Old Forts and New Amenities in the Southern Plains

Authors: Jason Julian*, Texas State University
Topics: Landscape, Human-Environment Geography, Historical Geography
Keywords: Protected Places, Ecosystem Services, Tourism, Human-Environment
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: Senate Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The Southern Plains of the U.S. is a region of transition. Physically, it represents the transition from the humid, forested eastern U.S. with mostly perennial water resources to the dry western U.S. with grasslands, deserts, and mostly ephemeral water resources. Socioeconomically, it represents the transition from the densely populated eastern U.S. to the wild open spaces of the western U.S. Historically and culturally, it represents the transition from the French/English colonies of the eastern half of the U.S. and the Spanish territory of the Southwest. Later, it would represent the transition from the eastern pre-Civil War states to the western post-Civil War states. The Southern Plains also represent a transition in time when U.S. settlers were moving into western Native American lands. This occupation led to many intense battles between the European/American settlers and various Tribal Nations. Between 1821 and 1890, many forts were built in response to these conflicts and also to promote new settlements. Of these, 33 have been protected as publicly-accessible places, including museums, state parks, national historic sites, city parks, and resorts. This paper inventories and discusses the historical, cultural, and natural values of these ‘protected forts’ within the context of ecosystem services that have evolved from these sites. With more than 600,000 people visiting these forts every year, tourism was the most popular ecosystem service. Given the increased interest in ecotourism, fort and park managers are now managing their sites to offer more nature experiences.

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