By George Cofer
Chief Executive Officer
Hill Country Conservancy
I am very fortunate to have been born into an outdoor-nature-loving family. I have many fond memories of spending time on the beach in Port Aransas with my dad’s parents. I’m told Mom taught me how to swim by tying a small rope to my ankle and pitching me overboard from our canoe, and I suppose I chose to swim rather than sink! Dad built a small wooden camper and we’d find a spot far enough south on Mustang Island to be the only people on the beach to camp and play in the sand and gulf waters. When we were not camping on the beach, we were camping at Hamilton Pool (yes, I do mean we camped by the pool) for a week or more during the long, hot summers and would see fewer than five people, including Mr. Reimers.
On Mom’s side of the family, we are proud stewards of a working cattle ranch. We have been good stewards of the land for more than 130 years and placed the ranch into conservation easements in 2007. I learned to ride as soon as I could walk and would roam the hills with my horse, Stormy. As I grew up, I continued camping, swimming and canoeing. Today and always, I shall love sleeping under the stars and staring up at nothing but the Milky Way, heavenly indeed.
These wonderful experiences have taught me many things, but primarily my guiding star is this: the precious lands and waters of Texas are a sacred trust, which we must respect, cherish, and steward, to be loved and enjoyed now so that others may love and enjoy them in the future. Water has impacted my life, thoughts, and actions about conservation in many ways, but it’s primarily the lack of water during droughts that has impacted me the most.
When I was riding the hills of the Frio River Valley on Stormy in the 1950s, I assumed the Frio River was merely a long, winding gravel bar. I am not exaggerating and not joking. I’d never seen water in the Frio! The only experience I had was that it was dry – always. So, when I see water in Texas springs, creeks, and rivers today, I know it might not be there tomorrow, especially if we misuse these waters.
The lands of Texas are just as important. Whether one finds peace and serenity in the Chisos, along the Gulf Coast, or somewhere in between, we all intuitively know, or should know, that keeping the special places of Texas as close as possible to a state of wildness is critically important to a healthy, sustainable future for our species, and all species. I am deeply concerned that as a society we are only just beginning to understand how fragile the lands, waters, and our lives truly are. I need not repeat the sad statistics of how rapidly we are losing what we should treasure most all over the globe every day, every hour.
The life experiences with which I’ve been blessed, both the good times and the hard lessons learned, set me on my life journey of working to help ensure that kids (of all ages!) with wondrous eyes and open minds will have the experiences I was blessed to have when my brothers and I would ride for hours in the hills, and canoe and camp along the creeks and streams of Texas. As Governor Bullock said many times, “God Bless Texas.” Onward. George Cofer