Connally's the
one who changed it into Parks and Wildlife, putting recreation and
hunting and fishing all in one bureaucracy, which was very controversial
at the time, and probably was a pretty good idea. But in any event, Ben
Vaughan, whose--whose offspring still live around here in Austin, live
in Texas--had a lot to do with that--that part of the conservation
movement in this part of the state. Another big issue that came up was
bay drilling, in--oh, I can't remember what year it was. It's all in the
record. Early '60's, I think. The Navy released whatever rights they had
to prohibit drilling. I guess it was prohibiting tall structures in
Corpus Christi Bay, because of the approaches to the Naval Air Station
at Flower Bluff. And their--this Mayor of Corpus Christi in those days
was a doctor, a physician, named McIver Furman. He was a native son,
lived here all his life, and he had a--a real feel for the natural
advantages that we had here in Corpus Christi, as opposed to what we
could change and develop and alter and maybe ruin. So he came to see me
one afternoon, and said, "We've got to have a committee to look at what
happens, because the Navy's not gonna regulate it anymore," and under
Naval regulation, it was pretty much wide open, and oil companies could
do whatever they wanted to. the State of Texas promptly made some
leases, or there were already leases in effect which the Navy had
abrogated in--at the beginning of the war. I don't know how that worked
but in any way--in any event, there was considerable interest in
drilling for oil and gas in Corpus Christi Bay when the Navy released
its restrictions. And ...
[Tape 1, Side B.]
EH: ... and McIver Furman said, "We're--we
really need a kind of citizens group to look at this. And I want you to
head it up." Well, I was about--let's see, I was born in '22, I was
about 43 or four or five then, and I didn't feel too sure of myself. But
I looked around and I realized that, probably with my experience in--on
the Audubon Board and my access by then to experts in a lot of fields in
the Conservation Movement, that I probably would be a pretty fair person
to do it. And, I said yes. Now, interestingly enough, I don't think any
newspaper publisher in the world would take on a job like that today,
because the ethics of print journalism, and I guess television, too,
have changed. It's now not thought to be proper for people responsible
for the reporting of the news to be news makers. Can you turn this off
and let me pick up my phone?
[TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: ...... indicates where the
recorder was turned off and then turned back on.]
EH: ...... Don't turn it on yet and I'll tell
you something interesting. In--you're aware that Mrs. Graham has written
EH: Her autobiography?
EH: In it she deals with this very issue.
...... O.K., I won't go into the details of the Bay Drilling Committee
negotiations. They lasted for well over a year. The Committee was
composed of, I believe, three members from the oil and gas industry,
three members from the City Council, three members from the general
public. And the general public people were--appointed with my
concurrence, and they--they represented people who wanted to keep
the--the bay as uncluttered as we could. Now the details of--of what we
worked out are not terribly important. I think what is important is that
we wrote an ordinance--a city ordinance that said to the oil companies,
"You can drill on certain patterns of acreage. And if you can't get
where you want to go on that pattern, you're gonna have to drill
directionally. And that you can only have three production platforms in
the--in the Bay, and those have to have all kinds of safeguards, and be
painted a certain color, or no color, and so forth." I mean, there were
all sorts of safety, aesthetic, etc., provisions. We--we talked the city
into hiring Baker & Botts to represent us. Well, actually, Baker & Botts
were representing the City Council members and the public members,
because the three oil companies--Atlantic Richfield,
Bartlesville--what's that? You know, Phillips.
EH: Isn't that Phillips in Bartlesville? And
some other big oil company. All of 'em had leases in the Bay and had big
regional offices here. They were very well represented legally. So we
felt that we were entitled to have Baker & Botts, and we got our
attorney named Hugh Patterson. I don't know whether he's still alive or
not. He was a marvelous attorney, great negotiator. And, I'm sure Baker
& Botts does a hell of a lot of business with the oil companies, so they
knew it from both sides, you see. And without Hughes' help, I'm not sure
we would've got that thing but--the upshot was the oil companies signed
on, they agreed to it, and it later was expanded to include many of its
features, drilling within the city limits and on the--on the mainland.
But the important thing about all that is that it was the first
municipal regulation of oil and gas drilling in the offshore in the
United States. Now, part of that is not because we were so much ahead of
our time as--Texas entered the Union with this special provision, where
Texas is--is the owner of the minerals, and Texas is in control. Now,
off Santa Barbara, there were already some--some extensive exploration
going on, and the state of California didn't really have much
legal--they--they used--'suasion I guess is what you'd say, they--and
public opinion, to get the oil companies to do what they wanted to
but--but Corpus Christi was one of the few municipalities in the country
where this could come up and it did come up, and we brought it to a
successful conclusion. So we were--we were real happy about that and it
worked out very well.
