Environmental crisis in the Panhandle of Texas: The tale of Buffalo Lake




Erasme da Cruz

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Center for the Study of the American West


Buffalo Lake, once an artificial oasis in the semi-arid region of the Panhandle of Texas enjoyed by a multitude of people and animals alike, has been a dry lakebed filled by weeds instead of water for several decades. Nowadays known as Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge, this area represents a nearly forgotten reminder of the negative impact that unchecked human activity can have on the environment. My research revealed that few papers tackled and raised enough awareness about this issue, serving as a cautionary tale. The demise of Buffalo Lake is not an isolated event. Throughout the world, several bodies of water continue to be affected by anthropogenic factors. Therefore, I use a series of newspaper clips and scientific papers spanning from 1939 to 2013 to bring attention to the matter. I argue that the history of Buffalo Lake represents the perfect storm of pollution, lack of accountability, the economy versus the environment debate, overconsumption of water as a resource, and climate change. These aforementioned factors ultimately led to the loss of what could have remained a vibrant and essential recreational facility in West Texas but now lays bare.




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