Environmental activist Jarid Manos comes across as naïve at times, with pie-in-the-sky ideas about saving thousands of acres of Fort Worth prairie in an era when land is a commodity to be bought, sold, and developed for profit. You can just see the looks on rich folks’ faces when Manos, in his gentle but firm way, asks them to think green but doesn’t mean dollars.
So, now Manos and the Great Plains Restoration Council are trying to save 2,000 acres near Old Granbury Road and make it the focus of a new prairie park. Don’t look now, but the dreamer might be getting something done.
Back in the 1800s, Fort Worth was surrounded by more than a million acres of native prairie land. Nowadays, perhaps about 40,000 acres are left. One of the most pristine examples is the 2,000 acres in question, where bluestem, Indian grass, milkweed, prairie bishop, and other native grasses and wildflowers grow rampant. Even this spring when rain was scarce, “it was a glowing carpet of color; birds and butterflies everywhere,” Manos said.
There’s just one problem. The land is owned by the Texas General Land Office, which is considering selling it to private developers. The agency buys and sells real estate for profit, with all money going to the Permanent School Fund. And, boy, do the state bureaucrats let you know it’s for the kids. “The land office is competing in the market and doing it on behalf of the schoolchildren of Texas,” said spokesman Jim Suydam, one of numerous times he mentioned children in explaining why a government agency would buy unspoiled native prairie land and then plan to sell it for private development.
If it’s for the kids, maybe they should decide what happens. Dunbar High School students have taken the lead, coming up with more than 700 signatures of students who support preserving the prairie. The Great Plains Restoration Council didn’t have to twist their arms either. “It’s not us telling them, it’s them telling us that they want this prairie protected,” Manos said. “Talk to the kids whose future is at stake, and they don’t want a paved-over, collapsing world.”
The Land Office paid $21 million for the property. Manos asked Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson to give the Great Plains group five years to come up with funding. Patterson gave the group until Dec. 31 to garner support from Fort Worth and Tarrant County leaders and to put together a funding plan. Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks has already shown strong support, Manos said. Maybe other leaders can see far enough beyond today to realize the importance of saving a little slice of heaven for future generations. Maybe they can help figure out a way to come up with $25 million or $30 million, or whatever it takes to buy the land. After all, the Land Office expects to make a big profit – it’s for the kids, you know.
It was a press release to warm the cockles of your heart: When a manufacturing company worker in Crowley went into cardiac arrest on the job, an American Red Cross-trained team of his co-workers went into action, performing CPR and using a defibrillator to keep him going until a crew from the Crowley Fire Department arrived. For their actions, the team was to receive the Red Cross’ highest lifesaving award. One man also received the American Heart Association’s American Heartsaver Award.
And on hand to present the Red Cross honors, on behalf of the President of these United States, would be … U.S. Rep Joe Barton.
All of a sudden, Static’s cockles got kind of cold and shrunken. Joe Barton … having something to do with a lifesaving award … the senses reeled. Well, at least the architect of much of Tarrant County’s life-threatening air pollution (due to his protection of some of this area’s dirtier industries) wasn’t handing out an American Lungsaver Award. Now that would have been irony.
Static proposes instead an American Pollutionsaver Award. Perhaps shaped like a smokestack. With a cunning miniature cement kiln tucked inside, filling his office with some of the same crap his constituents are choking on; it could serve as a personal reminder to Smokey Joe all day long of his true legacy in North Texas.