Laura Bush's Passion For The Natural World Began With Her Mother's Love

A lifelong curiosity with roots in West Texas.

Swim in Texas Bluebonnets
Photo: Van Chaplin

My love for the beauty of Texas started early and was a gift from my mother, Jenna Welch. As far back as I can remember, on spectacular summer nights in our hometown of Midland, Mother would grab a blanket and we would go outside to marvel at the glittering sky. As we lay side by side, she would say, “Look up, Laura. Look up.” She didn’t want me to miss a single star.

Mother was a passionate self-taught naturalist who learned the name of almost every wildflower and bird. Her love of bird-watching began when she volunteered to be my Girl Scout troop leader and helped each of us earn our bird badge. Long after most of her Scouts had put away their binoculars, she never stopped looking for the winged creatures who sailed through the vast skies above Midland. A simple errand would yield a sighting of a painted bunting or a hawk in flight. Her love of our little corner of West Texas has, for me, grown into a love for all 171 million acres of Texas land. Our state contains 10 different ecoregions, from piney wood forests to coastal shorelines, grassland prairies, mountains, and part of the largest desert in North America. This stunning landscape also reflects the diversity, energy, and creativity of the people who call Texas home.

I’m grateful to live in a state where so many of us are committed to preserving the natural beauty for future generations. When President Bush and I returned after our years in Washington, D.C., some of my childhood friends and I started Texan by Nature, a nonprofit that supports conservation by bringing together private landowners, businesses, and other nonprofits to care for our land, water, and wildlife. Some of us are from Midland, some are ranchers, and some are in business, but all of us believe in bold ideas to protect our state. However, it doesn’t require big projects to make a big difference. Preserving our environment is as easy as turning off your lights at night (Lights Out, Texas!) to aid migratory birds or planting native species to build habitats for insects and wildlife. At the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, we created the 15-acre Native Texas Park to welcome birds and butterflies. 

President Bush and I are also restoring the prairie at our ranch in Crawford. When our granddaughter, Poppy, was born, we planted a poppy meadow for her. Every time she visits, she runs to check on her red blooms! I’ve been fortunate to start gardens across Texas, from Midland to Dallas to Austin to Crawford, and I now know that with each seed, I was also planting love, as my mother taught me all those years ago.

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