Big Bend Conservancy
2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!
ForewordA wildly diverse natural area known as Texas' gift to the nation, Big Bend National Park is one of the last remnants of what I like to think of as the real Texas. Another reality, however, is that Texas is the most rapidly urbanizing state in the Union and the only state with three of the nation's ten largest cities (Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio). In an unfortunate sense, the modern "real Texas" may be best represented by the Interstate 35 corridor running from Laredo through San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas and on north to Oklahoma, through acres and acres of tract homes and national franchises. No wonder then that Texans and others wise enough to come here regard this area with a fascination and respect approaching reverence. It's the best remaining piece left of our beloved notion of a frontier state peopled by rugged individualists, a physical, cultural, and spiritual repository of all that we natives like to believe makes Texas different. Here on the Big Bend of the Rio Grande the frontier is still alive, and there are still plenty of rugged individualists on both sides of the river. These, to me, are the Holy Lands of Texas, and if you think you've seen Texas without visiting this place, partner, you've missed the one part that should absolutely not be missed.A former Superintendent of Big Bend National Park once said that "The Paisano serves two major purposes. The first is to orient visitors to park features and facilities. The second is to provide education about natural and cultural history, recreational opportunities, research, and park management issues." This collection and juxtaposition of material from twenty years adds the dimension of time and shows us the interrelatedness and ever-changing nature of this vast ecosystem and its human residents, workers, and protectors. On a natural scale things change so slowly that the drama is often not apparent in human timeframes, but the implications of our better understanding of those natural processes often are. On a cultural and human scale, the changes are reflected in the names of authors in this book who are long gone and the articles, many of which sound almost quaint because of subsequent changes in policy or regulations or personalities. The cycles of the seasons and of rain and drought are interwoven with the movement of human intent, sometimes halting and always subject to course corrections. The only constant is change.Even after 16 years of living in Big Bend and being in the business of educating visitors to the park about the natural history of the place, I learned a great deal from reading this collection, and I'm sure you will too. The National Park Service employees, volunteers, scientists, researchers, and BBNHA employees who wrote these articles not only loved the area but took the time to study it, learn its esoteric secrets, and write them up to share with you. There may be more distilled knowledge about the Big Bend between these covers than exists in any other single publication we sell. I hope you'll enjoy reading it, as I did.Mike Boren Executive DirectorBig Bend Natural History Association
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