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Lone Star Book Reviews
By Michelle Newby, NBCC
Contributing Editor


Michelle Newby is contributing editor at Lone Star Literary Life, reviewer for Kirkus, freelance writer, member of the National Book Critics Circle, blogger at, and a moderator at the 20th annual Texas Book Festival. Her reviews appear in Pleiades Magazine, Rain Taxi, World Literature Today, High Country News, South85 Journal, The Review Review, Concho River Review, Monkeybicycle, Mosaic Literary Magazine, Atticus Review, and The Collagist.


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David Todd is the executive director of the Conservation History Association of Texas and co-author of The Texas Legacy Project. Jonathan Ogren is the founder of Siglo Group, a firm that helps clients integrate natural systems into land planning and design.


David Todd and Jonathan Ogren, with foreword by Andrew Sansom

The Texas Landscape Project: Nature and People

Texas A&M University Press

Paperback, 978-1-623-49372-1 (also available as an ebook), 288 pgs., $45.00

June 14, 2016



“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” —John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra, 1911


Texas is big. And beautiful. Naturally it requires a like book to convey her natural story, and now we have that book.

“[A]n exercise in visual storytelling,” The Texas Landscape Project: Nature and People, the latest title in the Kathie and Ed Cox Jr. Books on Conservation Leadership series (sponsored by the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University), is an impressive, handsome atlas of Texas history, ecology, natural resources, development, and conservation, brought to us by two largely unheralded giants in the field. David A. Todd is the founder and coordinator of the Conservation History Association of Texas, an oral historian, and a former environmental lawyer and cattle rancher. Jonathan Ogren is the founder of Siglo Group, which “helps clients integrate natural systems into land planning and design.”


A tremendous effort, The Texas Landscape Project is brimful of fascinating facts well organized and intuitively presented, divided into five sections: land, water, air, energy, and “the built world,” then further subdivided. Even the process is engaging, as Todd and Ogren explain how they became detectives in many instances, ferreting out clues in such sources as branding registries, the openings and closings of small-town post offices, and flood contour lines, when straightforward historical data was missing.


This vast amount of information is enhanced by hundreds of graphics, including maps, aerial photography, tables, drawings, and graphs. Summaries of the issues and the factors that impact each, including politics, economics, legislation, regulation, and environmental justice, are clear and concise. Lest anyone think this a dry exercise, these summaries are interspersed with entertaining and provocative prose, poetry, and lyrics.


The atlas presents balanced perspectives and is not merely a (long) list of problems, such as: subsidence (Houston is sinking), invasive nonnative species of flora and fauna, water shortages, and suburban sprawl; but also an (admittedly shorter) account of successes: sea turtles and bighorn sheep back from the brink, the shrinking of the ozone hole over the Gulf Coast, experiments in water-rights reform, and lowering the state’s carbon footprint with wind energy. A raft of innovative possible solutions is included: wildlife appraisals and co-ops, revitalizing urban cores to combat sprawl, the Dark Skies movement to limit light pollution, and rewards for protection of the High Plains playas, to name a few.


In addition, you can win Texas trivia contests and bar bets with odd facts, such as that time Dallas wanted to build a Trinity barge canal. To the Gulf Coast. For ocean-going commerce.


The Texas Landscape Project is a beautiful, priceless contribution to the field of ecology and to the state, and belongs on every Texan’s bookshelf. We have much to be proud of, and much work to do. The authors welcome your feedback at



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