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Monday, June 3 • 9:15am - 9:40am
Invited Speaker Presentation: John Jacob, PhD, Texas A&M University

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The Upper Gulf Coast of Texas has an incredibly rich endowment of coastal prairie pothole remnants, well over 400,000 total acres with some individual tracts of never-plowed prairie approaching 70,000 acres,  this in spite of ever-expanding sprawl in the greater Houston region. But it is going quick.

I review the coastal prairie-pothole landscape, how it came to be, and the unique, short-range elevation diversity that characterizes the rich “chance melody” that this landscape is today.

I then address current threats to the system.  While a rich legacy has come down to us, we are about to lose at least 1000 square miles of the best of what is left of  forests, farmlands, and prairies. Prairies stand to lose the most as Houston’s growth is towards the prairies. Mitigation through the Clean Water Act has been almost completely ineffective, and is about to get worse.  

We cannot afford to lose what is left  -- not if we want to live on this coastal plain with any degree of ease. The multi-thousand-acre patches of unplowed prairie constitute a treasure of information we can barely understand.  These large patches are “arks” of wisdom that will enable us to draw on this knowledge in the future to craft nature-based solutions consistent with our place on earth.

Those of us in the front lines of landscape health must work to educate the public at large as well as decision makers on the role healthy watersheds play. We all must recognize that the state of the prairie is intimately tied to the fate of the city, and likewise that the health of the city is dependent on the state of the prairie.

We can no longer afford the luxury of working from our narrow silos. We must build coalitions with those working for a more walkable Houston. Walkability is a powerful sprawl antidote. Hard as it is, we will have to ally ourselves with those working for a much denser and more accessible Houston. Our voice alone will not stop the devastation of our watersheds. 

In the end, it is all about health.  The quest for healthy place transcends all silos. We need to take a bigger view of how healthy prairies to contribute to the health of the city –and vice versa.  We might still have a chance.


Dr. John Jacob

Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas AgriLife Extension Service (Texas A&M University)

Monday June 3, 2019 9:15am - 9:40am CDT
Bayou Theater