The Only Honest Lake in Texas

And local environmentalists aim to keep it that way


| July 21, 2005


The sights on Caddo Lake -- looming bald cypresses and gangly blue herons -- have inspired writers for years. As Joe Nick Patoski of The Texas Observer quips, 'It's the only Texas lake with its own body of literature.'

Well aware of such tradition and beauty are the people who live near Caddo Lake. In 1993, locals, with the help of Don Henley, the ex-Eagles rock star who grew up in the region, rallied around the newly founded Caddo Lake Institute. Henley and company successfully lobbied to have the lake and its environs declared a National Wildlife Refuge. For the northeast Texas swamp beleaguered by logging, polluting, damming, and water siphoning, it was a designation long over due.

It was a boon not just for conservationists; entrepreneurs anticipate the refuge will eventually draw tourists and create revenue for local businesses: 'There's hope the refuge's infrastructure will siphon off some of the $1.2 billion birding and wildlife observation brings into the Texas economy annually, most of it currently being spent along the coast and in the Rio Grande Valley.'

Meanwhile, there are those who remain vehemently opposed to the notion of the refuge, folks like retired General Vernon Lewis who see Henley as the pooper of an anti-regulatory party: 'He's going to go away someday, and when he goes away, this Caddo Lake Institute is going to go away. This is a one-man show and it is all about money and environmental power. They don't give a shit about Caddo Lake.'



Patoski, after hanging around the lake and interviewing those involved, drew his own conclusion: 'The lake people are now armed with the knowledge needed for community stewardship of the lake and its watershed, and to address issues such as mercury contamination, minimal flows, how to work with the Texas Council on Environmental Quality, water districts, and academics, and how to train local people to protect their lake and wetlands.'
-- Archie Ingersoll

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