DT: Was there any interest from the state, from
the Railroad Commission or the General Land Office?
EH: Well, Jerry Sadler was the--was the land
commissioner and he resented it deeply and--and fought it. He--he didn't
have that--any particular influence at City Hall, which is where it
passed. But Sadler made frequent references to the--to the plunder of
the school children of Texas by the City of Corpus Christi, ha! Well,
anyway--Jerry once sued me--and I think the judge threw it out, I don't
know. Anyway, he didn't get me. [Laughs.] And--but it's ...
DT: Well, it seems like it was a contentious
time. I'm curious if--and we talked a little bit about some of the
mentors, teachers and friends that you had who sort of--helped you
understand and--I guess encouraged you. Well, were there people--and you
don't have to name names but maybe describe some of the situations
to--who were frustrating and--and who sort of tried to distract you and
divert you from conservation work?
EH: I don't know. No. Nobody--a fib. People
thought I was crazy--some people did. And this--this wife of the
developer hoped they'd get my ranch, which they did. But, ...
EH: But, aside from that, no, I didn't have
any. Now another--I've got a little list here of things that we've done
DT: Please. Go into that.
EH: Another one--and Mrs. Farenthold again
shows up in this. Ada Wilson owned--I don't know, I think six miles of
Mustang Island, which really is more accessible to the people of Corpus
Christi than Padre Island. It's not as significant. It's not nearly as
big. But, a group of developers made a run at her. By then she was a
widow. Very rich, and--and quite public-spirited. She was eccentric and
a character, and not always easy to get along with. She had a habit of
calling her friends *** at 6:30 or seven in the morning. And we had four
children and that was a pretty busy time for us, but I never, ever
turned down a call from Ada. Her name was Mrs. Sam E. Wilson. Everybody
in town called her Ada, A-D-A. Ada was from Tennessee. Her husband made
a lot of money in the oil business and I think probably lost it and made
it again and lost it and made it again. And, he left her with--with a
big tract on Mustang Island, which was being eyed by the developers. She
had a daughter and a son-in-law, named Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Reed,
R-double E-D, and Gordon and his wife wanted that to go to public--some
public entity, and they--they were not desperately interested in
maximizing--in getting absolutely the top dollar. Ada wavered from time
to time. She had a lot of charities she was crazy about. Children's
Hospital here, this--she established and named for herself, and it did a
lot of good. And she had things--she had places to use the money. Mrs.
Farenthold moved into their situation at some point, I forget when, and
was very persuasive with Ada, and she also knew how to work with some
state agencies which were involved, because the state of Texas had to
buy this land. So, it was Christmas time in about 1970, maybe '71.
Tom--John Connally is Secretary of the Treasury and I'm in Vienna, and
they have a monetary conference and the dollar goes to hell, and I don't
have enough shillings to get out of my hotel in Vienna where I had--had
established myself with the entire family and then some of their
friends. So I can date it from that--it happened when John Connally was
in the Treasury. I subsequently did get out of the hotel, and--the state
agents--for some reason, there--there was this--not vacillation but
the--the thing moved--it was very fluid, I think you could say. And, I
remember on Christmas Eve, Sissy Farenthold phoned me in Austin, and
said, "The state got in a jet and came down here with the papers and the
check, and Ada signed it." [Laughs.] And so, it was that close. The
deadline was something like--well, we knew if we didn't get it done by
Christmas, then Ada would have another week or ten days to reconsider
the whole thing and--and so that's the way the--through Mrs. Farenthold
and her son-in-law and her daughter and a little bit of me, we nailed
down Mustang Island State Park. It's interesting that by that time, by
1970 or '71, a number of people were thinking about it. See, the--Padre
Island was already behind us, I think. And--and people like Ada Wilson,
who were--had lots of--had developed lots of stuff, and was in an
extractive industry. She was--she was thinking about getting this in the
hands of somebody who'd preserve it more or less the way it was, and
keep it for the--for posterity. So we were making some progress.
DT: Was there any interest at that time in--in
the Bay itself, in--in what was going on in Laguna Madre?
EH: Not so much. Now there was a--there was
a--oh, well, this all came to a head with the notion that we ought to
dredge a deep-water port for super-tankers at Port Aransas, and I have
to confess that at first I was on the wrong side of that one. I
subsequently was convinced that it would be tremendously destructive.
