In honor of late UT associate professor Kent Butler, Austin City Council members have renamed a section of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve in an effort to keep his memory alive.
Council members announced the official Kent Butler Ecological Reserve during the regular council meeting at city hall Thursday.
Butler began teaching in the School of Architecture in 1978 and later became associate dean for research operations and program director of the graduate program in Community and Regional Planning. He also dedicated much of his time to environmental issues and helped establish the preserve, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer groundwater management district and the environmental department for the Lower Colorado River Authority.
“One reason they’re naming [the preserve] after him is because he played a crucial role in its creation,” said Fritz Steiner, dean of the School of Architecture. “He took a leave for about two years to work on a plan that made the preserve a reality.
He was an environmental planner and he was a real pioneer in the field, so this was integral to his interest.”
The reserve also contains a protected area for the Golden-cheeked Warbler, an endangered species of bird which nests exclusively in Texas, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.
Though Butler was originally a business student at the University of Pennsylvania, he went on to earn three degrees in water research management and used that experience to influence environmental planning students at UT. He participated in many water and nature conservation projects and worked with the Galveston Bay Estuary Program, the Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act and plans to create an urban rainwater system.
Butler died of injuries sustained from a fall while on a hike in Yosemite National Park in May. According to published obituaries, the fall occurred when Butler moved on a trail to let other hikers pass by.
“[After his death], we were thinking about ways to commemorate him through scholarships, but our daughter Emily wanted to see a natural preserve named after him,” said Butler’s wife, Christy Moore, senior mechanical engineering lecturer. “We all stopped because it was both daunting and perfect for him. I hope these honors bestowed on Kent inspire us to be environmentalists and citizens.”
Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who knew Butler, reached out to the family and offered to pay tribute to Butler’s years of service to the community.
“It became clear very quickly to find a beautiful piece of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve and name it after Kent,” said Matt Curtis, spokesman for the mayor. “The Butler reserve both represents his dedication to the Edwards Aquifer, which lies beneath the preserve, and the canyonland preserve he helped create.”
Butler’s family said they appreciated the support from the Austin public and the city council.
“This [honor] has been awe-inspiring,” Butler’s stepson Nick Kinkaid said. “The response from the community has been really positive during this time and we can really see the effect Kent had on the community.”
The UT School of Architecture will hold a symposium in Butler’s honor from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Jessen Auditorium in Homer Rainey Hall.
Printed on Friday, September 23, 2011 as: "Reserve named in memory of late associate professor who dedicated two years to project."