For more than half a century, Dallasite Ned and Genie Fritz formed environmental protection partnerships that led to a wealth of conservation successes – protection of Dallas Great Trinity Forest, creation and preservation of the Texas Buckeye Trail, creation of five Texas wilderness areas, Upland Island, Big Slough, Indian Mounds, Turkey Hill, and Little Lake Creek; establishment of the Big Thicket National Preserve; and protection of numerous other public and private wildlife areas; ending clearcutting on national forests in Texas; protecting Texas’ water resources; and promoting public policies that form the basis of today’s conservation efforts.
While chairman of Texas Conservation Alliance (formerly Texas Committee on Natural Resources) (TCONR), Ned Fritz led a coalition to establish 35,000 acres of wilderness areas, built support for the Big Thicket National Preserve, conducted a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that led to public protection of a 25,000-acre bottomland hardwood forest in the Sulphur River Basin, and filed the first-ever suit under the National Environmental Policy Act. Ned’s efforts stopped a proposal to build the Trinity River Barge Canal that would have destroyed Dallas Great Trinity Forest. His role in bringing non-structural approaches to floodplain management to national prominence paid off in his home community of Dallas, leading to protection of an exceptional 8,000-acre urban forest in the Trinity River floodplain.
Ned Fritz helped draft provisions in the National Forest Management Act of 1976 that protect soils, watersheds, fish, wildlife, and other resources. He led the case against the U.S. Forest Service that ended clearcutting on 200,000 acres of national forest in Texas and established the guidelines for management of the endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers throughout the Southeastern United States. After a decade of effort, he convinced a federal judge to conduct the first case under the National Forest Management Act ever to consider on-the-ground impacts of logging operations. The Court ruled that the U.S. Forest Service was not protecting soils and watersheds nor conducting required inventorying of resources and monitoring of the impacts of logging. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals cited this case in a ruling it made in Georgia.
As Coordinator of the Forest Reform Network, Ned Fritz organized the first nationwide network of grassroots activists working on national forest issues, sponsoring fourteen annual national forest conferences in various regions of the country. The coordination that grew out of the Forest Reform Network and the conferences vastly increased the effectiveness of the forest reform movement nationwide and served as a model for later coalitions.
Throughout Ned’s sixteen years as chairman of the Texas Conservation Alliance and another twenty as TCA’s attorney, senior advisor, and chair of the Forests Task Force, Ned’s wife Genie worked alongside Ned, handling TCA’s finances, doing mountains of clerical work, helping organize events, and advising on polices and organizational management. Her ongoing participation in TCA events and issues is a constant inspiration to leaders and members of TCA and other conservation organizations.
Ned and Genie’s accomplishments went beyond their work with TCA. As a co-founder of the Texas Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, Ned negotiated protection of sixteen nature preserves and launched an organization that has led the land trust movement in Texas. In 1982 Ned and Genie founded the Texas Land Conservancy (formerly Natural Area Preservation Association), now the state’s largest land trust not affiliated with a national organization, protecting more than 85,000 acres on more than 100 preserves.
Ned Fritz formed the Texas League of Conservation Voters, was the first chairman of the Texas Consumer Association, and launched a conservation committee for the Texas Academy of Science. He founded the Dallas Audubon Society and fostered other organizations focused on endangered species, land protection, and wildlife habitat. In the 1960’s, Ned traveled repeatedly to Washington, D.C., to serve as a consumer affairs advisor to the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration. Ned authored three award-winning books: Sterile Forest, Clearcutting: A Crime Against Nature, and the beautiful Realms of Beauty: The Wilderness Areas of East Texas.
Genie Fritz took her concern for the environment into her roles as President and a long-time Board Member of the Dallas League of Women Voters. She served on the State Board of the League and was Secretary of its Overseas Education Fund, which focused on teaching women about democracy. She also served as President of the Women’s Southwest Federal Credit Union, Board Member of the Tejas Council of Girl Scout (where she led two girl scout troops), Treasurer and President of the Greater Dallas Housing Opportunity Council, and Board Member at the First Unitarian Church of Dallas.
Ned received many prestigious national awards: the American Motors Conservation Award, 1983, the Sol Feinstone Environmental Award, 1978, and the Theodore Roosevelt Award, presented by President George H. W. Bush, in 1991. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Southern Methodist University in 1992 and has been honored by the National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, the National Audubon Society, Sportsmen Conservationists of Texas, the Sierra Club, and the League of Women Voters of Texas.
Ned and Genie Fritz are the citizens who singularly deserve the credit for saving what Dallas has left of the natural Trinity River and were the champions at saving the Texas Buckeye Grove at William Blair Park in Dallas. They made their lasting mark on the Trinity with efforts to keep interests from channelizing the Trinity from Dallas to the Gulf of Mexico in 1973. The vision Ned saw back then of a patchwork collection of old remnants of Trinity River bottom land that when roughly cobbled together formed one of the largest urban parkland areas in the United States. He called it The Great Trinity Forest and contemporary Dallasites still call it by that name today.