Reporting Texas
News and features from UT-Austin's School of Journalism
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Apr 11, 2024

Giant Troll Highlights Recycled Art in Austin

The piles of Douglas Fir and cedar sat in Pease Park, waiting to be repurposed into Austin’s newest public artwork. The Douglas Fir had once been a research test tank at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University of Texas. Now it was destined to be an 18-foot troll — and a testament to recycling.
While the trend of making art from recycled materials is not new, Dambo’s troll artwork proved to be a good match for environmentally conscious Austin benefactors. 

Oct 05, 2023

At Barton Springs, a Celebration of Life and a Final Goodbye to a Tree Named Flo

As the sun went down over Barton Springs Pool, dozens of people said goodbye to “Flo,” a 120-year-old pecan tree set to be cut down the next day.
“I think of Flo as a symbol of our love for trees and our love for nature and Mother Earth,” Austin arborist Don Gardner told the crowd. “We used to always be a lot more connected to trees than we are now, and I’m so happy to see those who still have some sense of that.”
Flo has leaned over Austin’s spring-fed pool since 1925, but the city’s parks department and tree experts determined it must go because of Kretzschmaria deusta, a root and trunk fungus known as brittle cinder that weakens trees and has no treatment. 

Apr 14, 2023

In Spite of Critics, Sweetwater’s Rattlesnake Roundup Draws Huge Crowds

The Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup, first held in 1958, began as a rattlesnake hunt with the goal of controlling the snake population in this small northwest Texas town. The event is now billed as the largest rattlesnake roundup in the world.

Apr 14, 2023

A Senate Bill Could Crack Open Opportunities for Egg Farmers 

Senate Bill 481, authored by Sen. Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas, would allow farmers to sell their ungraded eggs directly to businesses such as restaurants and grocers, which currently is illegal. 

Feb 06, 2023

Following Ice Storm, Arborists Say Focus on Better Tree Placement, Care

Falling limbs and sagging power lines have been the leading cause of power outages from the recent ice storm.

In addition to the loss of power for many residents, the city’s urban tree canopy suffered significant damage, and many Austinites and area arborists have been left questioning what the city can do better to protect both power lines and the renowned urban tree canopy.

First and foremost, better tree placement and care could lessen damage from ice storms, experts say.

Nov 11, 2022

Amid Global Demand for Oil, Gulf Coast Town Grapples With Plans for Offshore Export Terminal

The seemingly laid-back island town of Surfside Beach has found itself at the forefront of oil industry expansion, as a plan to build the Sea Port Oil Terminal, known as SPOT, has divided the community.
The plan includes building an oil pipeline from Harris County through Brazoria County, across vacant lots in the village of Surfside Beach and connecting to a deepwater port 27 nautical miles offshore. 
The construction project is one of six new permit applications for offshore terminals in the Gulf of Mexico to export oil or natural gas to the global market. The permit for the Sea Port Oil Terminal has received more than 37,000 public comments, and a final decision on permit approval is expected this month from the U.S. Maritime Administration.

May 12, 2022

Increased Production Could Lead to More Methane in the Permian Basin

Beneath the stark, dusty landscape of West Texas lie copious energy-rich substances that have fueled American automobilse and the Texas economy for over a century. These resources are now playing a role in America’s response to the war in Ukraine, raising new concerns for environmental advocates

Apr 19, 2022

Diversify or Die: Texas Olive Oil Industry on its Knees after 2021 Freeze

Since the first olive orchards were planted in Texas in the 1990s, they have been damaged by hurricanes, drought and cold weather. Confused by mad temperature swings, trees have not set fruit. These events have compelled some olive growers to leave the business.

Most growers, however, are reevaluating their business models with an eye toward reducing the negative impact of Texas weather. They are embracing diversification — selling oil imported from other states or countries or finding new ways to use and market their orchards.

Mar 16, 2022

Invasive Aquatic Species Are Threatening Texas Waterways

Across the street from Sewell Park, while most people tried to get a suntan or go tubing on a cloudy day, a group of researchers worked to capture suckermouth armored catfish, an invasive species in the San Marcos River.

Invasive aquatic species such as the suckermouth armored catfish compete with native species for food, cause erosion and wreck ecological damage, experts say.

Mar 01, 2022

How Prescribed Burns Aid Endangered Species, Restore Grasslands and Help Train Troops (Among Other Things)

Experts say prescribed fires are a safe and cost-effective tool to improve habitat for endangered animals, restore grasslands, and remove invasive species. Of thousands of prescribed burns that are ignited every year, only about 1% escape, according to a study by the Great Plains Fire Science Exchange. 

