Six years ago my mother approached me with an idea. She wanted to write a book about all the amazing women that had helped shape the conservation movement in Texas. At the time, I was busy with a new job as the director for Texas Children in Nature, but the idea lingered and eventually demanded attention.
Fast forward to spring of 2019 and I stood at a crossroads in my career. Rather than take the safe path that I’d worked hard to create, I took a leap of faith, and dedicated to working on a manuscript with my mother. My first book, Parking Lot Birding: A Fun Guide to Discovering Birds in Texas, A&M Press, comes out in 2020. With that one under my belt I feel naively confident to pull together a second book about at topic close to my heart; celebrating women in conservation.
Just a few month into the research and I can only describe the journey as being like falling into a doctoral program without guidance. But the women are extraordinary and their achievements embody all facets of the conservation movement from advocacy to private land stewardship to funding programs and educating youth.
So many of their stories cannot be found neatly cataloged in books or journals. Perhaps they have a mention in a newspaper article or historical documents. I’ve labored over many a book to understand the details of conservation projects across Texas and time and time again the women are not featured or mentioned as being important players in various projects. This lack is what drives me. I want my niece to know what these women scarified, over came, and found joy in as they strove to protect the land, wildlife and waters they loved.
It turns out my mother is a darn good researcher and doggedly sniffs out the facts to accurately tell each woman’s story with care. A champion of nature in her own right, she can quickly relate to what challenges some of the women faced while trying to over come barriers. She also is well versed in the issues surrounding many of the conservation projects in Texas as she was a part of many of them in her own career.
We’ve both found inspiration in the Terry Hershey, Women in Conservation Awards that Audubon Texas hosts each year to honor women who’ve made a difference. The awards started in 2015 and have honored women across the state as they move the event from city to city. Audubon has been such an important haven for women to safely enjoy and study nature since the turn of the ninetieth century.
The exploration is unique and reminds me how important it is to step-up, take action, and never give up when a cause matters. No matter where the project ends up, the time with my mother is irreplaceable. Meeting and interviewing these women is also something I will cherish for a lifetime.