Jim Blackburn

Location of Interview
Collection Name

The Gulf Podcast and Oral History Project


The Gulf is an oral history project and podcast that shares stories about people and nature on the Texas Gulf Coast. For more information, visit the The Gulf's homepage.

Date of Interview
Principal Investigator
Biographical Sketch

Jim Blackburn is an environmental lawyer with a rich background in environmental law and advocacy. Raised in South Texas in the Rio Grande Valley, Blackburn developed a deep appreciation for the outdoors from a young age, learning to hunt and fish in both South Texas and Central Louisiana. He attended the University of Texas for his undergraduate and law school education, during which he discovered his passion for environmental law. Despite the lack of environmental law classes at UT Law School at the time, Blackburn managed to specialize in the field, even winning the First American Trial Lawyers’ National Environmental Law Essay Contest. His work in environmental law led him to pursue a master’s degree in Environmental Science at Rice University, funded by an EPA traineeship in 1972. Throughout his career, Blackburn has been involved in several significant environmental cases, including the whooping crane case, TAP v. Shaw.

Scope and Content Note
Jim Blackburn talks about growing up hunting and fishing in the Rio Grande Valley and in Central Louisiana. He started law school in 1969 at the University of Texas at Austin, a time when federal environmental legislation just started to be passed. Blackburn then went on to Rice University to earn a master’s degree in environmental science and started his career as an environmental lawyer. He reflects on some of his most memorable cases over the years. He then discusses the case The Aransas Project v. Bryan Shaw et al. (TAP v. Shaw), which dealt with the deaths of twenty-three whooping cranes due to the lack of freshwater inflow into San Antonio Bay. The case eventually made it to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where they lost the case. Afterwards, however, they reached a settlement with the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority. Blackburn also brings up the concept of the radical center and its importance for dealing with environmental issues. The interview ends with Blackburn reading a couple poems he wrote during TAP v. Shaw.

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