by Paul Nimmons
When Joe Heiser died last month, all of us became poorer. Because of his life, all of our lives
are richer. He was a founder of the Outdoor Nature Club. He and a few others founded the club
in 1923 by posting a notice of meeting at the Houston Public Library. He was also a founder of the
Houston Zoological Society and the Nature Conservancy, and the driving force behind the acquisition
of the Little Thicket Nature Sanctuary.
The idea of a sanctuary spawned early in the
history of the ONC. Money was the greatest problem, but there were also the questions of location,
the type of habitat, the size of the land and its
management to be answered. After many attempts
by members to find land along the lower San Jacinto River, Joe searched the upper reaches and tributaries. Because he had no wife or children he was
able to use all of his weekends, and he searched
every weekend for five years. In 1950 he found a
tract in San Jacinto County that was selling substantially below market price. The land was not
prime natural habitat; it was overgrazed, hilly pasture. But the size of the tract (455.28 acres), its
several creeks and the purchase price of $19.12 per
acre convinced Joe Heiser that this was the tract
to buy. He purchased it for $8,708.00 cash and
sold it to the ONC for $208.00 down plus a note
for $8,500.00 bearing interest at 3% per annum,
payable in installments of $50.00 per month for
After the initial purchase Joe continued to
search for adjacent land and tried to find benefactors to help pay for the property. In 1958 he contacted the Cullinan family, and through their generosity was able to add 137 acres to the sanctuary.
Likewise, in 1961, he negotiated the purchase of 40
additional acres and obtained the funding through
a gift from the Homeland Foundation in New York.
Later he came to believe that land protection
could be accelerated by adding a network of landowners to the organized efforts of the Nature Conservancy. I know he was considering making an endowment to the Nature Conservancy to encourage
landowners to practise ecological protection on portions of their land.
Joe Heiser was a birder as well as a protectionist. He had photographs of hundreds of Brown
Pelicans around Galveston. He remembered the rediscovery of Roseate Spoonbills on Vingt-et-Un
Islands. From Joe I learned that the early ONC
members made annual spring treks to High Island.
Because of the distance they stayed overnight with
Mrs. Hooks, a member of one of the families benefiting from the oil discoveries at High Island.
Joe Heiser was interested in the early Christmas Counts. He knew George Findlay Simmons,
the man who was the sole participant in the first
two Houston counts in 1913 and 1914. Joe remembered him as a very intelligent, knowledgeable person. Joe himself was a participant in the Christmas Counts as early as 1924. In those days the
group would take the Interurban to an area east of
town, bird for the day and come back late in the
His proudest avian accomplishment was his
single-minded, succesful campaign to have the Mockingbird named as the state bird of Texas. This and
his other efforts have added something to our lives.
MINUTES OF OG MEETING APRIL 2, 1987
The meeting was called to order at 7:40 by
Chairman Rob Thacker. Treasurer Peter Vennema
gave the following financial report:
Membership Dues, 370 x $6 =
Spoonbill Subscriptions, 35 x $9
Checklist and Map Sales
Interest on Monpy Mkt Fund
Spoonbill Printing, 11 x 250 -
Bulk Mailing, 11 x $35 =
Bayou Manor Donation
Speaker Fees and Expenses
Roster (with ONC)
Texas Breeding Bird Atlas
Peter asked members to consider raising dues.
A vote on raising dues will occur at the May meeting.
Libby Price urged members to submit articles
to The Spoonbill. Ed Rozenburg reported $3.65
worth of aluminum collected. (We need to improve
this revenue by bringing more aluminum to monthly
Barbara House asked for donations to World
Wildlife Fund for the Monteverde Forest in Costa
Rica. Ted Eubanks, Jr. announced a meeting of
the monitors of the Texas Breeding Bird Atlas, and
reminded members of the Birdathon at the Audubon
Sanctuary in High Island to benefit the Atlas.
Noel Pettingell spoke of contributions made by
Joe M. Heiser, recently deceased former ONC president. After discussion, members voted that Rob
Thacker should make the suggestion to the ONC
board that the Little Thicket Nature Sanctuary be
renamed for Mr. Heiser. Ted Eubanks moved, and
members voted to make a donation in memory of
not only Joe Heiser, but also Sarah Gordon, another
recently deceased OG member and past ONC president. The donation of $100 will be used for the
Caroline Callery passed out information about
members' efforts to oppose the passage of Texas
House Bill 1117, which would permit the trade or
sale of Jones State Forest. She urged members to
write members of the State Affairs Committee,
whose names she will gladly furnish to anyone calling her at 523-6800.
Carol Sloan presented Werner Stebner, a professional photographer who gave a beautiful slide
program of birds seen on the Texas coast. The
meeting then adjourned.