Ep6: Conservation & Identity with LaJuan Tucker

On this episode, we'll examine the relationship between natural history and social history. Join Leah as she sits down with park ranger LaJuan Tucker to talk about the conservation of urban wildlife, and how changing societal attitudes determine how we relate to our landscapes. LaJuan will explain how, in recent years, Austin's Parks and Recreation Department has implemented a new mandate to protect pollinator habitats, even when that means sacrificing the "manicured" look of the park in high-traffic areas. 

We'll also zoom out and talk more broadly about the philosophy of conservation today. How should our parklands be used, and who gets to decide? Should we strive to preserve "native" landscapes, or build more community gardens? And how do we reconcile the romance of the Texas landscape with the racist realities of our past? We'll talk about the lingering effects of Jim Crow in Austin, from actual monuments to the Confederacy, to present-day structural inequality. And we'll hear about LaJuan's personal mission to encourage young Austinites of color to seek careers in environmental conservation and city planning. Here, and in upcoming episodes as well, we'll begin to engage with the paradox of Austin as an environmentally progressive, yet very socioeconomically segregated, city. 


Below are links to topics discussed:

City of Austin Park Rangers

Park Leaders Show podcast interview with LaJuan

Wildlife Austin

Trust for Public Land document containing stats about city parks in the US

Historical marker for Kincheonville, the freedmen's community established by Thomas Kincheon, a former slave from Mississippi, in southwest Austin shortly after 1865

Organizations mentioned: 

Texas Conservation CorpsAustin Youth River Watch; Akins HS Park Ranger Cadet Program

Apps and other wildlife-watching resources: 

 iNaturalistBirds of TexasAudubon guideiBirds

Local initiatives mentioned: 

All about Festival Beach Food Forest

Article from KUT.org about the renaming of Robert E Lee Road

Article from The Nation about how the bond initiative on the ballot in November will address Austin's affordable housing crisis

National Wildlife Federation blog post about the Mayor's Monarch Pledge in Austin




Below is a map of the many park locations discussed in this episode:

leah churner