And I learned to talk about things like spartina and stuff like that,
but I didn't really know what I was talking about. There was a man named
Henry Hildebrand who's still around here, who probably knew Corpus
Christi Bay better than anybody in his time 'cause he waded out in it
all the time. He taught intermittently at what is now A&M Corpus
Christi. He taught oceanography, as I say, intermittently. I--I never
could tell when he was on the faculty and when he was off. He was a very
eccentric man. He knew the Gulf of Mexico for--at least from Corpus to
Soto La Marina and--and maybe the mouth of the Panuco River, because
he'd waded it off, and he'd *** it all, and he'd taken kids with him and
they'd taken samples and analyzed 'em and done all those things. And, he
was--he was helpful in educating me about the--'course that--that deal
fell through of its--sort of its own weight. LOOP [Louisiana Offshore
Oil Port] went in, the offshore unloading facility in Louisiana. It has
been since revived by the Port of Corpus Christi, but doesn't show much
sign of life, and I don't--and I think--I think the discharging of oil
from super-tankers coming in from foreign countries is more likely
to--to be expanded off Freeport and--and nearer the Houston Refineries
than--than it will be down here. I'm not sure about that. The--the
deal's still alive, but I--I don't think very--very much alive.
DT: What is your thought about the Intracoastal
EH: Well, I've--I desperately hope they don't
take it all the way to Tampico, which I think would be for the Mexican
an environmental disaster. A lot of the Mexicans think so, too.
It's--it's interesting to me that the Mexican press, which I check every
day, is increasingly skeptical of the Governor of Tamaulipas' plan to
dredge the Intracoastal to Tampico, and they--they object to it on two
grounds. It's too costly--well, three grounds. It's too costly,
nobody'll put up the money, and it would be an environmental disaster.
Now the national Audubon Society representative in this part of the
state, a fellow named Scott Hedges, has been very active in--in putting
together--I think more other people's studies of what's happening to the
Laguna Madre as a result of dredging. Maybe he's done some independent
studies, I don't know. I don't think he had, I think other people had.
But he is--he's in the forefront of a coalition of people that aren't
gonna let that matter drop. And we've been--encouraged by the fact that
some major landowners along the--the waterway--do not want spoil
deposited on their ranches, and have gone so far as to have studies
shown that it's not an--an economic operation anymore, if it ever was,
south of Corpus Christi. The Corpus to Brownsville segment--they say,
I--I can't prove this. But this coalition opposing it feels that we
could just as well get gasoline down there by other means than we are,
and if--without the--the petroleum, and products, the--there is no
traffic. The barge traffic stops here.
DT: I'd like to go back a little bit in time. I
understood that in the '60's, you convened--assembled--met with and
chaired a--a group of conservationists, both from the sportsman's camp
and the more environmentally oriented group, and some of the state
agencies to talk about coastal land protection, in general. And, I was
wondering if you could tell me a little bit about that.
EH: I didn't do that!
DT: You didn't do that?
EH: I don't think so. No. I don't remember it.
No, but Dave Schwartz did, and he--he organized something that was very
much like--like California had done eight-ten years earlier, when they
set up the coastal and--Coastal and Marine Commission or something like
that, and that became very, very powerful in--in policing and regulating
the development of the near shore and offshore, the--I mean, the
near--the near shore in California and the land very near the shore,
because it was developed right there on the--on the shoreline. That
was--was having a--such an effect on--on their Bay's estuaries and open
ocean. And they--'course California believes in regulation more than
most states do, and they've got to, they've--they're already
overpopulated there. So, I went out there and met with them, sat through
some of their meetings, in the early days of our trying to do the--the
Bay Drilling Committee, and it--it was impressive what they were doing.
I was ...
DT: Well, maybe we could talk ...
EH: But I--I don't--I may've come home and told
somebody what I found out there but I--that's all I can think of.
DT: I see. Well, I must be mistaken. Can we
talk a little bit about something well inland, the decision that you and
your--your brother made to give this ...
EH: Oh, yeah.
DT: --marvelous ranch out in--in Big Bend to
the Nature Conservancy and then to the Federal Government?
EH: Well, now, let me describe that ranch to
you. It's 66,000 acres, and it's got a big mountain on it called the
Rosillos, R-O-S-I-double L-o-s. Our half--half of the Rosillos belong to
the--the next ranch to the south. But we had half of it, and it had a
stronger spring than the spring that feeds the Big Bend National Park
Basin station. That's up there where you--where the motel units are.
