A Texan Plan for the Texas Coast

A Texan Plan for the Texas Coast

A Texan Plan for the Texas Coast

A Texan Plan for the Texas Coast


In this powerful call to action, conservationist and environmental lawyer Jim Blackburn offers an unconventional yet feasible plan to protect the Texas coast. The coast is in danger of being damaged beyond repair due to the gradual starvation of freshwater inflows to its bays, the fragmentation of large tracts of land, and general public neglect. Most importantly, it is threatened by our denial that the coast faces major threats and that its long-term health provides significant economic benefits.

To save coastal resources, a successful plan needs to address the realities of our current world. The challenge is to sustain an economy that creates optimism and entrepreneurship while considering finite natural resources. In other words, a successful plan to save the Texas coast needs to be about making money. Whether visiting with farmers and ranchers or oil and chemical producers, Blackburn recognizes that when talking about the natural environment in monetary terms, people listen. Many of the services we get from the coast are beginning to be studied for their dollar values, a trend that might offer Texas farms and ranches the potential for cash flow, which may in turn alter conservation practices throughout Texas and the United States.

Money alone cannot be the only motivation for caring about the Texas coast, though. Blackburn encourages Texans to get to know this landscape better. Beautifully illustrated and accessibly written, A Texan Plan for the Texas Coast weaves together a challenging but promising plan to protect the coast through economic motivation, thoughtful litigation, informed appreciation, and simple affection for the beauty and life found on the Texas coast.


I learned the Texas coast from four main sources—the upper coast from my Uncle Bun (Bill) Graves of Port Neches, the lower coast from my dad, Bernard Blackburn, who learned about it to take me hunting and fishing, and the midcoast from my wife’s brother-in-law Walter Duson, originally from El Campo, and a fishing guide from Matagorda named Al Garrison. These men taught me how to enjoy myself—how to feel comfortable—in the surf, the salt marshes, the oyster reefs, and the navigation channels of the Texas coast. They and my fearless fishing buddies of Team 11 and our wives have opened a landscape to me that keeps on offering surprises, adventures, and dividends.

One week several decades ago, I sailed down the Texas coast with Walter, my wife’s sister Lizabeth Kerr, and my wife, Garland Kerr, using the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) as our highway. We slept on the sailboat either anchored alongside the channel at night or docked in a marina. in this manner, I learned about the “back side” of the Texas coast, the system of waterways that send commerce back and forth from Texas ports as well as eastward to Louisiana, the Mississippi River, and beyond, connecting the industrial centers of the Texas coast with each other and with the deepwater channels that bring seagoing vessels laden with oil and container boxes into our cities and the hinterlands beyond.

This sailing trip revealed an amazing spiderweb of connections that I have continued to learn about, explore, and litigate over the past several decades. the spine of the spiderweb of connections is the giww, which extends from the Sabine River almost to the Rio Grande, stopping at the Port of Brownsville at the tip of Texas. Connected to this waterway are numerous navigation spurs that link industrial development with raw material and product markets as well as provide a means for moving aggregate, and in the past, oyster shell, throughout the coast.

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