|You can find the genesis
of East Texas' modern-day environmental movement hidden in the memories of Jack
McElroy of Tyler.|
In the spring of 1966, McElroy was the supervisor
of the Texas National Forests when he was assigned to escort Supreme Court Justice
William O. Douglas on a tour of East Texas forests.
an ardent conservationist (the word environmentalist had not emerged), was invited
by Liberty mayor Dempsie Henley to tour East Texas' threatened Big
Thicket, an area sprawling over several counties north of Beaumont.
Douglas used the invitation as a reason to tour other parts of Texas,
including the state's four national forests, Caddo Lake, the Guadalupe peaks of
West Texas, and industrial forestlands in East Texas.
He spent two weeks
in the state and wrote "Farewell to Texas: A Vanishing Wilderness."
In it he deplored the loss of wilderness areas throughout the state.
McElroy feels Douglas' tour and the publication of his book ignited the save-the-forests
movement in places like Houston, Austin and Dallas and led to widespread acceptance
of the environmental movement in otherwise conservative Texas.
"It was his first visit to Texas. He spent a couple of weeks here and when
he left, he felt he knew everything there was to know," said McElroy. "The
timbermen in East Texas blamed me for bringing him here, but I was simply doing
my job," he said.
At the time, Douglas, 67, was already the author
of 20 books on nature. With the physical condition of a man half his age, he was
renowned for his stamina.
During his tour, Douglas heaped praise on McElroy
and the management plans of the Texas National Forests, but he complained about
the lack of additional public lands in the state. "Real estate operators
are eating you away. Therešs no overall program for conservation," he told
reporters. Douglas' book, published in 1967, was an indictment of dam-builders,
ranchers, lumber companies, oil and gas companies, and others who were managing
land resources in Texas.
He predicted: "The people of Texas are
aroused against these modern Ahabs; and their voices are beginning to be heard.
But heroic action is needed if the shining bits of wilderness that are left in
Texas are to be salvaged."
As a part of his tour, ..... next
The county line
magnolia and General Sam Houston Cypress