Spiranthes parksii - Endangered Orchid of the Texas Post Oak Savannah
Hugh D. Wilson - Curator, Department of Biology Herbarium, Texas A&M University

    Work with the endangered biota of just about any region in the United States involves a strange mixture of science, politics, and economics.  This dynamic produces an 'image' that is not consistent with reality.  I became involved with this plant, Spiranthes parksii, in the early 1980s.  Its listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service produced a need for information and I, not aware of the game being played, offered to assist.  This involved diversion from my research focus and primary interest, plant evolution under human selection in the genera Chenopodium and Cucurbita, to pursue a routine, but  - in my view at that time - important research task.  It became evident, during development of the initial recovery plan for this species, that various agendas and forces were in play.  Circumstances evolved to suggest, to me at least, that much conservation activity association with this species was a simple scam.  Thus, most of the time and energy invested in legitimate conversion efforts, for this and other endangered species in Texas, is wasted.

    Much of my work with this plant centered on a population that inhabited banks of 'Sundew Creek' at Lick Creek Park.  My efforts to protect these plants from erosional damage produced by bike riders, wild hogs, invading cattle, etc. produced no result.  My attempt to enlist the aid of state (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department), federal (U.S. FWS), and municipal authorities that were - in theory - responsible for natural resource conservation also produced no result.  My suspicision that I was involved in an elaborate farce was confirmed when a Texas state agency, Texas A&M University, facilitated decimation of a large population of this species to build 'aggie bonfire' (an overview of this episode is available at my 'aggie bonfire' website).  This was the last straw.  I abandonned a long term and potentially interesting study of S. parksii population dynamics, withdrew from any contact with those playing the conservation game in Texas and elsewhere, and turned by attention to legitimate areas of botanical activity.

    I made this decision as I was finishing up a revision of the S. parksii recovery plan which, I concluded, was a waste of paper.  This unfinished document appeared while browsing my directories for requested information on the plant during the Fall of 1999.  Remarkably, Texas state government will eradicate large populations of this plant to build a bonfire and, on the other hand, require local coorporations to conduct environmental impact assessments prior to construction, evidently as a 'lip service' enterprise.  At any rate, I decided to break the draft recovery plan document into a set of HTML files and post it as a web reference for those that might be going through the motions of local biodiveristy conservation.  I will, when time permits, edit the content as needed and use the 'epilogue' page - now empty - as a holder for information on current status of the plant.

Part I
Part II