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Outdoor Nature Club (Houston, Tex.) (1923-) | University of Houston Libraries

Name: Outdoor Nature Club (Houston, Tex.) (1923-)

Historical Note:

The Outdoor Nature Club was established by Joseph Heiser in 1923.  Heiser's father was Houston's first Superintendent of Parks under Mayor Sam Brashear.  To start the group, Heiser ran an open invitation in the Houston Chronicle for those readers who wanted to strengthen bonds among nature lovers, study local flora and fauna, cooperate with comparable regional and national organizations as well as sportsmen's clubs to create support for meaningful legislation, to work with local initiatives aimed at civic improvement through beautification, and finally to broadcast the natural assets of Houston.

Key to Heiser's early mission was the "enjoyment" of outdoor life, and club members shared social and recreational activities as well as active scientific curiosity.   Birds and their habitats interested those who established an ornithology group, but they also formed study groups for botany, photography, conchology, and other pursuits.  A serious conservationist and preservationist, Heiser brought national attention to his campaign to preserve holly trees by planting rather than cutting during the Christmas ritual. He successfully promoted the mockingbird as the Texas state bird, and he, along with the ONC, campaigned to protect the Roseate Spoonbill on the Vingtune Islands in Trinity Bay in the 1930s and established Little Thicket Nature Sanctuary in the 1950s.  Heiser and ONC members were active participants in Will Hogg's Forum of Civics from 1924-1927 and served on the conservation committee.

Outdoor Nature Club was Houston's first conservation/environmental group, and members were involved in every significant conservation campaign in the Houston area.   They established the Little Thicket Sanctuary in East Texas during the 1950s, and that preserve still operates.  They were one of the organizations that supported Terry Hershey's "Save Buffalo Bayou" campaign in 1966.  The group's relevance to Houston's environmental history is inestimable.

Sources: Joseph Heiser, Ralph Selle, Sarah Emmott
Note Author: Teresa (Terry) Tomkins-Walsh, Ph.D.

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