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Texas Environmental Almanac, Chapter 3, Public Lands, Page 4


Texas has 191,228 miles of streams and rivers; 11,247 rivers and streams are large enough to have been named. In a 1986 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department citizen survey, 67 percent of the respondents agreed that "more public recreation areas are needed along rivers and streams." (38)

Texas law has long recognized the public's right to use navigable streams for canoeing, swimming, and fishing. Unlike the coastal beaches, however, no state agency has day-to-day responsibility for protecting or securing the public's right of access to rivers. Under a Texas law dating from 1837, a river is considered navigable (and therefore open to public use) as long as its bed averages at least 30 feet wide from its mouth up.(39) There are hundreds of streams which meet this navigability test. However, no state agency has undertaken the task of identifying all these navigable streams. Because of limited budgets and the need for field investigations, state agencies have been reluctant to respond to public inquiries about the navigability of streams. Even for the major rivers known to be navigable, such as the Brazos, Trinity, Colorado, and Guadalupe, public access is limited. Under state law, the right of access to lakes, streams and rivers rests with the owners of the land that borders on the surface water. In Texas, the majority of this "riparian" land is in private hands. Therefore, the public is dependent upon public parks and boat ramps or highway rights-of-way as their only means of river access. Texas citizens have expressed concern about the lack of public accessways.(40) (See the Water Chapter for a discussion of pollution of Texas rivers.)


In 1989 the Texas River Protection Association (TRPA), a not-for-profit group, was organized to protect Texas rivers.
Texas River Protection Association
PO Box 2622
Austin, Texas 78767


In the United States, public concern for the protection and use of national forests and forest practices dates back to at least the mid-1800s, when conservationists made public their alarm at the destruction of the giant redwood groves in California. Residents of the Midwest were simultaneously concerned with the denuded lands around the Great Lakes and the resulting erosion problems. The concerns of the early conservationists are still concerns today. Above all, many fear that the wholesale destruction of old growth forests would result in destruction of biological diversity, local climatic changes, soil erosion, disruption of wildlife and water flow.(41)

Significant Federal Forest Legislation:

To the disappointment of many conservationists, a federal law passed in 1897 granted the Secretary of Interior the authority to allow for timber harvesting and mining within national forests. This Act in turn paved the way for "the multiple-use policy" - lands managed for a variety of uses including recreation, timber and mineral production, and wildlife habitat - that continues to govern the use of our national forests and parkland.(42)

It was not until 1964 that Congress, after acrimonious debates, passed the Wilderness Act, requiring that some national forest land be preserved in its natural state and prohibiting timber sales and other commodity uses in these areas.


Pie chart of forest ownership in Texas

There are 22,032,000 acres of forests in Texas. The first and last state forest purchased was in 1920; the most recent was obtained through a donation in 1984.

Source: The Texas Forest Service and the Texas Almanac 1994-1995.Dallas Congressman John Bryant has introduced a bill, the Forest Biodiversity and Clearcutting Prohibition Act, to end even-aged management in national forests and to require that the native mixture of tree species be maintained. If passed, the legislation would affect only national forests. Of the 733 million acres of forests in the U.S., 191 million acres are managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Of the 22,032,000 acres of forests in Texas, only 675,232 acres are in national forests. The remaining acres are in private hands.


As a result of the multiple-use management concept, national forests in Texas are open to timber production, grazing, oil and gas leases and recreational uses. It is estimated that 521,000 out of 637,000 acres of national forest in Texas are suitable for timber production on a sustained-yield basis (reforestation after cutting).(43) From national forest production, Texas manufacturers produce such items as lumber, plywood, poles, furniture, pulp and paper.

In 1993, a total of $12,639,412 was received from timber sales in National Forests in Texas. One quarter of the timber sale revenues are returned to the states. As a result, in 1993, 12 Texas counties, where national forests are located, shared approximately $3.6 in revenues. Approximately 83 percent of the revenue collected by the Forest Service in Texas was generated by timber sales.(44)

According to the U.S. Forest Service, a proposed rule to guide land and resource management planning for the 191 million-acre National Forest System shows a shift in thinking toward an ecosystem approach to resource management. "The fundamental premise is that the principle goal of managing the National Forest System is to maintain or restore the sustainability of ecosystems and that this is essential because sustained yield of benefits for present and future generations is more likely to occur when the ecosystems from which those benefits are produced are in a sustainable condition."(45)


Through a survey done for Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan of 1990, Texans expressed concern that the national forests in Texas were being managed primarily for timber harvest and requested that the "U.S. Forest Service assess more fully benefits of outdoor recreation so it more adequately competes with other forest activities under the multiple-use management concept." (46) The U.S. Forest Service conducted a revision of its forest plan to address this and other forest management issues. The revised Plan is scheduled to be approved by October 1995.

Texas Environmental Almanac, Chapter 3, Public Lands, Page 4

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