Celebrate Environmental Storytelling in Fort Worth

Fort Worth Report journalist Haley Samsel, right, interviews Dr. Adam Hartstone-Rose, a North Carolina State University professor, about his animal behavior research at the Fort Worth Zoo during the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. (Camilo Diaz | Fort Worth Report)

By Haley Samsel

Just a few minutes from where I live in east Fort Worth, a minor miracle lies within a residential neighborhood. Tandy Hills Natural Area, home to more than 600 plant species, stands as a 220-acre monument to the region’s indigenous prairie. As Fort Worth balloons to nearly one million residents, sights like these are becoming rarer — and city leaders have started to take notice.

As the only full-time environmental reporter covering North Texas, I’ve drawn attention to how rapid growth is changing Tarrant County, from urban flooding challenges to debates over what Fort Worth’s next chapter of development should look like. I’ve dug into Mayor Mattie Parker’s ambitions to preserve 10,000 acres of open space over the next five years, and the steps city officials want to take to get there.

The Conservation & Environment Fund at the North Texas Community Foundation has generously supported that work every step of the way. In 2023, the Conservation & Environment Fund funded our statewide reporting project exploring the lessons that local leaders could learn from the San Antonio River Walk as Fort Worth moves forward with the $1.16 billion Panther Island flood control project. Without those resources, Rachel Behrndt and I would not have been able to travel to San Antonio or pay a freelance photographer to capture the massive scale of Panther Island.

You don’t have to look far to find the impact of the Conservation & Environment Fund throughout Fort Worth. When we assigned reporters to write about the goats managing invasive species at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden or the construction of a new trail system at Broadcast Hill, we weren’t aware these projects were funded by the Conservation & Environment Fund. But I wasn’t surprised when grateful recipients quickly informed us that their work was only possible due to the North Texas Community Foundation.

As we celebrate Earth Day on April 22, I invite you to support the environmental reporting that gives voice to the world around us — and the organizations enabling journalists like me to tell these vital stories.

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. She has been based in Tarrant County since 2020, when she began covering the environment for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Haley grew up in Plano and graduated from American University in Washington, D.C., where she interned for news outlets like the Texas Tribune and NPR.


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