That's where--where the tourists go. It--it really would--that was the
great value of that land. Otherwise it's just raw Chihuahua desert that
we tried to--tried to tame for a while. We put in some so-called
detention dams and this and that, and tried planting grasses that didn't
belong out there and tried running cattle that never should've been
there and--it was in a terrible shape when we bought it. It had been
overgrazed by sheep. And we--I always felt that we ought to get it into
some kind of conservation organization where it would have a chance to
come back and could be used by the national park, because we had--oh,
miles and miles of common fence line with the national park. We were
right in--we were adjacent to the national park, so when they took us
over they just simply moved their borders east. So something happened in
our business life in which we had the opportunity to--to charge
off--which we were looking for an opportunity to charge off something
big, and we'd get tax credit for it, which was very important to the
decision. And so my brother said to me, "Well, this is the time to give
the ranch away." And I said O.K., so we went to Washington. He didn't
know Pat Noonan, and I said, "You--have you ever met Pat Noonan?" He
said no. So we went up--Pat works for the--probably ran the Nature
Conservancy in those days. And John Flicker, who's--today is the
President of the National Audubon Society--was his lawyer. My brother
and I went up there, and told 'em what we wanted to do and how do you do
it, and we learned to our surprise that you have to go to Congress. But
we wanted to do it that year. So, we got--we got a ruling from the
Internal Revenue. We got an agreement from the Nature Conservancy to
accept the gift. And then, Nature Conservancy and we would try to lobby
it through Congress, because you have to have Congressional approval to
give land to the Park Service, or to--to have the Park Service accept
land and the responsibility that goes with it. So it worked out--it
worked out very well. We had a few friends--it was sort of
un-controversial. But there were people who objected to any more land
going into--into public domain. Now their view was the Government
already owns too much of North America, "and we don't want to see one
more acre go." But that's--that's a small group and I think getting
smaller. And they weren't very hard to overcome. I believe that Lamar
Smith was in Congress in those days, and helped us and--I--I suppose the
whole--San Antonio delegation did. But anyway, it doesn't matter. We got
it through. The--the neighbors in Brewster County opposed us sort of
knee-jerk, because they said, "It's going to reduce our taxes." And my
brother very cleverly had told Nature Conservancy that until they could
get it into the National Park System, we would pay the taxes that were
no longer due but we'd simply pay what we had always paid, because I
don't think Nature Conservancy has to pay taxes or if it did, we would
pay 'em then, so that was--the taxes went on being paid in Brewster
County, just as they always had been. But that didn't really stop the
objections out there, and I'm not sure I blame those people. But anyway,
we tried to behave ourselves in that transaction and it finally went
through. And I don't--I don't think anybody objects to it now. The parks
have not used it the way we hoped they would, because they don't have
the money. See, what we had hoped--and the thing that we used in trying
to talk to Congressional aids and people like that, was--our argument
was, "Look, you're--you're overtaxing your water supply, up in the
Basin, and you could move a lot of that"--what do you call it, "RV crowd
out of the Basin, down to a site you could make on the side of the
Rosillos Mountains, and tap that big spring there. And we don't need the
water anymore for cattle because cattle have been off it for several
years." And that--but they--they didn't have the money to create an RV
Park on the Rosillos, which would--and to give them a road going in. The
road's just horrible. But sooner or later that'll happen.
DT: What is your thought about--there's a
current controversy in Big Bend State Park about an RV park? I don't
know if you've been following that.
EH: Well, I think they're gonna have to let
people use that. They paid for--you know, that was not given. The
Andersons were paid for that ranch, R.O. Anderson and his family. And
the state, to justify that, I think, is gonna have to let people use it.
And it's gonna cost a lot of money. The roads, the--their roads are as
bad as ours, maybe worse. But they have--they have scenic opportunities
that are rare out there outside the national park. Outside the park is
probably the--the most spectacular scenery there. And I hope the
state'll--develop some kind of way for people to enjoy it. I don't think
it--it helps anybody, just leave it so-called pristine, but that's just
one man's opinion. I've--I'm out of it.
DT: Well, in your dealings with the Park
Service, and years of conservation work, what--what do you think about
the sort of push-pull between preservationist forces--sort of the wild
lands initiative and the more sort of conservationists'
EH: Well, I think you're gonna have to have
some of both. You can't have all--pristine. [Laughs.] The public won't
stand for it. Maybe the best way to handle it would--would seem to me to
be identify what really can't survive public use and be worth anything
to anybody, and regulate that strictly, and then let the public use some
of the rest of it. I'm not an expert on it. I don't know what I'm
talking about really.
