256 pages, 12 colour & 11 b/w photos, 7 b/w illustrations, 6 maps
The Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge lies on the northern bank of the Rio Grande in South Texas, about seventy miles upriver from the Gulf of Mexico. In Border Sanctuary, M.J. Morgan uncovers how 2,000 acres of rare subtropical riparian forest came to be preserved in a region otherwise dramatically altered by human habitation.
The story she tells begins and ends with the efforts of the Rio Grande Valley Nature Club to protect one of the last remaining stopovers for birds migrating north from Central and South America. In between, she reconstructs a two hundred-year human and environmental history of the original "two square leagues" of the Santa Ana land grant and of the Mexican and Tejano families who lived on, worked, and ultimately helped preserve this forest on the river's edge.
As border issues continue to present serious challenges for Texas and the nation, it is especially important to be reminded of the deep connection between the region's human and natural history from the long perspective Morgan provides here.
"I found Morgan's approach very engaging: a human and ecological history. Now that I have read Border Sanctuary: The Conservation Legacy of the Santa Ana Land Grant, I am eager to visit the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge to see if I can recognize the plants and the birds that Morgan describes."
– Beatriz De la Garza, author, From the Republic of the Rio Grande
"Border Sanctuary offers a unique contribution to South Texas borderlands historiography, not only through Morgan's expert usage of the limited available sources, but also in her sensitive portrayal of people's relationship to this rich landscape, perhaps most importantly prior to the twentieth century. [...] Morgan certainly leads the way in indicating that people's stewardship of land – not to mention the natural history of the land itself – is only beginning to be understood in the exciting field of borderlands history."
– The Journal of Southern History
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M.J. Morgan is the research director of the Chapman Center for Rural Studies at Kansas State University, USA and the author of Land of Big Rivers: French and Indian Illinois, 1699-1778.