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From the Pen of Robert L. Cook

Land. They say they’re not making any more of it, you know, and they say there is less and less of it every day. If you love the outdoors, and nature, and seeing critters and beautiful sunsets, and hearing bullfrogs and katydids, you know what I mean. People have fought and died over land, and ranched and plowed and lived off the land since the beginning of time. Every day, more land washes downstream to the oceans, the mountains become a little less rugged, and we who cherish the land so deeply pave over and build homes and offices atop another 2,800 acres of land in Texas every single week. The folks at the United States Department of Agriculture tell us that between 1982 and 1997, 2.2 million acres of rural land in Texas were converted to “urban uses.” You can bet it is worse today. I’m scared to ask.

I reckon that some folks think that the only things that land is good for is either cows or some undistinguishable crop of who knows what, or for folks like me who love to tromp around in the brush and breathe fresh air. Who needs all that, right? Take a wild guess where that rib-eye and baked potato that you eat tonight comes from, or how that cotton that you wear on your back got there. Whichever it was that came first, both the chicken and the egg were produced on the farm and both required a lot of cracked milo and corn before they reached your refrigerator. And for those of you who sneer at us meat-eaters, I hope that you will pause momentarily to consider what an immense effort and expense is required to produce your diet of whole grain, granola bars, fresh fruit and “farm-raised” vegetables.

Maybe if we realized how dependent we all are on rural, undeveloped land, it would help us understand the need to preserve and protect that land. OK, try this: “the land” that we’re talking about here is where your water comes from! That’s right, the water that you drink, and bathe in, and wash your dishes with, is produced on our land. Since water initially falls from the sky, some folks don’t see how land fits into the equation. Unless you’ve got a cistern to catch the water that runs off your roof, your water comes from the land. Every drop of water that we require in our homes, industry, agriculture and for fish and wildlife falls back to earth in the wonderful cycle of evaporation, rainfall and snow. Some of it soaks deep into the soil to replenish our aquifers; some of it filters through the grasslands and then flows down our rivers and through our lakes, where we harvest it and use it. Then the cycle starts all over again. We all need, use and benefit from “the land.”

Private landowners in Texas are critical to our livelihood, our lifestyle and our welfare. Land conservation programs and agricultural conservation easements that keep rural land in farm and ranch production are essential to our food and water supply. The Texas Farm and Ranchland Conservation Program, which was recently enacted by the Texas Legislature to help keep rural land in the hands of farmers and ranchers in Texas, and to encourage, support and reward good land stewardship, is a great new program for our state. In addition, it is important to remember that Texans need more rural, undeveloped parkland and wildlife lands where public access for hiking, camping, boating, biking, hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation use is welcomed and encouraged for current and future generations.

You know what they say: Life’s better outside. Get outdoors, enjoy.

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