Jan 22, 2022

Protesters Rally Against Oil Company’s Gulf Coast Expansion on Karankawa Site

 Chanting “respect our existence or expect our resistance,” nearly 400 people protested outside an Austin bank Saturday to try to stop construction of an oil terminal on ancient Indigenous land near Corpus Christi.

“We are still here, and we are still fighting,” said protest organizer Chiara Sunshine Beaumont, a descendant of the Karankawa people who once lived on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Saturday’s protest followed months of efforts by Indigenous groups in support of the Karankawa’s objections to expansion of oil export terminals owned by Enbridge, a Canadian petrochemical pipeline company. Beaumont said her group chose to protest Saturday outside a Bank of America on South Congress Avenue because the bank is a large underwriter of Enbridge’s projects.

Dec 29, 2021

Trained Master Naturalists Indispensable to Conservation Studies 

Founded in 1998, the Texas Master Naturalist Program is jointly sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. 

Dec 24, 2021

Texas Oil and Gas Pipelines are Causing More Oil Spills than the National Average

Oil and gas pipeline spills along the Texas coast are 16 times the national rate.

Dec 21, 2021

200 Chefs Demand More U.S. Action to Stop Illegal Fishing

Currently 20% to 32% of all wild-caught fish imported into the U.S. is considered to be a product of unreported and unregulated fishing.

Dec 15, 2021

Advocates Say Electric Cooperatives Adopting ‘Unfriendly’ Solar Policies

Liberty Hill resident Richard Hrabik has debated installing solar panels on his home since he moved in 38 years ago.  “I’ve always been interested, but it was never really affordable,” said Hrabik, a retired computer software engineer. “Now panels have gotten to where you can afford them. So, I decided to go for it.”
Not long after Hrabik had his panels installed, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative’s board of directors in December 2020 proposed a significant rate increase for its customers who have solar panels — a 20-25% increase, according to some estimates.

Kaiba White, an energy policy and outreach specialist with Public Citizen Texas, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, said PEC didn’t explain these moves adequately to customers. She’s been helping Hrabik and dozens of other PEC solar customers challenge the increases since the summer.

“When members started to find out about this, especially those with solar or who were considering solar, there was an outcry,” White said. 

Dec 13, 2021

Texas’ Famed Bigtooth Maple Trees Are Being Loved to Death by Deer

Since the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department opened Lost Maples State Natural Area to the public in 1979, thousands of people have enjoyed its colorful beauty in the Texas Hill Country. It has been particularly well-visited during the pandemic, with attendance reaching record highs.scientists have collected data indicating that the future of these trees and the pleasure many take from their color palette could be at risk. An overabundance of white-tailed deer has been killing young trees by browsing on them.

Dec 08, 2021

Climate Change Impacting Austin Real Estate Not So Hard to Fathom

After graduating from the University of Texas in May 2021, Sami Sparber ran into the same issue many Austin residents are facing – too few places available for rent or sale. “If you found a place to live, you had to apply right away because within hours or days that unit could be gone,” Sparber […]

Dec 04, 2021

Barton Springs’ Chilly Waters Warmed by the Clarity of Humanity

The stark gray clouds began to part, the sun glistened on the water, illuminating the rocks and algae below. A group of old men congregate behind the lifeguard tower, begin chatting and cracking jokes about Texas football. Two young men unroll their yoga mats and begin raising their palms toward the sun. Meanwhile, a pair […]

May 17, 2021

TreeFolks’s Carbon Credit Program Taking Root

When Tamara Stutz heard about a free tree planting program at her neighbor’s house, she was sold. Coordinators from TreeFolks, an Austin-based non-profit, had reached out to property owners in her neighborhood outside Manor offering to plant trees in an effort to prevent floods.

“This is a 100-year floodplain we are standing on,” Stutz said when Reporting Texas visited in April.

By February 2020, Stutz had more than 1,800 saplings planted on 3⅓ acres of her 30-acre farm. Her part of the bargain: Leave them alone. The trees would fend for themselves. Stutz was so delighted with how the saplings progressed that she asked TreeFolks to come again in 2021.

Stutz gets trees and protection against erosion and everyone benefits from the carbon dioxide-sequestering potential of her saplings. TreeFolks earns carbon credits for planting the trees, which the organization then sells to the City of Austin. 

A carbon credit is “a tradable credit granted to a country, company, etc., for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases by one metric ton,” […]

May 14, 2020

Renewing Battle Against the Fish Eating Lake Austin

Sterile grass carp did too good a job controlling hydrilla and ended up ruining Lake Austin as bass habitat.