Egrets hunt in the marsh grasses at Galveston Island State Park in Galveston, Texas. (Stuart Villanueva/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Texas Gulf wetlands face population, development challenges

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — To a motorist, zipping south through Galveston County from Houston to Galveston Island, the surrounding landscape might look like a whole lot of nothing — flat land, scrubby grass and frontage roads edging up to open prairie.

The Galveston County Daily News reports only the occasional sight of a seabird landing among tall grasses might warrant a glance.

John Jacob, a geoscientist with the state of Texas, professor at Texas A&M University and widely recognized expert on wetlands of the upper Texas Gulf Coast, calls the phenomenon "the burden of flat land."

"If you live, say, in Colorado and somebody went out to the Garden of the Gods and said, 'Hey, we're going to build a strip mall here,' everybody would say you were crazy," Jacob said. "It's very difficult here to engender enthusiasm for the wetlands we drive by and don't really see."

Jacob raises a central predicament facing Galveston County as it inherits more and more of the spillover from Houston, creating a population boom that demands more residential developments. Add to that industrial development along the Houston Ship Channel and agricultural land giving way to all types of development.

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