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From the pen of Robert L. Cook

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to live in Texas and be part of this wonderful agency. I was reminded of this recently while traversing the state to meet with our field employees. The purposes of those nine separate meetings were multiple, but primarily I wished to personally thank our employees for their fine work. They love what they do, they love the people of Texas, they love this state’s natural and cultural wonders and they really are the best, most dedicated conservationists on this planet.

I also wanted to share my vision for focusing on our core responsibility: doing the best job of conservation that we can with the resources that we have. That means continuing to provide sustainable hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities, now and in the future. It means informing and educating all Texans about the values of conservation and management of our natural resources so they comply with the laws of the land and the rules of nature. It means teaching Texans how to wisely use and conserve our natural resources so that they will also become conservationists. It means continuing our work conserving fresh water for fish and wildlife, for agriculture and industry and for the people of Texas; fresh water is now the single most important natural resource issue in Texas.

While traveling the state, I climbed Enchanted Rock for the first time in 20 years to absorb its breathtaking views. I sat quietly in Independence Hall at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site where, in 1836, our state’s founders, risking all, wrote and signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. On one of those spectacularly clear, cool days in the Panhandle, I marveled again at the beauty of Palo Duro Canyon. I rode the Wyler Aerial Tram to the top of Franklin Mountains State Park and gazed in awe across the city of El Paso to the mountains of Mexico more than 100 miles away.

In Fredericksburg a chill ran up my neck in memory of the men and women who fought so bravely for our freedom and who are now honored at the Nimitz Museum and the National Museum of the Pacific War. That chill came again when I stood silently at the burial site of Fannin’s men at Goliad. I beamed with pride when visiting the Kerr Wildlife Area — recognized as the national leader in genetic and habitat research on white-tailed deer — and at the Edwin L. Cox Jr. Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, our state-of-the-art research center and fish hatchery. Deep in the Pineywoods, I walked among the towering black gums, oaks and ancient pines of Martin Dies Jr. State Park. Arriving in McAllen during the peak of the fall migration, I was pleased to see the community was also full of birders, and that the locals were very happy to welcome all of their visitors — the birds, the butterflies and the tourists.

As these field visits wound down, it dawned on me how many wonderful places we Texans have available to us: the beaches, the rivers and lakes, the mountains and deserts, the South Texas brush country and the prairie grasslands. I hope that you will visit and experience them all. Outdoor Texas is a great place to be.

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