Geography is one of my favorite topics, and Texas Geography is particularly enjoyable, fascinating, and…. debatable.
Many things can be certain, like what’s the highest point in Texas? How many miles of road have we paved? How many miles of coastline do we have? Actually, no, let’s not go there. (Coastline Paradox) Just how BIG is Texas? What watershed am I in? All of these questions can be measured and easily agreed upon.
We can also easily identify our political boundaries. Our state and county borders. Other seemingly arbitrary governmental administrative boundaries. Where your land ends and where your neighbor’s land begins. We can all agree on those facts (if we have good neighbors), but what if I were to ask you where West Texas is? Where is North Texas? The Hill Country? Panhandle?
These geographic regions that we’re all familiar with are always being debated. I’m sure there are plenty of El Pasoans (I don’t know if they call themselves that) who chuckle at folks from Lubbock who claim to be from West Texas, but rightfully so. If we’re talking about a geographic center of Texas, then Lubbock really isn’t exceptionally west, but if you’re from Lubbock or Houston, then it’d make perfect sense from your world view.
What goes into defining these regions? Common demarcations are watersheds, counties, terrain/geology, vegetation, metropolitan areas, relative location, transportation networks, meridians, or even oak trees. It’s up for interpretation because there is no easy or correct answer.
As humans we strive to draw black and white boundaries, but, unfortunately, we’re dealing with gradual transitions of a very diverse state. Sometimes we get to use a well-defined edge, like the Balcones Escarpment signaling the beginning of the Edwards Plateau (Hill Country). However, that doesn’t really help me if I need to know what region Travis County is in, and it’s split between the Edwards Plateau and Blackland Prairie ecoregions.
When we’re doing our work as a state-wide land trust, it’s helpful to divide the state into smaller segments. So, we came up with our own informal way to slice it. Our “TLC Regions” of Texas. County lines were the logical foundation for dividing up the state, and we used a combination of Eco-regions and relative geography to group them into just the right number of digestible pieces. It’s not perfect or entirely scientific, but it makes sense to us, and I think that’s what’s important. How would YOU slice Texas into a few regions?