From the Pen of Robert L. Cook
What do Texans think about who we are and what we do at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department? Public opinion is important and we go to considerable effort to collect, analyze and evaluate the opinions, priorities and concerns of our customers. We need to know and understand what is important to the citizens of Texas. We must hear and carefully consider their suggestions and concerns. We use this information to provide better service to Texans, to focus our manpower and resources on the most important natural resource issues, and to change how we do business if warranted.
In 2005, Responsive Management, a Virginia company which specializes in public opinion surveys of federal and state natural resource agencies, conducted a study to determine public opinion on fish and wildlife management issues and the state’s fish and wildlife agency in 16 states of the southeastern United States, including Texas and TPWD. Among other findings, the following key points stand out in my mind:
- Half of Texas residents (50 percent) could actually name the state agency, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, most responsible for managing and conserving fish and wildlife in Texas. This is considerably higher than in most other states. However, only 29 percent of the respondents said they knew quite a bit about TPWD. We can improve on this one.
- A large majority of Texas residents (71 percent) said that they were satisfied with TPWD overall as a governmental agency; 4 percent were dissatisfied.
- Among those who had contacted TPWD, 94 percent were satisfied with the contact. That’s good, but, again, we can do better. I reckon the other 6 percent were the folks who called me.
- Texans believe that conserving fish and wildlife habitat is one of our most important jobs, and that TPWD’s game wardens do a great job of enforcing fish and game laws. I agree 100 percent!
- Most Texans incorrectly believe that TPWD is funded by general taxes. We are primarily funded by the fees paid for hunting and fishing licenses and by state park entrance/use fees. It is a fact, our users — hunters, anglers and state park visitors — provide the vast majority of our agency’s funding.
- Texans said that “water quality” (good water versus polluted water) was the top natural resource or environmental issue facing Texas today. They were also very concerned about “water quantity” (Is there enough water for people, industry, agriculture and fish and wildlife?)
- Forty percent of Texans think Texas waters are unhealthy. You’ve heard me say it — our top three conservation issues are: Water, Water and Water!
- Many Texans correctly believe that habitat loss and fragmentation are the top factors contributing to species becoming threatened or endangered in Texas; not hunting, fishing, ranching or farming.
- When asked about the credibility of information sources about fish and wildlife, TPWD wardens and biologists are perceived as highly credible. That makes me happy, but I’m not surprised.
- Of Texans surveyed, 35 percent fished freshwater, 17 percent saltwater fished and 15 percent hunted. Twenty-three percent motorboated, 9 percent canoed/kayaked, 7 percent jetskiied, and 1 percent went sailing. Twenty-six percent went camping, and one-third of those used an RV.
- A large majority of respondents approve of legal hunting (79 percent), and an overwhelming majority approve of legal recreational fishing (95 percent).
- See the full report at: <responsivemanagement.com/download/ reports/SEAFWA_Texas_Report.pdf>
How do you feel about TPWD, our responsibilities, and the job we are doing? We would like to hear your suggestions to make TPWD “The Very Best” conservation agency. Let us hear from you.