DT: Well, you're generous. I was curious,
you--you were talking about the sort of scenic qualities out of the Big
Bend and--and I'm--it's a question I've asked many people and they all
answer it differently and I'm curious what your answer would be when
somebody might ask you, what is your favorite spot? Is there a--you
know, a glen in the woods or is there a spot on the beach that you think
is--is most appealing to you for some reason?
EH: For me?
EH: The shore of Maine. [Laughs.]
DT: The shore of Maine.
EH: Yeah. My wife has a house on the shore of
DT: And why--why would you say that?
EH: Why is she there?
DT: No, why--why would you say that? What
appeals to you about that particular spot?
EH: I liked it in the summertime. It's cool.
[Laughs.] And she's there, so that helps, too.
DT: No black flies.
EH: Oh, God, yes. [Laughs.] Oh, Lord.
EH: Terrible black flies. That you can put some
DT: There you go.
DT: Another question that I try and ask people
is more generally about trends, and if you've been involved in
conservation for a number of years you've probably seen the cycles come
and go and you know the ...
EH: No, I've just seen one cycle, ...
DT: --the waves and troughs and ...
EH: --you know.
DT: How do you think the cuts are?
EH: I've seen one cycle. I've seen a cycle
towards better scientific rounding for the conserva--the--the stands
that the Conservation Movement is now taking. Whereas
the--we've--for--along--when I first got into the Audubon Society, we
made a lot of decisions by the seat of our pants. And today Audubon has
oceanographers, it's got marine mammal experts, it's got all kinds of
people with real scientific credentials who can back up, or disprove and
blow out of the--out of the water, various Audubon--initiatives or
[Tape 2, Side A.]
EH: --Audubon--initiatives or proposals. So I
think that's a healthy thing, that's very ...
EH: --because our--our opponents are--are very
articulate and have all kinds of money to spend on research, and do so.
DT: One last question then. What do you think
the challenges are for the next generation to come along?
EH: We're gonna have--we're gonna have to deal
with the fact that there're too many human beings. Now in Mexico,
they've got the population rate of growth down under two and a half
percent. That's still gonna give 'em a doubled population by 2050. Well,
now, if you think they're gonna save Monarch butterfly woodlands, with
that many people, many of 'em hungry, well you're crazy. And I don't
know--I simply don't know how the natural environment and the--the
population growth can--can be reconciled. I'm very pessimistic about it.
DT: I guess I have a couple of questions I want
to ask you about population. One is--it seems like there's always a
debate about population growth in the developed world versus that in the
undeveloped world, that the developed world tends to be lower but the
consumption is more?
DT: And--and that's--we've all sat by--in the
third world the population growth is higher but individuals use less and
EH: But they want to use more, ...
DT: They want to use more.
EH: --and they're going to use more. And pretty
soon the Chinese are gonna have VW's.
DT: Yeah. And a refrigerator in every house.
EH: [Laughs.] There you go, right. Well, yeah.
DT: It's only natural--sure.
EH: Oh, it's coming. There's gonna be economic
development in the Third World and then--that's good. The people--they
won't have revolutions but--it's really gonna tax all the resources of
DT: Well, another thought that comes to mind is
that they--it seems like there's a very contentious issue about--how
much influence immigration has on population growth in the United
DT: Do you think that's significant?
EH: Oh, it certainly is. And nobody wants to
talk about it. Nobody except the Federation of Americans for Immigration
Reform, which is a outfit lobbying for (1) sensible immigration laws,
like, do we need these people? Or do they fill niches in our employment
spectrum that--that will help the United States, or are there just
people who don't like it at home and want to come here? Have no skills,
no education, no English, no understanding of the American system. We're
the only country in the world that doesn't apply the national interest
criteria. The Japs don't let anybody in. The Australians try to limit it
to people that Australia needs, and they need a lot of different kinds
of people, and they're letting 'em in. The Canadians wouldn't dream of
just letting people in 'cause they're hungry and ignorant and unskilled
and want to live in Canada.
DT: Fair enough. I have one more--one more last
DT: I'm curious what you're doing now in the
sphere of conservation direction. What's your current project? You seem
like you've always been busy.
EH: I'm not doing anything.
DT: Nothing. Talking to me.
EH: Nothing. [Laughs.]
DT: Well, I sure appreciate you talking to me
EH: Well, I've enjoyed it. Yeah.
DT: This has been a--a great pleasure and I
EH: I'm sorry I don't have dates and facts ...
DT: The value ...
EH: --and all that, but I don't.
DT: This was great. Thank you very much.
EH: You--all right.
End of reel 1004.
End of interview with Ed Harte.